Stonewalling Benghazi Into Irrelevancy
The Obama administration's modus operandi for defusing scandals.
Last week, the dwindling number of Americans who believe this administration owes them an honest explanation regarding the murders of ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi were likely expecting that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton might be forced to shed some light on the issue. What they got instead was a well-rehearsed theatrical presentation, complete with tears, anger and self-righteous indignation. When Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) contended that the administration had deliberately misled the American public, Clinton answered angrily. “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans,” she said. “Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference – at this point – does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened, and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.” That is an abject lie. As CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson has so masterfully revealed, the real “job” of this administration is to stonewall this scandal into irrelevancy.
Towards that end, Attkisson has compiled a list of penetrating questions Obama administration officials have steadfastly refused to answer, since she began asking them as early as last October. To wit:
– What time was Ambassador’s Stevens' body recovered, what are the known details surrounding his disappearance and death, including where he/his body was taken/found/transported and by whom?
– Who made the decision not to convene the Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG) the night of the Benghazi attacks?
– We understand that convening the CSG[is] a protocol under Presidential directive (“NSPD-46”). Is that true? If not, please explain… if so, why was the protocol not followed? Is the Administration revising the applicable Presidential directive? If so, please explain.
– Who is the highest-ranking official who was aware of pre-911 security requests from US personnel in Libya?
– Who is/are the official(s) responsible for removing reference to al-Qaeda from the original CIA notes?
– Was the President aware of Gen. Petraeus' potential problems prior to Thurs., Nov. 8, 2012? What was the earliest that any White House official was aware?
– What is your response to the President stating that on Sept. 12, he called 911 a terrorist attack, in light of his CBS interview…on that date in which he answered that it was too early to know whether it was a terrorist attack?
– Is anyone being held accountable for having no resources close enough to reach this high-threat area within 8+ hours on Sept. 11, and has the Administration taken steps to have resources available sooner in case of emergency in the future?
– A Benghazi victim’s family member stated that Mrs. Clinton told him she would find and arrest whoever made the anti-Islam video. Is this accurate? If so, what was Mrs. Clinton’s understanding at the time of what would be the grounds for arrest?
– The Administration is reported to have asked that the anti-Islamist YouTube video initially blamed in Benghazi be removed from YouTube. If true, what is the Administration’s view regarding other videos or future material that it may wish were not published, but are legal? What is the Administration’s criteria in general for requesting removal of a YouTube or other Internet video?
Attkisson further highlights administration stonewalling, noting that a White House official indicated that none of the above questions will be answered, and that Freedom of Information Acts (FOIAs) filed by CBS asking for answers from the State Department, CIA, FBI and Defense Department have been ignored. The same stonewalling applies to “repeated requests” for the “promised surveillance video from Benghazi,” White House photos taken on the night of the attack and "an accounting" of President Obama’s decisions and actions.
How does the administration get way with sweeping a monumental scandal like this one under the rug? Sunday night’s “60 Minutes” on CBS offered a perfect example of the overt media corruption that makes it possible. Despite the fact that Steve Croft scored an interview with both President Obama and Hillary Clinton, presenting him with a perfect opportunity to press the issue, here is the totality of questioning regarding Benghazi:
Kroft: “You said during the hearings, I mean, you’ve accepted responsibility. You’ve accepted the very critical findings of Admiral Mullen and Ambassador Pickering. As the New York Times put it, you accepted responsibility, but not blame. Do you feel guilty in any way, in – at a personal level? Do you blame yourself that you didn’t know or that you should have known?
Here’s how both Clinton and Obama "answered” the question.
Clinton: “Well, Steve, obviously, I deeply regret what happened, as I’ve said many times. I knew Chris Stevens. I sent him there originally. It was a great personal loss to lose him and three other brave Americans. But I also have looked back and tried to figure out what we could do so that nobody, insofar is possible, would be in this position again. And as the Accountability Review Board pointed out, we did fix responsibility appropriately. And we’re taking steps to implement that. But we also live in a dangerous world. And, you know, the people I’m proud to serve and work with in our diplomatic and development personnel ranks, they know it’s a dangerous and risky world. We just have to do everything we can to try to make it as secure as possible for them.”
Obama: “I think, you know, one of the things that humbles you as president, I’m sure Hillary feels the same way as secretary of state, is that you realize that all you can do every single day is to figure out a direction, make sure that you are working as hard as you can to put people in place where they can succeed, ask the right questions, shape the right strategy. But it’s going to be a team that both succeeds and fails. And it’s a process of constant improvement, because the world is big and it is chaotic. You know, I remember Bob Gates, you know, first thing he said to me, I think maybe first week or two that I was there and we were meeting in the Oval Office and he, obviously, been through seven presidents or something. And he says, ‘Mr. President, one thing I can guarantee you is that at this moment, somewhere, somehow, somebody in the federal government is screwing up.’ And, you know you’re – and so part of what you’re trying to do is to constantly improve systems and accountability and transparency to minimize those mistakes and ensure success. It is a dangerous world. And that’s part of the reason why we have to continue to get better.”
The so-called investigation by the Accountability Review Board took 13 weeks. It concluded that no one was responsible for the security breakdown that left four Americans dead, even as it completely ignored finding out why administration officials peddled the “Muslim video” excuse for the attacks. As for Obama callously characterizing this scandal as little more than one of an expected series of government “screw-ups,” perhaps the only thing worse was the president’s previous description of the murders as "bumps in the road.“
An American Thinker column by Daren Jonescu explains how this stonewalling not only serves the administration’s purposes regarding Benghazi, but the entire progressive agenda as well. After noting that Clinton could never have gotten away with saying, "what difference – at this point – does it make” in the days or even the first few weeks immediately following the attacks, Jonescu lays the progressive strategy bare:
“The key to the progressive ‘ratchet,’ as it is often, correctly, called, is that no step forward may ever be retraced. Each stage of degradation is to be rationalized after the fact, precisely by the means exemplified in Hillary Clinton’s stark question…Was modern public education conceived as a tool for preventing the development of individualism and exceptional men, in favor of a morally and intellectually stunted ‘workforce’ of the compliant to support an entrenched oligarchy?…Would ObamaCare’s individual mandate stand up to the judgment of the framers of the U.S. Constitution?…The key to the success of Western socialism’s ‘progress’ is not the periodic lurches toward the abyss. It is the art of effective stalling. All of today’s political and moral outrages will be rationalized with a shrug tomorrow: ‘What difference – at this point – does it make?’”
Before the November election, the Obama administration was embroiled in four major scandals: Fast and Furious gunrunning to Mexico, the leaking of top-secret intelligence information most likely from the White House, a string of “green” company bankruptcies tied to political donors, and Benghazi. In each case, this administration, abetted by fellow Democrats and see-no-evil media apparatchiks, has moved further and further away from the point where each one occurred, to the place where, at “this point” in time, this cavalcade of overt corruption can be characterized as an unnecessary or unseemly effort to “rehash” old news. Furthermore, if anyone dares to bring up Benghazi when Mrs. Clinton makes her inevitable run for presidency in 2016, this unholy alliance of protectors will undoubtedly accuse her detractors of misogyny for daring to bring up something that – at this point – no longer makes any difference.
Four dead Americans and no remotely credible explanation as to who was responsible or why, ought to say otherwise. That it doesn’t – and won’t – is a testament to the level of corruption that the majority of the public and the media are willing to tolerate, as long as the progressive cause is served. For the American left, there will always be screw-ups and bumps along the road to utopia. When the ends justify the means…what difference do they make?
Arnold Ahlert is a columnist for FrontPage Magazine.