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Atlantic Wire Celebrates the Triumph of Spin

Every few months another progressive writer takes a stab at writing the final piece on Benghazi. The latest effort published at the Atlantic Wire is a celebration of the triumph of administration spin over fact and substance. What's new in the Atlantic piece is an admission that the administration was playing politics all along:

we still don't know who attacked the American consulate and CIA annex. But the Benghazi controversy isn't about that very interesting story. It's about the very boring story of whether Obama played politics after the attack. Of course he did! He is a politician.

Actually, the story is still about who did this and who failed to insure it did not happen, though the administration has made little apparent progress on that front. As for the politics, I don't find that bit boring. In fact, I find it very interesting that the administration has denied this all along, but that the release of 12 versions of the talking points and the emails surrounding their creation make it impossible for their defenders to maintain that fiction. This admission would not have been made six months ago.

Mitt Romney tried to play politics with Benghazi, too. Romney tried to nail Obama for not calling it a terror attack, and failed in a dramatic debate moment. The first Benghazi round went to Obama.

It's certainly true Obama won the round. It's also true that his claim during the debate was an intentional attempt to deceive the public. Obama made a reference to "acts of terror" late in the speech, after he had spoken about the original 9/11 attacks. But early in the speech he alluded to the You Tube video, saying "We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others."

Two weeks after the debate, we learned the truth about what the President believed that day. On the day he gave the Rose Garden speech, Obama was asked by CBS' 60 Minutes, "Mr. President, this morning you went out of your way to avoid the use of the word terrorism in connection with the Libya Attack, do you believe that this was a terrorism attack?" The President responded "Well it’s too early to tell exactly how this came about, what group was involved, but obviously it was an attack on Americans." So the President did not claim Benghazi was terrorism in his Rose Garden speech and agreed he had avoided saying so.

None of this inconvenient truth makes it into the Atlantic Wire story. Instead the author moves on to another controversy with similar results:

The moment Benghazi reached peak mainstream credibility was in early May, when ABC News reported it had "obtained" emails showing 12 revisions to the Benghazi talking points that seemed intended to protect the State Department. The Republican theory — that the White House intentionally lied about what happened to help Obama's reelection and protect Hillary Clinton — suddenly appeared to have actual substance.

But ABC's emails were not the real emails; they were summaries that subtly changed their meaning...But then the White House released the true emails, making clear the ABC emails were merely Republican interpretations. The Benghazi controversy fizzled.

Actually, the White House selectively released one email in order to make this politically helpful claim, i.e. that the emails had been "doctored" by Republicans. This bit of spin was correctly judged to be a lie.

It was only after Jake Tapper (along with Jon Karl) called for a release of the full chain of emails that the White House released 100 pages of documents. Importantly, those emails showed the Republican interpretation had been correct. It was the State Department's Victoria Nuland, speaking on behalf of "building leadership" who demanded significant changes. As one participant in the chain noted "The White House cleared quickly, but State has major concerns."

But again, none of this makes it into the Atlantic Wire story. We get two misleading claims--Obama called Benghazi terror in the Rose Garden and the summary emails were misleading--stacked together as facts. None of the other significant revelations make it into the story, e.g. the fact that Gregory Hicks was told not to speak to Jason Chaffetz, that Hillary's fixer Cheryl Mills called after he refused to allow a State Dept. lawyer into his conversation with Chaffetz, that he was offered a desk job after being praised by the President for his response, etc.

All that matters, apparently, is that the White House's intentionally misleading claims are working. Maybe they or maybe they are just on hold while we focus on other scandals. Either way it's odd to see a news outlet celebrating a successful cover-up rather than highlighting the facts.


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