The Corner

Notes on Benghazi and Susan Rice

A few points in no particular order:

I find the effort to claim that criticism of Susan Rice is racist or sexist to be offensive, ridiculous and damn near lunatic. According to this theory, Republican racists waited in the tall grass until Rice had a shot to be the fifth non-white-male Secretary of State in a row and then decided to pounce. That even the Washington Post editorial board has succumbed to this idiocy, and in such a cowardly way, is almost as sad as it is infuriating.

In an editorial that is full of assertion and scant on facts or persuasive argument, the Post concludes:

Could it be, as members of the Congressional Black Caucus are charging, that the signatories of the letter are targeting Ms. Rice because she is an African American woman? The signatories deny that, and we can’t know their hearts. What we do know is that more than 80 of the signatories are white males, and nearly half are from states of the former Confederacy. You’d think that before launching their broadside, members of Congress would have taken care not to propagate any falsehoods of their own.

I’d expect this kind of smirking insinuation from some gargoyle on MSNBC, not from the Post

On the other hand, I find myself a bit between the extremes here. I don’t think Benghazi is a nothingburger as Beltway liberals have near collectively decided. But nor do I think it’s obvious this is some impeachable scandal either.

I think Andy McCarthy focuses on the right approach below. The scandal of the administration’s response to Benghazi has as much to do with policy as it does with politics. From the outset, Obama sought to deflate the war on terror, as a matter of policy. He wanted to treat it as a crime-control issue for the most part, moving terrorists to civilian courts, unwinding our military presence in Iraq and — if politics would allow — Afghanistan. Remember all of that nonsense about cleansing the word “terrorism” from the government’s lexicon? That was all part of the same effort. Meanwhile, the facets of terrorism that required a military response could be dealt with surgically: special ops, drones, and other resources that can be managed (or give the illusion of being managed) via a video screen in the Situation Room. That sort of approach is appealing to a man who believes he’s uniquely qualified to pluck names from a kill list. 

As Steve Hayes has been arguing over and over, the White House always downplays terror attacks. In the wake of the Fort Hood shooting, the Times Square bomber, etc., the administration pushed the “isolated incident” explanation as much, and for as long, as plausible. When the facts finally make such claims impossible, the administration grudgingly admitted them (although the administration still considers the Fort Hood shooting “workplace violence”). But by then attention and anger dissipated somewhat and the no-drama Obama approach to foreign policy remained unscathed.

Obviously, there are political motives behind this approach, too. And as the election loomed larger the political no doubt swamped the policy. The campaign didn’t want a terror attack on Obama’s watch right after the president and Biden had spent so much time and effort crowing about their foreign policy successes. Obama defenders who cite Obama’s few rhetorical concessions to “terror” in the wake of the attack are either in denial or being outright dishonest when they suggest the White House treated this like a terror attack. Any reasonable person following the Obama administration’s response would conclude this was “all about a video.” That was how liberals interpreted Obama (these same liberals are remarkably comfortable with the fact that Obama misled them). Go back and read the op-ed pages or listen to NPR broadcasts right after the attack. It was all about the limits of free speech, the heckler’s veto, etc. (I remember in part because I wrote a couple columns expressing my disgust with the idea that our free speech is contingent on rioters in another country). The White House thought it could get away with blaming Christian zealots in America or in some other way denying this was a “real” terror attack until after the election. In other words, they relied on the same old strategy. 

One last point. In scandals like this, sometimes outrages fall by the wayside. One in particular has been bugging me for months now. It’s worth remembering that in the aftermath of the attack — when most people believed that our Ambassador was, in the words of Mark Steyn, “asphyxiated by a spontaneous class-action movie review”– that the administration was still in hot water for being unprepared and for failing to provide adequate security in Benghazi. When Susan Rice appeared on ABC’s This Week Jake Tapper asked her about this:

 TAPPER: Why was there such a security breakdown? Why was there not better security at the compound in Benghazi? Why were there not U.S. Marines at the embassy in Tripoli?

RICE: Well, first of all, we had a substantial security presence with our personnel…

TAPPER: Not substantial enough, though, right?

RICE: … with our personnel and the consulate in Benghazi. Tragically, two of the four Americans who were killed were there providing security. That was their function. And indeed, there were many other colleagues who were doing the same with them.

Now, my understanding is that this was a lie (whether Rice realized it or not). The CIA knew why those men were there and it wasn’t to be Ambassador Stevens’s bodyguards. Bodyguards (never mind ones who were former Navy SEALs) do not die in a safe house miles from the person they were protecting. In other words, the inadequate security Rice claimed the administration provided for Chris Stevens was in fact non-existent. 

Of course, pointing this out means I’m a racist. 

Most Popular


The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More