Some 20 months later, new details are finally emerging that threaten both the integrity and credibility of the Obama White House that worked to paint the Benghazi attack as the ” spontaneous reaction” to a YouTube video, in the words of then United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice.
On May 10, 2013, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declared that the White House made only “one change” to talking points that were “written by the CIA” and used by then-Ambassador Susan Rice to prepare for five Sunday Show interviews just five days after the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.
He said that “these were intelligence community talking points that the intelligence community, led by the CIA, had…that the intelligence community has to sign off on and believe represents the intelligence community’s view of what they knew at that time about what happened.”
Without any hesitation or reservation, Carney stated bluntly, “the fact is the White House’s involvement to the talking points that were generated by the CIA that Saturday was to make the single change, suggest the single change…the White House involvement in the actual — in any changes that were made to the so-called talking points was extremely minimal and non-substantive.”
When pressed by a White House reporter if there was “concern about how Congress would react a factor in what went into those talking points, as that email suggests?”
Carney responded, “…the answer to that is no, because the talking points reflect the intelligence community’s assessment of what happened…”
Almost a year later, new documents have been released that expose a very different truth about those infamous talking points.
But let’s step back for a second and talk about why this really matters.
Regardless of where you sit on the ideological spectrum, we can all agree that public officials should not lie to the American public.
In the aftermath of a genuine national tragedy, where innocent people have been murdered, with the backdrop of 9/11, in a heightened state of fear, uncertainty and emotion, that is when the American people expect the best of their government.
That’s when they expect the truth. Forget the politics – why can’t we just have the facts?
The talking points matter because the designated representative of this government, of this nation, was sent on national television to tell millions of Americans who wanted to be informed, who wanted the facts, she was sent out there and lied.
Can anyone really blame the American people for having absolutely no trust and confidence in their government?
The recent survey of “millennials” conducted by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics reported that trust in the President has fallen from 44% in 2010 to 32% today. Trust in the overall federal government is down to 20%.
The reason why is because the government openly, brazenly, carelessly lies to all of us and unfortunately, there is no shortage of avenues for those lies to reverberate and regurgitate.
In November of 2012, and for the sake of full disclosure, I was working as a Senior Advisor to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa during this period, a headline appeared at CNN – Official: Changes to Benghazi talking points made by intel community – posted by Pam Benson.
The lede was, “The intelligence community–not the White House, State Department or Justice Department–was responsible for the substantive changes made to the talking points distributed for government officials who spoke publicly about the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, the spokesman for the director of national intelligence said Monday…”
And now newly released documents reveal a conversation revolving around “PREP” that included White House communications advisor Ben Rhoades, Press Secretary Jay Carney, Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, strategist David Plouffe, Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest, among others, that happened the night before Susan Rice’s interviews.
The documents reveal that the two “goals” for these interviews were: 1.) “To underscore that these protests are rooted in and Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy.” and 2.) “To reinforce the President and Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.”
Does this sound like the “minimal” and “non-substantive” role that Jay Carney depicted the WH played in Rice’s preparation last May?
Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) went on CBS’s Face the Nation and said, “she [Rice] read talking points that we are now beginning to believe came from the White House, which were absolutely false…”
Steve Benen, a producer for MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, published a blog attacking/mocking Sen. McCain for this statement, “McCain’s imaginary belief that Benghazi talking points “came from the White House” is contradicted by literally every shred of evidence that’s available…”
I wonder if those who were so quick to ridicule Republicans will now recant their criticisms and apologize?
At the end of the day, beyond who knew what and when and who wrote what and why, this entire fiasco is a microcosm of a bigger and much more troubling reality – lying is the status-quo and the people who are being lied to are becoming more and more apathetic and pessimistic because of it.
When Susan Rice characterized the Benghazi attack as some kind of “spontaneous reaction” that was “prompted by a video” – that was a lie.
When Jay Carney stood at the White House podium and said, “changes that were made to the so-called talking points was extremely minimal and non-substantive” – that was a lie.
Some things are black and white, and this is one of them. That was a lie.