Politics Trumped Truth in Obama’s Benghazi Response

One of the chief critiques of the Obama Administration is that they exist solely within the Washington bubble. Their top advisers are career bureaucrats, not private sector-hardened businesspeople. They tend to focus on issues that are important to the beltway class – gun control, gay marriage, etc. – but neglect the issues that are discussed around dining room tables everynight in small town America – smaller paychecks, higher taxes and a lack of jobs. And most importantly, they tend to pour every decision through a political sieve. Will it hurt them in the next election seems to be the primary question the Administration asks itself.

Viewing every decision through the lens of politics often distorts what truly matters. In the quest to be too-PC or to follow the preferred narrative to a T, the Obama Administration often ends up on the wrong side of the public. Yes, they may win elections, but it’s been in spite of, not because of the public’s general temperament towards their leadership.

The Administration’s sad-but-true focus on political decision making was on display in Benghazi with terrible results. Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal:

“The Obama White House sees every event as a political event. Really, every event, even an attack on a consulate and the killing of an ambassador.

Because of that, it could not tolerate the idea that the armed assault on the Benghazi consulate was a premeditated act of Islamist terrorism. That would carry a whole world of unhappy political implications, and demand certain actions. And the American presidential election was only eight weeks away. They wanted this problem to go away, or at least to bleed the meaning from it.“

The White House attempted to whitewash reality by downplaying any link with terrorism and instead discussing it as a spontaneous demonstration over a YouTube video. In hindsight the claim sounds ridiculous, but at the time the Administration did its darndest to sell the narrative. Following the September 11 attacks on the consulate, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice went on all five Sunday news shows where she claimed the attack was the result of a mob response to the video. President Obama also contributed to the story, arguing on four separate occasions that the YouTube video led to the protests, and ultimately, the death of Ambassador Stevens and others.

This contrasts sharply with what a top-ranking diplomat in Libya, Greg Hicks, knew.

“I think everybody in the mission thought it was a terrorist attack from the beginning,” Hicks told the House Oversight Committee.” Indeed, while under oath Hicks testified that there were no protests; that the “YouTube video was a non-event in Libya,” and that he “jaw hit the floor” as he watched, “embarrassed,” as the Administration attempted to tell Americans the attack wasn’t the work of terrorists.

Hicks’ story is given credence by new evidence that the White House purposely scrubbed the Benghazi talking points of any information that deviated from the story they were trying to tell. ABC’s senior White House correspondent, Jon Karl, reports:

“When it became clear last fall that the CIA’s now discredited Benghazi talking points were flawed, the White House said repeatedly the documents were put together almost entirely by the intelligence community, but White House documents reviewed by Congress suggest a different story.

ABC News has obtained 12 different versions of the talking points that show they were extensively edited as they evolved from drafts first written entirely by the CIA to the final version distributed to Congress and to the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice before she appeared on five talk shows the Sunday after the attack.”

Among the edits were the removal of any reference to al-Qaeda, Islamic extremists, and CIA warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi before the attack. The initial draft of the talking points said, “we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qaeda participated in the attack.” By the final draft all the important, but potentially damaging details had been scrubbed to the point where we’re left with the generic, antiseptic statement, “there are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.”

If nothing else, this raises questions about exactly what was going on behind the scenes. Unfortunately, the Pentagon isn’t giving any answers. Carlo Munoz reports for The Hill:

Pentagon officials have denied a request from a House Republican chairman for access to documents on last year’s terrorist attack in Benghazi.

. . . In April, McKeon asked for all classified information that went into the Department of Defense assessment of its response to the attack, which resulted in the death of of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.”

Following that sad trend, Steve Hicks, the second-in-command in Libya and chief whistleblower over the Administration’s handling of the attack, was demoted. “I’ve been effectively demoted from a deputy chief of mission to desk officer,” Hicks said in testimony.

Hicks deserves better. Americans deserve better. This Administration seems not to care.