Democrats on Capitol Hill are eager to sweep the Benghazi fiasco under the carpet, and so are their water carriers in the liberal press. Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum claims to see no motive for what he calls the right’s “conspiracy theory” against the administration.
But this ignores ample and compelling evidence of the White House’s failure to act upon receiving word of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent efforts to cover up the identity of the perpetrators. Gaping holes remain in the timeline of what the president knew and when he knew it. State Department communiqués obtained by Reuters reveal that the White House had been advised within minutes of the raid that the attackers were members of Ansar al-Sharia, an affiliate of Al Qaeda. Why a rescue team was not sent in despite the availability of aerial drone footage of the events on the ground has never been adequately explained.
The president’s ostensible reason for wanting to conceal the terrorist angle until after the election is equally clear: His owning up to the fact that Al Qaeda had attacked the U.S. on his watch—and on Sept. 11—conflicted with his boasts at campaign stops that he had vanquished the terrorist group.
What is unclear is why he sent U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice out as his spokesperson—as opposed to, say, the Secretary of State—when by his own lights she knew nothing about the attacks. Another question that needs an answer is why she was instructed to talk up the “spontaneous mob” explanation when the terrorist bona fides of the attackers were known. Still another is why the administration chose to blanket the airwaves with this story (remember, Rice made appearances on five Sunday news shows) if the motivation wasn’t political.
Now that Obama has tipped his hand that he is considering nominating Rice to replace outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she is being subject to even greater scrutiny and sharper criticism. The president reacted to this in his news conference on Wednesday. The tone of his remarks struck a curious balance between mock-chivalrous and defensive in the style of an elementary school student standing up for his kid sister:
As I’ve said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her. If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. Ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi, and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous…. When they go after the U.N. Ambassador, apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me.
He stopped short of warning McCain and Graham that if they kept picking on Rice they were cruisin’ for a bruisin’.
The president further defended his decision, as yet unexercised, to nominate Rice, claiming “she has done exemplary work” in her capacity as U.N. ambassador. Richard Grenell, who served as a spokesman for four U.S. Ambassadors to the U.N. including John Negroponte, John Danforth, John Bolton, and Zalmay Khalilzad, gtades her performance in a FOX News article:
Rice’s diplomatic failures and silence in the face of outrageous UN antics have given the United States pathetic representation among the 193 members of the world body. UN members, not surprisingly, prefer a weak opponent. Rice is therefore popular with her colleagues. It may explain why she ignored Syria’s growing problems for months.
Rice has been consistently silent on other important issues and ineffective when she does engage. She skipped Security Council meetings when Israel needed defending and even failed to show up for the emergency session on the Gaza Flotilla incident.
Rice didn’t even show up for the first two emergency Security Council meetings on the unfolding Arab Spring revolution last year. Rice stayed silent when Iran was elected to the U.N. women’s committee, she didn’t call out Libya when it was elected to the Human Rights Council, she was absent from the Haiti crisis meeting and was a no-show for the last open meeting scheduled before the planned UN vote to recognize Palestinian statehood. When she actually does show up, she is a miserable failure.
Whether the issue is Sudan, Egypt, North Korea, Israel or Rwanda, Rice has been either missing in action or unable to deliver a quick and effective resolution.
It’s far from a ringing endorsement, but for an administration that gave us Timothy Geithner, Van Jones, and Anita Dunn, being dreadful at the job you are hired to do is nothing out of the ordinary.
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