In confrontations, Joe Biden tends to lie. He did it in 1988 when journalists asked about his false claims about his academic record. He did it in the 2008 Vice Presidential debate against Gov. Sarah Palin. He did it again in last week's debate with Rep. Paul Ryan.
No detail is too small for Biden to fabricate: for example, it is unlikely that he has known Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for "39 years," as he claimed in the debate; 39 years ago, Netanyahu was in an elite Israeli special forces unit, leading attacks during the Yom Kippur War.
These are lies, outright misstatements of fact--not the Obama campaign or Media Matters definition of "lies," which in their view are statements of fact by conservatives that do not fit into liberal spin and distortion. (Case in point: Mitt Romney does not have a $5 trillion tax cut plan, nor would his tax cuts cost $5 trillion. The Obama campaign knows that, and admits it, but still accuses Romney of having such a plan, and "lying" about it.)
Sometimes Biden gets away with it; other times, he does not. And the mainstream media seem willing to forgive all of Biden's lies from last week's debate, except for one: that the administration did not know that U.S. personnel on the ground in Libya had requested more security, and that it based its long-running false story about an anti-Islam video on available intelligence:
Well, we weren't told they wanted more security again. We did not know they wanted more security again. And by the way, at the time we were told exactly — we said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew. That was the assessment. And as the intelligence community changed their view, we made it clear they changed their view. That's why I said, we will get to the bottom of this.
The next day, White House spokesman Jay Carney attempted to clarify what Biden had said by claiming he was referring only to the White House--i.e. to himself and President Barack Obama--and not to the State Department. But that clarification only raised further questions--and seemed to trigger a feud with the State Department over which was responsible for the Benghazi disaster and the misleading explanations that followed.
It is almost inconceivable that the White House did not seek immediate information about security arrangements on the ground in Libya once the Benghazi attack had happened. If that is true, it is a scandal in itself. And it may be true--we know, for example, that Obama routinely skips his daily intelligence briefings, and did so in the week of 9/11 as well. Yet it is highly unlikely that none of the White House staff directly reporting to the President sought the facts.
Furthermore, it is clear that the available intelligence about the Benghazi attack did not point to a video, as both the White House and the State Department leadership initially claimed, but that it pointed to an organized, premeditated terrorist attack.
The word "premeditated" is key--the White House now claims it did acknowledge that the attack was "terrorist" in the president's statement on Sep. 12. Yet Obama used that word to describe the actions of the attackers themselves, not their motives, which he continued to attribute to the video, without a shred of evidence. And the White House studiously avoided any new reference to terrorism in the days and weeks that followed.
The mainstream media has been forced to acknowledge that the Benghazi attack is a scandal on two levels--first, the fact that the attack succeeded, and second, that the administration lied about it. Vice President Biden's statements on Libya--self-evident lies on their face--have forced the media to renew and sharpen its focus.
The implication that the White House and State Department are now trading blame for the attacks has fueled further media interest, given the complicated political relationship between Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The role of UN Ambassador Susan Rice, who is part of the State Department apparatus but reports to the White House as well, now appears to be critical in settling that question.
The Obama campaign's shocking indifference to the attacks--it continues to consider the issue a "circus" conducted by the Romney/Ryan campaign--has begun to disturb what is left of the media's collective conscience.
For example, on Sunday's edition of CNN's State of the Union, host Candy Crowley--who hosts the next presidential debate on Tuesday--corrected Obama campaign spokesman Robert Gibbs when attacked Romney for his quick reaction to events in Libya. Crowley pointed out that Romney's initial reaction had been to the storming of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt.
Obama campaign political strategist David Axelrod was likewise grilled on Fox News Sunday about the attacks, and would not say whether Obama had held security meetings in the aftermath.
Biden's Libya lie just won't die, because four Americans are dead, and the media have been roused--or, in some cases perhaps, shamed--into asking questions. When Biden asks Americans, "Who do you trust?", the answer is no longer as self-evident as it once was.