Still another smoking gun has surfaced in the investigation of the continuing tragedy and scandal known as the Benghazi Incident, this time in the form of an email from a White House political operative telling one of the usual suspects just how to cover the administration's tracks. Somehow this memo was overlooked when a House committee subpoenaed any and all documents having to do with the well-planned attack on our compound in Benghazi -- an attack that took the lives of four brave Americans, including that of the most dedicated, enterprising and promising envoy in our whole diplomatic corps.
It took a Freedom of Information request from an outside group, Judicial Watch, to get a copy of that email. God bless all gadflies and bloggers and Concerned Citizens everywhere, annoying as they can be. Because they make democracy work.
The murderous attack at Benghazi was one the higher-ups in Washington should have known was coming, and one they had more than ample time and warning to prepare for. Everyone seemed to know the attack was imminent except the masterminds at Foggy Bottom, for it may have been the most telegraphed terrorist raid in history. Al-Qaida might as well have taken out an ad in the papers.
Yet the White House and State Department slept on. As if they were saving all their time and energy for the cover stories they would have to patch together later.
It's not surprising that the White House kept this telltale email under wraps; it's the most explicit proof yet that all the president's men -- and women -- orchestrated the whole cover-up. Not that any more proof was needed. There was nothing in this revealing email that anyone who's been following the story all along didn't suspect. And more than suspect -- because by now more smoking guns have emerged than at a good-sized firing range.
But this memo from Ben Rhodes seals the case. He's the White House pitchman -- excuse me, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications -- who provided Susan Rice with the story she would dutifully repeat about what had happened at Benghazi: It was all the fault of a YouTube video that set off a "spontaneous demonstration" that in turn sparked the attack on our envoys.
It was important, to quote this memo from the White House, that Ms. Rice, then our ambassador to the United Nations, "underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy." Her assignment: "To reinforce the president and administration's strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges." After all, a presidential election was only weeks away, and the president had to be depicted as a vigilant commander-in-chief, not the amateur who'd been caught asleep at the switch.
Having received her marching orders, the Hon. Susan E. Rice marched -- to one Sunday talk show after another, reciting the lines she'd been handed. How many talk shows did she make that day? I lost count at four or five as she went on repeating the same talking points, which weren't all that convincing the first time. ("... what sparked the recent violence was the airing on the Internet of a very hateful, very offensive video that has offended many people around the world.") Even though our people on the ground -- the State Department and CIA types stationed in Tripoli -- knew better within hours of the attack.
This same line from the top was repeated all the way down -- by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, this administration's bumbling mouthpiece-in-chief. And by Hillary Clinton, secretary of state at the time, who repeated it even as she was receiving the bodies of the four dead Americans at Andrews Air Force Base. ("We've seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.") She was still trying to deflect any investigation into what really happened at Benghazi months later. ("What difference, at this point, does it make?")
The president himself followed the same script in his appearance before the United Nations a couple of weeks after Benghazi: "That is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world." Barack Obama would go on to be re-elected, and Susan Rice would be promoted to National Security Advisor. Cover stories pay. For a while, anyway.
Instead of all these unconvincing alibis, what's needed now is the same kind of investigative journalism that finally revealed the truth about Watergate and the conspiracy behind it known as the Nixon administration. What's needed is an unbiased press that digs into the Benghazi story day after day instead of meekly swallowing the administration's line. Because this story has more legs than a centipede. Then what's needed is a full-scale investigation by Congress on the order of the Watergate hearings.
But where is today's Howard Baker to ask: "What did the president know and when did he know it?" And a White House counsel -- like John Dean -- who would blow the whistle on the whole gang. ("I began by telling the president that there was a cancer growing on the presidency....") And where is today's Sam Ervin, chairman of the Senate Watergate committee, who was not ashamed to quote Scripture when it was most needed: Be not deceived: God is not mocked.
The truth will out. Though it may be hard to imagine just how in these very different times. Yet they're also much the same times, with much the same deceptions waiting to be exposed. And in the end the truth will out this time, too. Somehow. Because it is old Sam Ervin's prophetic voice that still resonates all these years later. And not all those transparent cover stories he -- and the country -- finally saw through.