Politics & Policy

Benghazi Made Simple

The White House’s political and ideological instincts overpowered everything else.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

Deer Reader,

On Wednesday, Jay Carney explained — as if he was talking to a room full of children — that the Benghazi e-mail the White House refused to release until the White House was forced to release its Benghazi e-mails wasn’t in fact about Benghazi, even though the e-mail talks about Benghazi. This is Monty Pythonesque of “Dead Parrot” proportions. That’s not a Benghazi e-mail, it’s just an e-mail about Benghazi, in a folder marked “Benghazi” e-mails, idiot.

As I said on Fox yesterday, Jay Carney is a very strange creature for Washington. He’s an extremely confident liar — we’ve got a lot of those! — but he’s not very convincing. Usually, confidence = convincing. As George Costanza (and in his own way Bill Clinton) liked to say, it’s not a lie if you believe it when you tell it. But with Carney, he lies in a way that makes it seem not so much like he believes it but that you’re an idiot for not believing it. There’s a kind of the-joke’s-on-you feel to the way he talks that reminds me of that (X-rated and not safe for work) Onion article, “Why Do These Homosexuals Keep [Fellating Me]?”

Carney actually seems shocked and, well, disappointed to the point of contemptuousness, when reporters won’t believe him. It’s like no one told him he doesn’t have Jedi mind tricks at his disposal.

Carney: These are not the droids you’re looking for, idiots.

Ed Henry, Fox News: But Jay, these look exactly like the droids we’ve been looking for. In fact, the serial numbers match.

Carney: Ed, I understand your network is deeply invested in finding a story here. But the simple fact is that these are in no way the droids you’re looking for. Move along.

Henry: One last follow-up, Jay. The golden droid on the right just said, “Excuse me sirs, but we are in fact exactly the droids you’ve been looking for. Thank goodness you found us.”

Carney: No, no they didn’t. And besides — I used to be a journalist as you know — and it’s common knowledge among real journalists [Carney winks to the non-Fox reporters in the room] that one should never believe what droids tell them.

Jonathan Karl, ABC: Jay, related question: Here is a photo of you from last month holding up a picture of these exact droids with the quote in the caption reading, ‘Carney vows the White House will not rest until these droids are found.’ Also, ABC News has obtained footage of you from this morning, hugging the two droids right there, with you saying ‘Thank Obama we found you!’ Can you explain that?

[Carney rolls his eyes and then desperately tries to telekinetically choke everyone in the room.]

Henry: Uh, Jay are you okay? Why are you squinting? What’s up with that hand gesture . . .

Benghazi Made Simple

There is an enormous amount of theorizing about what the “real story” behind Benghazi really is. To me it’s always been obvious. The White House was caught off guard — for reasons stemming both from ideology and incompetence — on September 11, 2012. As they have after virtually every other (jihadist) terrorist attack on Americans, they acted as if it had absolutely nothing to do with them. As with the Times Square bomber, the Fort Hood shooter, and other Islamist assaults, there’s always some other reason for the bloodshed, some attempt to claim, at least for a while, that this was an “isolated incident” with no broader implications for the War on Terror or Obama’s foreign policy. Admittedly, even this White House understood that spinning the Benghazi attack as an isolated incident wasn’t going to work (such intense spinning could risk irreparable scrotal torsion). So they went with the story about the video.

At least in Wag the Dog Robert DeNiro (Connie Brean) kept denying the misinformation he was spreading:

Conrad “Connie” Brean: You’re goddamn right, then it’s got nothing to do with the B-3 Bomber!

John Levy: There is no B-3 bomber.

Conrad “Connie” Brean: [Knowingly] I just said that! There is no B-3 bomber, and I don’t know why these rumors get started!

Of course, the White House and its defenders insist that they really believed the video was to blame. This strikes me as a lie, for the most part, if not initially than certainly over time. But even if that’s true, that’s no exoneration. As I said, there was a mix of incompetence and ideology at work. As an ideological matter, that this White House could convince itself for hours — never mind weeks — that this terror attack was all about the video is incredibly damning, if true. And, as I argue in my column today, the fact that the once-proud champions of civil liberties under George W. Bush were perfectly happy to throw the First Amendment under the bus is even more damning.

Given that the Benghazi attack came during the thick of the presidential election, it’s no surprise that the White House’s political and ideological instincts overpowered everything else. It’s no surprise, either, that the press’s instincts pointed in the same direction. It’s really non-surprises for as far as the eye can see.

Obviously there are still some unknowns worth knowing, and they might be surprising — like the exact details of how and why the response was so non-responsive. Just because the White House and State Department were unprepared shouldn’t mean that the professional military was too. The exact nexus between the political screw-up and the military’s failure to “run to the sound of gunfire” hasn’t been established. Ditto, the question of “What the hell was Barack Obama even doing that night?”

