Politics or policy? Policy or politics?
Those were the questions posed to me by MSNBC's Chris Jansing Wednesday morning an hour before the curtain was due to go up on the hearings before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).
I said that it is always a combination of both.
Are Republicans in the U.S. House looking for an edge in the on-going battle with the Democrat-controlled Senate across the Capitol Building and the Democratic Administration down Pennsylvania Avenue?
Of course they are.
Does that mean the House hearings were frivolous? No.
On the other hand did anyone at the State Department, CIA, DoD, White House or MIB ever say "We've go to protect the boss on this" when the response to the raid on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya was being prepared?
Of course they did.
Does that mean the White House and Executive Branch worker bees responsible for trying to come up with a rational answer as to how a sitting Ambassador and three other Americans were killed in the raid were deaf, dumb, and blind to the facts? Also no.
What we do know is that by the time President Obama - and we have to assume he had been briefed by then - had approved sending U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice out on all five major Sunday talk shows to claim the raids were the result of the "Arab street" rioting over some movie trailer claiming to spoof the Prophet Mohammed, the Administration at least suspected the raid had been a planned attack, not random mob violence.
As to MIB's role? I don't know and you don't want to know either.
I was on MSNBC with former reporter and former spokesperson for the Department of Transportation Jill Zuckman.
Prior to going into our respective studios for our 4½ minutes of television fame and glory, we were discussing what an executive (like the President or a Cabinet Secretary) can reasonably be expected to know.
I made the point that there was no way for President Obama to know that it is estimated there were 26,000 cases of sexual abuse in the U.S. military in 2012. Maybe the SecDef couldn't have known that either. Maybe the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs couldn't have known. But SOMEbody should have known and passed the information up the line.
The "buck" only stops on the President's desk - any President's desk - when he knows there's a dollar bill in circulation looking for a home.
That covers Obama on the night of the attack, but it doesn't let him off the hook for the way his Administration responded to it.