Cutting Through the Fog of News

Paul Greenberg

12/5/2012 12:01:00 AM - Paul Greenberg
Most of us have heard of the fog of war, the layers of confusion that cover every engagement, turning battles into guessing games, obscuring just which units are where and doing what to whom till ... all is confusion squared, cubed, overflowing in all directions, and then further confounded in the telling, whether by historians or anecdotalists. ("I was there, I tell you . . .")

Anyone who's followed radio transmissions of companies, batteries, division headquarters, the general staff ... will have been given a sample of every type of mix-up known to man or animal. It's no coincidence that highly descriptive terms like SNAFU and FUBAR should be of military origin. And they don't tell the half of it.

There is also a fog of news that settles in daily, and is now rampant 24/7 in this age of instant miscommunication of every electronic kind. Even after this ever-present Fog of News lifts, there may be no telling who won, who lost and what it was all about.

But now and then the fog lifts, and a sudden insight is granted before it, too, is lost in enveloping clouds of commentary, opinionation, "analysis" and the usual exchange of opposite but equally strident prejudices that may pass as editorial comment. Through the murky clouds, like the sun peeking out for just a minute, a rare clarity emerges. It is for those sunlit moments that news junkies like me live before returning to our confusions. A moment like this one:

The other day our always articulate (read glib) president was trying to explain, or rather trying hard not to explain, why his administration had gotten its stories about Benghazi and the homicidal debacle there so hopelessly confused. He succeeded only in demonstrating that the fog of news is nothing compared to the fog of presidential promises to cut through it.

But for one startling moment, Barack Obama's own words let in a glaring light, however unintentionally. And all was clear. Thanks to what might be called a slip of the tongue but, according to Dr. Freud, may not be a slip at all but our minds unconsciously revealing what we really mean.

I never thought it would come to this -- my actually taking a theory of Sigmund Freud's seriously. The times must indeed be desperate, or at least I must be to reach for such a straw in trying to piece together a coherent version of the sad scandal that might be called Benghazi (Cont'd). Ever continued. Like the Watergate hearings or differing versions of the Kennedy assassination. But the other day, I stumbled across what might be the clue to the whole, jumbled story. Of all places, a transcript of the president's first press conference after his triumphant re-election.

Our president was expressing his oh-so-sincere desire to get to the bottom of all the contradictory versions of Benghazi (Cont'd) that he, his secretary of state, his ambassador to the United Nations, his director of national "intelligence" operations and maybe everybody else who's touched this tar baby of a subject has retailed. Now he was saying he wants the truth revealed.

Oh, the truth will out. Someday. That may be more an article of faith than a prediction on my part, but I have to believe it. And one offhand remark of the president's confirms that belief. Which is the usual way the curtain of cover stories parts, and the great and mighty Wizard of Oz is revealed as just a man out to impress the Dorothys of the world, but who's always being tripped up by some pesky little Toto. Or in this case by a casual comment of his own.

For there was the great and mighty Barack Obama saying, almost en passant, in the course of this otherwise long, tedious and opaque news conference: "And we're after an election now. I think it is important for us to find out exactly what happened in Benghazi, and I'm happy to cooperate in any way that Congress wants."

And we're after an election now. That's it. That's it! That's the key phrase, the Freudian slip, the dog that didn't bark, the monkey wrench in the library near the secret passage in this Great Game of Clue. And for a brief moment, the light came on. The fog lifted.

And we're after an election now. For it wouldn't have done to let the American people know exactly what happened before that election, would it? Not when Barack Obama was still basking in the glow of having been president and commander-in-chief when those Navy SEALs tracked Osama bin Laden down to where he was hiding in plain sight, and took care of that long pending matter in their own direct fashion, bless each and every one.

What a satisfactory and satisfying ending that was. All hailed the president. The refrain was led by Joe Biden with his talk of this president's backbone of steel and/or nerves of same. That image had to hold till Election Day, and somehow it did despite the country's increasing questions as the debacle at Benghazi unfolded. But we're after an election now. And the president can afford to sound all innocent and cooperative. At least for a moment.

Then the moment passed, the curtain closed, and the usual Sturm und Drang of American politics began to obscure all. But for just a moment, I had a new appreciation for Dr. Freud, and maybe even a simple explanation for the hopeless jumble of all those non-explanations that had poured forth from this administration about Benghazi (ever Cont'd).

Something tells me this White House has only begun to explain. And will need to.