The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
NYT: Uh Oh, Benghazi Might Actually Be A Scandal

 Obama_and_Clinton_at_Transfer_of_Remains_Ceremony_for_Benghazi_attack_victims_Sep_14,_2012

With the New York Times now running a front page story on what might be deliberately false statements made by the White House about the Benghazi emails, the scandal has entered a new stage. Benghazi isn’t about a few right wing press activists tooting their horns anymore; much against its inclinations, the MSM increasingly understands that substantive questions exist.

That doesn’t mean that politics have disappeared from the story line. Just the reverse: the political struggle over the Benghazi narrative is becoming more intense. On the one hand, Democrats generally will be trying to minimize the story while Republicans will push it. Within the Democratic ranks, the Clintonistas will be the most determined enemies of the story.

Nobody is more resilient than the Clintons when it comes to surviving bad press, but Benghazi has the potential to become a major liability for the Clinton brand. Unless Mrs. Clinton’s team can build a theory of the case that clears her and her associated of primary responsibility for both the mess and, potentially, the cover-up, Team Clinton has some tough weeks and maybe months ahead.

For the White House, there are two options: to fight the whole story, or to do everything possible to hand it off to former Secretary Clinton.

Given that the story can no longer be swept under the rug, steering the controversy to the State Department is what the White House wants. A big press brouhaha over the degree of Mrs. Clinton’s responsibility for the mess is the best possible outcome for Team Obama; the uneasy relationship between the two wings of the Democratic Party is coming under new strain. The White House wants and needs this to be a whodunit about editing talking points, not a story about a White House effort to avoid a public discussion about the crisis in its Middle East policy (the Libya intervention was a bungled mess, Al Qaeda is on the rebound, etc) in the closing days of the campaign.

The ugliest dimension of the story still trying to claw its way out of the Republican media ghetto is the narrative about the unseemly rush to pin the blame for the terror attack on a video, and the subsequent railroading of one of the world’s lousiest film makers into jail for essentially political reasons.

This was both ugly and cowardly: ugly because the administration absolutely knew that the attempt to blame the film for Benghazi was at best baloney and at worst a deliberate lie. Cowardly because there is a difference between cringing and sensitivity, and the panicky response to the film was definitely on the wrong side of the line. A reflexive moral crouch and a knee jerk apology reflex is not a sign of a sensitive and statesmanlike approach to cultural misunderstandings; it telegraphs weakness to our enemies and says that if you push us we fold.

It’s a good thing all this was done by a Democratic administration; if the GOP had blundered this badly the media universe would be Bengazigate wall to wall. The pack would smell Pulitzers and the hunt would be on.

We could get there yet; the Benghazi story has broken through the first firewall. One reason second terms tend to be more disappointing than the first in modern America is that second terms are often defined by scandals (Watergate, Iran-Contra, l’affair Lewinsky). Between the IRS Tea Party mess and Benghazi, the Obama second term is already playing fight-the-scandal; there could well be much more to come.

[Image of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton honoring the victims of the Benghazi attack Andrews Air Force Base on September 14, 2012; courtesy Wikimedia]

Published on May 11, 2013 10:05 am
  • Boritz

    ***if the GOP had blundered this badly the media universe would be Bengazigate wall to wall. The pack would smell Pulitzers and the hunt would be on.***
    Mead occasionally makes these kinds of remarks that imply an imbalance in the media. Is Mead really saying that the media behaves in a way that favors one political party over another? I just don’t see how anyone could believe this; just as I don’t understand people who deny that the sequester will have the effect of killing all of the 99 percenters and will leave our bodies strewn on killing fields as bad as Pol Pot’s worst. I hope Mead eventually abandons his extreme position and adopts a more mainstream, moderate view like my own.

    • circleglider

      The media doesn’t favor one political party (and worldview) over another?

      Gee, then how do you explain the latest excuse: Obama Got Pass on Benghazi, Thanks to Romney? Apparently, the incompetence of the Romney presidential campaign is solely responsible for the media’s decision to ignore the Benghazi story until now.

      • http://www.facebook.com/corlyss.drinkard Corlyss Drinkard

        The man took a courageous stand calling out the administration within hours of the event, and what did he get from our “balanced” “non-partisan” media? Scorn, ridicule, accusations of “playing politics” as if anything that dire would NOT be about politics. Sometimes the American electorate is the dumbest and most incompetent branch of system.

    • http://www.facebook.com/corlyss.drinkard Corlyss Drinkard

      “Mead occasionally makes these kinds of remarks that imply an imbalance in the media”

      Methinks more often he makes them to put on the cloak of thoughtful evenhandedness. To me they are cloying.

      “just as I don’t understand people who deny that the sequester will have the effect of killing all of the 99 percenters and will leave our bodies strewn on killing fields as bad as Pol Pot’s worst.”
      Steady on, Boritz. Breathe deeply and don’t try to hold it. What your comment lacks in rationality and factual basis it makes up for in hysterical passion. If you can find any one who has actually suffered because of sequestration, excluding of course government workers, please post his or her photo here. Identification not necessary. The reason the Obamanoids are in such a panic over their sequestration ploy is that in truth no one has even noticed.

