by Jonah Goldberg
President Obama was asked about the metastasizing Benghazi scandal in a joint news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Referring to the Americans who died in Benghazi, the president said, "We dishonor them when we turn things like this into a political circus." He added that "the whole issue of talking points, throughout this process, frankly, has been a sideshow. ... There's no 'there' there."
He's half right. The talking points drafted by the
I think there was a lot of mischief behind those talking points, which we now know were sanitized, folded, spindled and mutilated to fit a political agenda.
But it's worth remembering that Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn't get their information from the talking points. They got their information earlier and from much higher authorities, like then-CIA Director David Petraeus. The CIA believed the attacks were terrorist-driven early on. According to
More central are the talking points -- written or unwritten -- that Obama and Clinton used for weeks after the attacks. The president said Monday that he immediately referred to the Benghazi attacks as "terrorism." This is at best a brutal bending of the truth (that even the
Clinton followed suit. She told grieving family members of the fallen that the U.S. would track down the makers of the video. And, so far, the only person connected with the whole incident who has been punished is the filmmaker, who continues to languish in jail, admittedly on unrelated charges (though it is unlikely he'd have been swiftly picked up were it not for the administration's rush to denounce him).
If you assume they knew the truth about the nature of the attack, how are those statements not proof of a cover-up? The talking points are a sideshow.
But in a very serious way, so is the cover-up.
As Washington Examiner columnist Byron York notes, the Republican obsession with the smoking gun stems from the fact that "they are captive to the Washington mind-set that the cover-up is always worse than the crime."
This Washington cliché isn't an iron law of the universe. The media like it, I think, because the cover-up invariably involves them. When the story is about how the media have been misled, the media can always be counted on to perk up, as we saw last Friday when
But the true core of this story has nothing to do with media vanity or talking points -- or a political circus. The real issue is that for reasons yet to be determined -- politics? ideology? incompetence? all three? -- the administration was unprepared for an attack on
Again, there's an arsenal worth of smoking guns, from uncontested sworn testimony at the Benghazi hearings to the
Benghazi's Smoking Guns | Politics