A new report by CBS’s Sharyl Attkisson presents a new administration fallback on Benghazi. The people who made the decisions now claim they are just “idiots.” But that’s not what the record shows, at least when it comes to decisions we can examine up close.
An unnamed administration official tells CBS “We’re portrayed by Republicans as either being lying or idiots…It’s actually closer to us being idiots.” It’s quite an admission to come out of any Democratic official, which is all the more reason to wonder why it’s being offered eight months into the investigation of the administration’s actions.
The real problem with the “idiots” excuse is that it’s belied by the evidence. Earlier this week, after pressure from news organizations, the administration release 100 pages of emails related to the drafting of Benghazi talking points. What the emails show is not a group of dummies but politicos seeking to put the best face on a bad situation.
Over the course of a few hours on Sep. 14th, State prevailed upon the CIA to remove mentions of al Qa’ida and 5 prior attacks in Benghazi. An unnamed official tells Attkisson “We thought, ‘why are you guys throwing us under the bus?’ …They [CIA]
made it seem like the State Department was given a warning they
ignored. No specific warning was given.” That’s not idiocy. On the contrary, it sounds like crass political calculation.
This is the problem with the administration’s new admission against interest: When we’re able to see their work up close it looks very politically savvy. But they want us to believe that all the stuff we can not see–such as judgments about pinning the attack on a video–are just the result of idiots bumbling.
As Attkisson has pointed out previously, the administration has firmly refused to release the eyewitness reports collected by the FBI in Germany a couple days after the attack. The claim is that these reports were not transcribed in time to become part of the talking points discussion. Incredibly, no one at the FBI was able to pick up the phone and make a call relaying the gist of what happened to superiors prior to Sep. 16.
The administration has also refused to release security video from the compound. Did anyone look at this before telling the country there was a demonstration at the site? Maybe or maybe not. In either case, just put it down to another bumble by idiots. Sure they blew it, just don’t claim politics was involved. That would be outrageous.
But when it came to the talking points, it turns out politics was heavily involved. Jay Carney claimed the CIA made all the edits, save one. More broadly, he was claiming that politics played no role in determining what Amb. Rice told Americans after the attack. All of that was completely false. The talking points were made by a circle jerk of administration flacks covering their bosses’ political backsides. Little else seemed to matter.
The scheming and CYA maneuvers evident in the emails likely did not begin on Sep. 14th and end the following day. At least, we have no reason to think that’s the case. It’s more likely this is a window in to how all the decisions following the attack were made. How can we minimize the damage? How can we avoid responsibility? How can we protect ourselves from criticism?
The administration’s sudden admission of idiocy is designed to shock us with its frankness–surely they wouldn’t admit that unless it were true. But like everything else they have done, it is just one more piece of political calculation designed to protect them from accountability. This is not the time to let them off the hook. Now is the time to keep digging.