In his statements to the press yesterday about the alleged Benghazi scandal, President Obama did something he has done before countless times. He countered claims that his administration had deceived the American people — in this case by putting forth a false account of the motivation for the Sept. 11 raid on the U.S. Consulate — by going on the offensive and calling the charges a “sideshow.” He further allowed as how the allegations were a GOP invention borne of partisanship and politics.
In the past this M.O. has served B.O. well, but this time there is a strong probability that the truth will out. Why? Because in the past, Obama had a media wind at his back. News organizations like the three major broadcast networks and Washington Post were willing to cover for him. They were down with either reporting his version of the “facts” or ignoring the story altogether.
But in the last few days, there has been a noticeable sea change, a cooling of relations between a once-fawning press corps and the president. Fox News, long dismissed by the White House as the information arm of the Republican Party, predictably has a piece comparing Obama’s misstatements with the official record. But this time Fox is not alone. WaPo’s vaunted Fact Checker also offers a comparison, and their bottom line assessment is “four Pinocchios.”
Some highlights of the column:
[G]iven three opportunities to affirmatively agree that the Benghazi attack was a terrorist attack, the president obfuscated or ducked the question.
In fact, as far as we can tell from combing through databases, Monday was the first time the president himself referred to Benghazi as an ‘act of terrorism.’…
[T]he president’s claim that he said ‘act of terrorism’ is taking revisionist history too far, given that he repeatedly refused to commit to that phrase when asked directly by reporters in the weeks after the attack. He appears to have gone out of his way to avoid saying it was a terrorist attack, so he has little standing to make that claim now.
The column, by Glenn Kessler, is still not as forthright as it might be, cutting Obama undeserved slack for having at least been in the ballpark and stating:
Instead of pretending the right words were uttered, it would be far better to acknowledge that he was echoing what the intelligence community believed at the time….
But Kessler doesn’t hold Obama’s feet to the fire for sending Susan Rice out the Sunday after the attacks to claim on five separate news programs that they were a mob response to a video defaming Islam. Nor is Obama held responsible for the claims by his then-Secretary of State, who — The Daily Beast reminds us — blamed the attacks on an “awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.”
And “what the intelligence community believed” from the beginning was first publicly acknowledged on Sept. 19 by National Counterterrorism Center Director Matt Olsen who testified before the House that the attack was terrorism. A day later, Obama renewed his reluctance to use the term terrorism, adding, “I don’t want to speak to something until we have all the information.”
(As an aside, yesterday the president also falsely claimed having “sent” Olsen to appear before congressional investigators. In fact, Olsen was subpoenaed and admitted that the attack was an act of terrorism only in response to a direct question.)
Where the story is ultimately headed remains to be seen. But betting that the president emerges from it squeaky clean is not the sure winner it once was. The sooner he himself recognizes that, the better off he’ll be.
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