Jackson Diehl, who writes about foreign affairs for the Washington Post, is no Obama administration shill. He has taken on the White House on several occasions, notably on the issue of human rights, where he has been willing–as few others in the media have–to point out that President Barack Obama shows little interest in the subject, despite the high rhetoric of his campaign speeches and the global expectations of his presidency.
So it is odd to find Diehl buying the administration’s line on the Benghazi scandal–that it is a pure partisan “witch hunt” by Republicans possessed by “dreams of frog-marching White House staffers in handcuffs.”
Diehl describes Benghazi as “the right’s answer to Joe Wilson,” who accused President George W. Bush of lying about Saddam Hussein’s uranium purchases, and of leaking his wife’s CIA role in an attempt to intimidate him.
Yet Benghazi is different. President Bush was wrong about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, but he did not deliberately deceive the American people.
In Benghazi it is now apparent that the administration knew immediately that the U.S. consulate had been the target of a terror attack–likely not a “spontaneous” one, either, as all twelve versions of the infamous talking points suggest. Yet the president blamed a YouTube video.
The lies are worse in the Benghazi scandal. Yet the misconduct is not (yet) as bad as what was alleged in the Wilson affair. No one is talking about criminal culpability. A few have talked, unwisely and without justification, about impeaching the president over Benghazi–but that is mere bluster, correctly brushed aside by the man leading the Benghazi investigation, House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).
What is at stake in the Benghazi scandal is accountability.
All the available evidence suggests that President Obama did nothing as Americans were being attacked. He met briefly with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General John Dempsey–a pre-scheduled meeting that was never followed up by any subsequent communication between the president and his chief security appointees.
Worse, congressional testimony last week revealed that help was denied, twice. The president says he gave three “directives” to secure U.S. personnel, but either they were disobeyed or they never existed.
At the State Deparment, an investigation uncovered serious embassy security lapses. Yet bizarrely, the inquiry seemed to have concluded in advance that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself was not responsible.
Those few who have been held accountable thus far have all been career civil servants who were not ultimately responsible for the decisions being made in Benghazi. The president and his appointees have let themselves off the hook–and the media has played along, covering for the president’s deceptions about whether he had referred to Benghazi as a terror attack, seizing on awkward statements by Mitt Romney, and so on.
Both Obama and Clinton have offered boilerplate “buck stops here” clichés, but neither has acted as if they took their responsibilities seriously.
The resolution of the Benghazi scandal will come when the full truth is known and both Obama and Clinton are forced to acknowledge their failure to perform their constitutional duties to protect Americans.
It is in the national interest to restore that accountability–even if Republicans say so.