J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowlings, you can relax; your places in literary history are safe. What follows will be a separate blog, each devoted to deconstructing the three scandals that have hung like a dark cloud over the White House for the past several weeks, starting with Benghazi, moving on to the surveillance of the Associated Press, and finishing with the IRS handling of applications for tax-exempt, 501c-4 status.
As is well-known, late last fall, four American foreign services workers, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in a coordinated attack on a US facility in Benghazi, Libya. In short order, three noteworthy events follows: (1) within hours of the attack, the president, speaking publicly, labelled it “an act of terror”; (2) then Secretary of State Clinton, convened a five-member, “Accountability and Review Board” to ascertain facts and culpability (if any). The Board’s final report was authored by former UN Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen (ret.); and (3) on a Sunday political talk show, current UN Ambassador Susan Rice, speaking on behalf of the Obama administration and using “talking points” she had been handed, gave a brief statement of what had happened. It is at this point that the matter became thoroughly politicized.
Republicans saw in the attack and the loss of American life, an opportunity to both derail the Obama presidency and seriously undercut growing enthusiasm for a “Clinton for President” movement. As to the former, some notable conservatives like Sen Inhofe (R-OK) and talk show host Mike Huckabee began to toss around the idea that we were looking at such potentially impeachable offenses as a cover-up and a dereliction of duty. This line of thinking was fed by initial claims that Ambassador Rice was lying, and that our asset in Benghazi should have been afforded military protection.
Both these assertions collapsed when it was learned that Rice’s aforementioned talking points did not originate with her but came from the State Department after considerable discussion and e-mails that passed back and forth between State, the CIA and FBI. These communiques were coincidentally sent to members of Congress who had ample time to digest their contents and react to anything objectionable in them. In fact, weeks went by without a murmur. Then, enter Jonathon Karl.
Karl is the senior White House correspondent for ABC News. In an “exclusive”, he revealed that he had obtained copies of those e-mails showing that they had been “scrubbed” so as to rid them of negative references to the president and/or Secretary of State. This was quickly followed by an “Aha!!” moment from the conservative chorus in and out of government.
The problem with Karl’s “expose’ ” was that he had either been an unwitting dupe or a willing participant in a fraud; the supposedly damning e-mails had been given to him by a Republican and their contents altered so that they did not align well with those that members of Congress already had in their possession. Once this came out, Karl issued what has become standard inside the DC beltway; he delivered a non-apology apology.
With the air now leaking copiously from the “impeachment balloon”, attention turned to the criticism that the Benghazi compound should have been better fortified with added military personnel. This after-the-fact second-guessing crumbled when it was learned that Gen. Carter Ham, AfriCom Commander, had TWICE offered Ambassador Stevens such a contingent, but had been turned down on both occasions. We will never know why Stevens made that decision and there may be no point in engaging in speculation that can never be corroborated.
As of the date of the posting of this blog, House hearings on Benghazi continue with the aforementioned individuals – Messrs Pickering and Mullen – set to testify behind closed doors. What more we will learn from their appearance remains to be seen. But, at this juncture, there are two words that seem best suited to describe this entire matter. First, from the parents of Ambassador Stevens’ parents on the politicization of their son’s death (“Abhorrent”), and on the claim of Hillary Clinton’s culpability (“Bullshit”) from a member of the Accountability and Review Board.
Impeaching Obama on the basis of the Benghazi attack has now become a non-starter. In the remaining parts of this trilogy we shall see if either one or both of the remaining two scandals will hold sufficient water to help the rabid haters of this president realize their most fevered dream. Next up – the AP scandal. Stay tuned.