NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE
May 3, 2014 4:00 AM
Benghazi Made Simple
The White House’s political and ideological instincts overpowered everything else.
By Jonah Goldberg
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.
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?”
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.