From the Wednesday Morning Jolt:
White House E-Mail: ‘Underscore that These Protests Are Rooted in an Internet Video’
KABOOM. In short, the Obama administration’s lies about Benghazi came about exactly as we expected: one of the political guys telling the national-security appointees what to say.
Republicans say e-mails released Tuesday on the attack in Benghazi, Libya, include “the smoking gun” that shows a White House official urged that the assault on the U.S. consulate be blamed on a protest that never happened.
The e-mails, obtained by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request, include one in which White House official Ben Rhodes lists “goals” for then-U.N. ambassador Susan Rice to meet in explaining the attack and protests occurring across the Middle East that week to the American public.
Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died in the assault, which the White House subsequently acknowledged was an al-Qaeda-linked terror attack.
The e-mail, sent to various officials including White House spokesman Jay Carney, said one goal was “to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”
Another goal was “to reinforce the president and administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.”
Rhodes is assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for strategic communication and speechwriting.
During appearances on five Sunday news programs, Rice did blame the attack on Sept. 11, 2012, on a protest against an anti-Islam video produced by an American. So did Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and President Obama would not say whether it was a terrorist attack until several days later.
The CIA station chief in Libya reported from the beginning that the attack was an al-Qaeda-linked operation and that there was no protest. Though there was some dispute over the manner of the attack, former CIA deputy director Mike Morell testified earlier this month that he had no idea where the story about a video protest came from when he saw Rice make the claim on television.
Well, now we know.
Yes, Rhodes’s speechwriting always focused in the foreign-policy realm. He was a longtime assistant to Lee Hamilton, then joined Obama as a speechwriter in 2007. But this guy’s not an expert on Libya. There’s no way he was in any position, from Washington, to overrule the assessment of the folks on the ground. He’s a message guy. And he quickly concluded – accurately – that the administration’s obvious ill-prepared presence in Libya, and failure to organize timely rescue efforts, on the 9/11 anniversary represented a serious threat to the president’s reelection. They needed a scapegoat; the video was the best option at hand.
A perfectly ironic quote from a 2010 profile: “I very much wanted to be a fiction writer.” Guess he finally got that chance.