Hayes’ Take

The other night on the Special Report panel, Steve Hayes observed how there’s much more interest in Benghazi among the general public than the MSM realizes. He mentioned that when he gives speeches he’s constantly asked about it. I absolutely believe him. Steve is closely associated with the Benghazi story; I’m not. But when I give speeches to conservative groups, I am often grilled by people with very sophisticated questions about assets in the region, CIA chatter, etc. I can only imagine how much more of this stuff Steve gets. And while I agree with him that this is a sign that the questions aren’t going to go away, I’m not sure this story is of huge interest to the majority of Americans.

Please, don’t send me e-mails saying “You’re wrong! I care about it!” That is not a rebuttal to my point. I care about this stuff too, that’s not proof “the media” cares about it. I’m reminded of Ted Cruz’s claim last fall that everywhere he goes he talks to audiences that want to get rid of Obamacare. Well, yeah. Those are the audiences that show up to hear Ted Cruz. I suspect something similar may be at play with Steve. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love it if outrage over Benghazi was a national obsession. It’s not.

Meanwhile this summary from Steve’s piece in the Standard seems just right:

At the same time the White House was putting the video at the center of the Benghazi story, intelligence professionals and U.S. officials on the ground in Libya were describing a precise attack carried out by al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists. The Weekly Standard has learned that an analysis from the Defense Intelligence Agency produced a day before Rhodes sent his email assigned blame for the attacks to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar al Sharia Libya. The DIA analysis did not mention a video. It adds to the still-growing body of memos and warnings from top U.S. officials. The top U.S. intelligence official on the ground in Libya repeatedly told officials in Washington that the Benghazi attacks were part of a planned assault by al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists. The top diplomat in the country said the same thing. Last week, a top intelligence official for AFRICOM told Congress that he shared that view.

We are left with this reality: Top diplomats and intelligence officers in Libya offered assessments of the Benghazi attacks that were true when they made them and remain true today. But top Obama administration officials ignored those assessments. Six weeks before the 2012 presidential election, those officials—at the direction of White House communications and political strategists desperate to maintain the fiction that al Qaeda was “on the run”—lied to the public about how four Americans were killed in a sophisticated attack carried out, on the anniversary of 9/11, by terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda.

On Communism’s Legacy

It’s fitting that Carney is a collector of Soviet propaganda posters. After all, Soviet agitprop was arguably the best example of extreme confidence married to total implausibility since I tried to change my pants without taking off my shoes. Obviously, I am bringing up Carney’s ownership of Soviet propaganda posters more as a means of forcing a transition to a new topic than as any attempt to label Carney a Bolshevik (“Transparency!” — The Couch).

Lots of people have noted that Vladimir Putin is using the KGB playbook in his effort to carve up Ukraine. That involves not only lying, but manipulating events in such a way so as to make it easier for others to believe the lies. Anne Applebaum describes the techniques very well. Lots of people have discussed how Russia Today is a pigpen for Russian propagandists providing a useful slop trough for modern-day useful idiots.

But what hasn’t been discussed is what all of this talk about “KGB tactics” suggests about the past, and our understanding of it. Anyone roughly my age or older (“Ah yes, you are the measure of man!” — The Couch) probably remembers how the Soviets and their defenders used to bend and manipulate logic, facts, and truth to make it seem like there was a plausible case that the Soviet Union had the better economic and social model. But what is less well-remembered among older folks and completely unknown to most younger folks is the damage done by the Soviets to our understanding of the world.

For instance, the Soviets are the foremost authors the idea that “Zionism equals racism.” They championed this idea without any regard for the truth, never mind any concern about the evils of racism — the Soviet regime was remarkably racist (as was Marx himself, and their fight against racism was entirely tactical). Many of the old-guard Palestinian leadership were weaned on Soviet propaganda. Mahmoud Abbas has a Ph.D. from Moscow’s Patrice Lumumba University (stop laughing!). His thesis: “The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism.” The Soviets — and other Communist regimes — cultivated front groups who spread lies about how the American government created AIDS, distributed crack in inner cities, and countless other stories that still survive in America and abroad as vague half-truths, urban legends, and secrets “no one wants you to know.” Not everyone who spread this stuff was a paid propagandist. Many didn’t even know anyone was pulling their strings, and if they did know, many wouldn’t care because they assumed the Communists were the good guys.

And those are just the crazy left-wingers. Countless liberals still embrace various ideas that are the diluted legacy of Soviet and Marxist slander. As I argue (I’d even say demonstrate) in Liberal Fascism, the whole idea that Communism and fascism have absolutely no common intellectual heritage or other meaningful similarities is wholly a product of Soviet (and at times Nazi) propaganda (that the Putinistas are trotting out the “we’re a popular front against fascists” talking point is quite revealing). Stalin’s theory of social fascism was a propaganda tool. It didn’t become any less of one because a lot of decent, mainstream liberals bought into it. To the contrary, it proved how successful that propaganda effort was.

