Jonah Goldberg

But we know the administration ordered others who were willing, able and obliged to come to the consulate's rescue to "stand down." They in effect told the lifeguards, "Don't get out of your chairs."

Though an unmanned drone was there to capture the whole thing on video, which must have been reassuring as the mortar rounds rained down.

Leon Panetta, who was the secretary of defense during the attack, mocked critics who wanted to know why the Pentagon didn't scramble any jets from Italy to the scene. "You can't willy-nilly send F-16s there and blow the hell out of place. ... You have to have good intelligence."

Never mind that real-time video of the attack is pretty good intelligence. An F-16 doesn't need to blow anyone to hell to have an impact. As military expert and former assistant defense secretary Bing West notes, "99 percent of air sorties over Afghanistan never drop a single bomb." Just showing up is often intimidating enough.

What motivated the White House and the State Department to deceive the public about what they did is unknown. Maybe it was incompetence or politics or simply understandable bureaucratic confusion.

But we do know they deceived the public. Which brings us back to the lies over the video. In the wake of Benghazi, the country endured an intense debate over how much free speech we could afford because of the savage intolerance of rioters half a world away. Obama and Clinton fueled this debate by incessantly blaming the video -- as if the First Amendment was the problem.

Clinton and Obama both swore oaths to support and defend the Constitution. But after failing to support and defend Americans left to die, they blamed the Constitution for their failure. That's what difference it makes.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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