      • Tom

        Corlyss, I think he was being sarcastic.

        • http://www.facebook.com/corlyss.drinkard Corlyss Drinkard

          Thanks. Sometimes hard to tell in this environ. My apologies to Boritz for misconstruing his humor.

  • Pete

    Come on!

    With anyone with eyes to see, the mainstream media has been a propaganda arm of the Democratic party for sometime now.

  • USNK2

    Waiting for someone to demand Obama start supporting free speech instead of a UN global blasphemy law: will he do-over his 09 25 2012 UN speech blaming Benghazi on that video.

  • http://www.facebook.com/corlyss.drinkard Corlyss Drinkard

    Steve Hayes of the Weekly Standard deserves a Pulitzer for his dogged mastery of this story and his refusal to be blown off it, but of course he won’t get one. Dem Op Kristin Powers deserves kudos for her persistence in shaming the liberal media into the modest coverage they now give the story. She has done yeoman work on Bret Baier’ Special Report’s All Star Panel since the week Benghazi happened, trying to get her liberal colleagues to cover the story.

    If you enjoy watching the arrogant and artless brought low, check out the extended play of the WH news briefing Fri. If Carney were a fox, he’d be in deep trouble.
    http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/special-report-bret-baier/videos#p/86927/v/2372244915001

  • BrianFrankie

    >> The ugliest dimension of the story still trying to claw its way out of the Republican media ghetto is the narrative about the unseemly rush to pin the blame for the terror attack on a video, and the subsequent railroading of one of the world’s lousiest film makers into jail for essentially political reasons.<<

    This is really the scariest part of the story. A political prisoner in the US, such as we haven't seen since Wilson put a bunch of political prisoners in jail during WW1, or FDR with the Japanese citizen internment in WW2. And don't forget Secretary Clinton's statement to the family members of the slain diplomatic staff that she would make sure the filmmaker received justice. This administration has no respect for the American Constitution.

    Ugly beyond description. And on so very many levels. *Even if* the film was the proximate cause of the attack on the US facility in Benghazi, it is the duty of the US government to stand up for the right of American citizens to say what they like. Not to imprison them. You may not have to like the content of the speech, or support it in any way, but you do have to support the right of the individual to say it. Voltaire understood.

    The fact that the video causing the attack was a complete fabrication is merely adding insult to what is already a very real injury.

    The Administration modus operandi is further highlighted in the alleged retaliation against whistleblowers. The IRS Tea Party scandal also indicates the mindset. Toe the line, or we'll find something to silence you. I'm a bit afraid to post this on the VM site – will the administration try to imprison me? Fine me? Get me fired? Take other action to retaliate? There are certainly enough laws on the books, many of which contradict each other so that compliance is impossible, that no individual in the US is completely innocent – the government could trump up charges against any one it truly finds offensive. My only real protection, it seems, is that I'm not that much of a bother for them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jack-Arnold/1259562281 Jack Arnold

    Mark Steyn pointed out that both Hillary and Obama lied over Chris Stevens coffin, declaring that his death was caused by a you tube video.

    It was at this point also, that Obama said, “The future does not belong to those who insult Islam.” in reference to Nakoula, the now jailed director of the film.

    Is it possible that W.R. Meade might write something in the future that could be said to ‘inflame’ Muslim mobs and incidentally make the Obama administration look bad?

    And if so, would he be put in jail? I can see it happening since the current administration was quite happy enough to sacrifice Chris Stevens on the altar of blaming a Youtube video. Progressives eat their own.

  • LizardLizard

    Obama is a lame duck. Mrs. Clinton is the Democrats’ shoo-in pick for President. Which one will the Party protect?

  • Really!?

    There was a stand down! Why isn’t the MSM talking about this!? It came out in congressional testimony! What happened to the weapons being stored at the embassy!? Are these the same weapons being used by ‘the rebels’ in Syria to kill civilians!? Was this Fast and Furious 2.0!?

  • http://www.facebook.com/tasgal Richard Tasgal

    Elliott Abrams, who I gather knows what he is talking about, has written that on foreign policy, Obama has kept his advisors on such a short leash that his secretaries of state or defense et al. can be given neither much credit nor blame. Since so little decision-making on foreign policy was delegated, credit or blame belongs almost entirely to Obama himself. I don’t (or course) have any inside knowledge about decisions on Benghazi, but I don’t see any reason why this particular case should be different.

    What I don’t get, even more, is why very few in the media are not demanding that America or Libya NOW pursue and punish (or kill) the people and groups responsible for the attack.

  • Kevin

    Thankfully Via Media is here to expose the backpedaling, confusion and outright lying associated with the deaths of American’s killed in a place in which no insurgency exists (at least according to the administration until recently). Wait are we talking about Libya or Iraq? Obviously should President Obama decide to surge troops to Libya to break the momentum of Ansar he will have Via Media’s full support.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1032782922 Steve Salisbury

    It’s a sad day when the POTUS lies to the parents of the deceased while standing over the coffin. Pathetic.