The follow-up question no one seems to be asking is: "What if the administration's explanation is true?"
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insists the attacks in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere were a "response not to United States policy, and not to, obviously, the administration, not to the American people," but were rather a spontaneous "response to a video, a film we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting."
On the Sunday shows, Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, reaffirmed the claim that this was all about a YouTube trailer.
What about the fact that many experts say the Benghazi, Libya, attacks looked like a sophisticated, coordinated assault with rocket-propelled grenades? Meaningless. It was the video. Even the president of Libya said, "The idea that this criminal and cowardly act was a spontaneous protest that just spun out of control is completely unfounded and preposterous." Who cares? It was the video.
Al-Qaeda is taking credit for the Benghazi assault as revenge for the June killing of al-Qaeda's No. 2 man, Abu Yahya al-Libi. What's your point? It was the video.
Reports that the U.S was given a three-day advance warning by the Libyans of a possible attack? Video, video, video.
Now, I think this is absurd, like a Monty Python sketch gone awry -- the parrot's not dead, he's just resting! But let's assume it's true and it really is all about the video.
How on earth is that better?
According to the Obama administration, its policies in the Middle East are working. The Cairo speech, the tougher line with Israel, the withdrawals from Iraq and pending drawdown in Afghanistan, Obama's coolness to Iran's failed Green Revolution: These have all been part of the successful effort to repair the damage done by the previous administration. Yet all of that hard work can go up in smoke if some crackpot says something mean about the prophet Muhammad on YouTube?
Progress that flimsy strikes me as no progress at all.
It is simply a fact that Islamist radicals, the Arab street and the Muslim world have been angry at America for decades, under Republican and Democratic administrations alike. It's also true that demagogues and other opportunists have used things like this video as an excuse to attack America and the West for generations. Obama isn't solely to blame for the current conflagrations, though his naivete about the transformational power of his presidency deserves ample scorn.