Benghazi: A Two-Part Scandal

Carol Platt Liebau
Posted: May 09, 2013 7:54 PM

Ron Fournier, late of AP and now of National Journal, opines that Benghazi could be a "big blow" to the credibility of both President Obama and Secretary Clinton.  Rather than simply call the story "nothing" like so many of his brethren in the press, Fournier at least concedes that it's damaging both to Obama and Clinton.  (Perhaps we could call it a press version of a "limited, modified hangout.")

But Fournier stops far, far short.  Although he's right to condemn Republican "overreaching" -- Watergate comparisons and heated rhetoric make it seem like the GOP is more interested in politics than facts -- he is absolutely wrong to insist all the potential damage stems from the duo's behavior in the aftermath of the attacks, the misbegotten efforts to scrub any hint of terrorism from the official record.

There are two different parts to the Benghazi scandal.

Part 1 - Whether any effort was made to rescue Americans in harm's way in an insufficiently secured location

Part 2 - The coverup of what really happened and why

Fournier insists that:

Republicans would be wise to stop . . . second-guessing decisions made in the fog of war. Most voters likely will accept the judgment of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has said there was no way to provide military reinforcements in time.

But that's either willfully or inadvertently missing the point.  No one is trying to micromanage strategic decisions that the President or Clinton made.  We're actually trying to find out what those decisions were, and whether they involved simply standing by and watching our ambassador and other Americans be attacked and ultimately killed.

On the one hand, the President has said that we did everything in our power to help those under attack.  At an October 26 interview, he said the following:

[T]he minute I found out what was happening [in Benghazi], I gave three very clear directives. Number one, make sure that we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to.

Yet the former top diplomat in Libya testified that four US Special Forces troops in Tripoli had planned to ride along on the Libyan C-130 that was headed to Benghazi -- but were told by someone with United States Africa Command that they were to stand down although they were ready to go and could have arrived in time to help.

The coverup -- jailing a moviemaker here in America to hide the terrorist motivation of the attacks -- is clear. But the press needs to take the time and the trouble to understand every aspect of the issue . . . and that, to most Americans, the failure to make any effort to rescue Americans serving their country in harm's way is every bit as repugnant as the lying that appears to have happened afterwards.