Earl Tilford
Recently released State Department documents reveal that shortly after 4:00 p.m., September 11, 2012, intelligence officers at the department informed the White House of a terrorist attack on the Benghazi consulate. By 8:00 p.m., they had confirmed the death of Ambassador Chris Stephens and three other Americans. Furthermore, an al Qaeda-affiliate group in Benghazi had taken credit for the attack. By midnight it was morning in Libya and the attack was over. Is it conceivable that the State Department, with a first-rate intelligence operation intimately connected to the Central Intelligence Agency, did not know what happened in Benghazi? What role did election year politics play in the White House’s reaction? Perhaps a lot. And it’s not the first time.

In early August 1964, President Lyndon Johnson faced Republican Senator Barry Goldwater in the November elections. Differences between the candidates were clear. President Johnson’s agenda focused on building the “Great Society,” a culmination to FDR’s New Deal. Senator Goldwater, a major general in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, advocated a more robust national security agenda. Less than two years after the Cuban missile crisis, the intensifying war in South Vietnam increasingly threatened LBJ’s domestic agenda. Nevertheless, he could not let opponents label him “soft on communism” and still hope to carry the conservatively patriotic and still traditionally Democratic South.

Earl Tilford

Earl Tilford is a retired Air Force officer and college professor who lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He is the author of several books on the air war in Vietnam. His latest book, Turning the Tide: The University of Alabama in the 1960s has been accepted for publication by the University of Alabama Press.

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