The Soviet legacy in Africa is especially dismaying because their deceit poisoned the minds of some of the best and brightest and probably delayed development by at least a generation. (When I briefly lived in Prague, you could still find African students and intellectuals who took the whole raft of Soviet propaganda very seriously.)

Anyway, I wrote about this in the Corner five years ago when Obama said that nuclear weapons were the Cold War’s “most dangerous legacy.” I said nukes aren’t the most dangerous legacy, the half-life of Soviet lies are:

Some might say the military-industrial complex or the national-security state. But not me. To me, the most obvious dangerous legacy of the Cold War would have to be the damage the Soviets did to the world. I don’t mean the millions they murdered; those dead do not threaten us now, even if they should haunt us.

I mean the relentless distortion of the truth, the psychological violence they visited on the West and the World via their useful idiots and their agents. I’m thinking not merely of the intellectual corruption of the American Left (which even folks like Richard Rorty had to concede), but the corruption of reformers and their movements around the globe. Soviet propaganda still contaminates, while nuclear fallout does not. Lies about America, the West, and the nature of democratic capitalism live on throughout the third world and in radioactive pockets on American campuses.

The Soviet effort to foster wars of national liberation, to poison the minds of the “Bandung Generation,” to deracinate cultures from their own indigenous building blocks of democracy, to destroy non-Marxist competitors interested in reform, to create evil and despotic regimes that are seen as “authentic” because they represent the “true will” of their subjugated and beaten down peoples: these seem to me to amount to the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War. Not least because it was those sorts of efforts that gave birth to North Korea in the first place.

Various & Sundry

Zoë Update: I think this picture says it all:


The other morning, Zoë and I were clearing squirrels and other vermin from Battery Kemble Park (best dog park in DC, even if the Park Police don’t want the dogs there). She spotted a unicorn, or maybe a deer, and tore off into the bush. She was gone for a little while and when she returned, her whole undercarriage was covered in mud and blood. It was raining cats-and-Zoë’s-relatives so it was really hard to see where the blood was coming from. But there was a lot of it. The backseat of my car ended up looking like Samuel Jackson shot someone in it. I couldn’t call the Wolf, so I took Zoë to the vet. She cut her leg, including a blood vessel, but thankfully not a tendon or artery. Now she needs the cone of shame and/or the occasional sedative to keep from chewing through the cast and her sutures. Zoë is nothing if not a chewer.

We think we will be taking this time of restricted exercise to also get her “lady surgery” done. She’s due for that, and it just seems cruel to make her wear the cone of shame for two weeks and then, when her cast comes off, drag her back to the hospital for another horror. The poor girl has a rough start in life, but her heart is still full of joy.

Piketty, Piketty

Yes, I’m reading Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Expect my lengthy take . . . eventually.

I’m scheduled to be on Special Report on Monday, probably my only time for the month. So do everything you can to make the news cycle yield up topics that lend themselves to pithy jocularity!

Speaking of Special Report, I love this exchange last night:

BRET BAIER: The 14th is the day you’re talking about. According to the e-mails and the time line, the CIA circulates new talking points after they’ve removed the mention of al Qaeda, and then at 6:21 the White House– you — add a line about the administration warning of September 10th of social media reports calling for demonstrations. True?

TOMMY VIETOR: I believe so.

BAIER: Did you also change “attacks” to “demonstrations” in the talking points?

VIETOR: Maybe. I don’t really remember.

BAIER: You don’t remember?

VIETOR: Dude, this was like two years ago. We’re still talking about the most mundane process.

BAIER: Dude, it is the thing that everybody is talking about.

VIETOR: We’re talking about the process of editing talking points. That’s what bureaucrats do all day long. Your producers edit scripts multiple times.

This from the same administration that insists Bush’s mistakes (real and alleged) from a decade ago justify Obama’s every failure.

This is a few years old, but I just found it the other day. Just for giggles, imagine if Fox made this mistake. (Warning: Turn down the volume).

This is a perfect visualization of Jay Carney trying to explain things.

Hamster versus Burrito.

This means my daughter will be stabbing me in the back any day now . . . children who eat chicken on the bone are more aggressive and more likely to betray adults.

Related: Sunday is International Respect Chicken Day.

When names are onomatopoetic! Donald Popadick is charged with indecent exposure.

Given how mad-cow disease works, it seems to me that a Walking Dead-inspired beer made with real brains will, nay, must lead to the Zombie Apocalypse.

100 photos that define the 21st century so far.

I’d bark math too if I was a dog living in a country where they eat dogs.

Creepy: 18 preserved prison tattoos that are still attached to the skin.

Back to the Future: Family lives like its 1986

Um, okay.

The Secret Rooftops of New York City.

Five advanced weapons clearly created by a six-year-old.

You know what they say about men with big feet? Big socks.

35 Unintentionally Disturbing Children’s Products.

20 Student Films of Famous Directors.

Some of us always expected to find orange Gabonese cave crocodiles.

Kids getting stuck in things!


The Latest