Michael Barone

What were Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton thinking? Why did they keep pitching the line that the 9/11/12 Benghazi attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans started as a spontaneous protest against an anti-Muslim video?

One possible explanation is confusion. There was such an attack on our embassy in Cairo earlier that day that fit that description.

When Hillary Clinton on Sept. 14 talked of a "mob" and "violent attacks" over the caskets of the Americans slain in Benghazi, she could have been referring to the attacks in Cairo. In that case, she would not exactly be lying, as many have charged.

But she would have been misleading people, quite possibly intentionally. We know that she assured one victim's father, Charles Wood, that "we're going to prosecute that person that made the video."

Not entirely successfully, by the way. "I knew she was lying," Woods said after the House committee hearing on Benghazi last week.

It's hard to escape the conclusion that Clinton was knowingly attempting to mislead. She certainly knows the difference between Cairo and Benghazi.

And it's undisputed that Gregory Hicks, the No. 2 man in our Libya embassy, reported that it was an "attack" on Sept. 11. That was the word he heard in his last conversation with Chris Stevens.

It's undisputed as well, after testimony at the House committee hearing last week, that Beth Jones, acting head of State's Near Eastern Division, emailed on Sept. 12 that "the group that conducted the attacks, Ansar al-Shariah, is affiliated with Islamic terrorists."

That email went to Clinton counselor Cheryl Mills and State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland, among others. You may remember Mills as one of the lawyers defending Bill Clinton in his impeachment trial.

On Sept. 15, the day after Clinton's assurances to Woods, State Department and White House officials prepared talking points for members of Congress and for Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, who was scheduled to go on five Sunday talk shows the next day.

Who chose Rice as the administration's spokesman? As Barack Obama said after the election, when she was reportedly under consideration to be the next secretary of state, Rice had "nothing to do" with Benghazi.

Selecting which officials go on the Sunday talk show is a White House function. Either the president or someone who had good reason to believe he was reflecting his wishes selected someone who was out of the loop on the issue.

The expectation must have been that she would say exactly what she was told -- and would not betray any inconvenient facts known to those in the loop like Clinton.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM