May 10, 2013

Peggy Noonan on Benghazi

All politics, all the time for this White House.  Doesn't matter if babies die or ambassadors:
The Obama White House sees every event as a political event. Really, every event, even an attack on a consulate and the killing of an ambassador.

Because of that, it could not tolerate the idea that the armed assault on the Benghazi consulate was a premeditated act of Islamist terrorism. That would carry a whole world of unhappy political implications, and demand certain actions. And the American presidential election was only eight weeks away. They wanted this problem to go away, or at least to bleed the meaning from it.

Because the White House could not tolerate the idea of Benghazi as a planned and deliberate terrorist assault, it had to be made into something else. So they said it was a spontaneous street demonstration over an anti-Muhammad YouTube video made by a nutty California con man. After all, that had happened earlier in the day, in Cairo. It sounded plausible. And maybe they believed it at first. Maybe they wanted to believe it. But the message was out: Provocative video plus primitive street Arabs equals sparky explosion. Not our fault. Blame the producer! Who was promptly jailed.

If what happened in Benghazi was not a planned and prolonged terrorist assault, if it was merely a street demonstration gone bad, the administration could not take military action to protect Americans there. You take military action in response to a planned and coordinated attack by armed combatants. You don't if it's an essentially meaningless street demonstration that came and went.

Why couldn't the administration tolerate the idea that Benghazi was a planned terrorist event? Because they didn't want this attack dominating the headline with an election coming.

...if the administration was to play down the nature of the attack it would have to play down the response—that is, if you want something to be a nonstory you have to have a nonresponse. So you don't launch a military rescue operation, you don't scramble jets, and you have a rationalization—they're too far away, they'll never make it in time. This was probably true, but why not take the chance when American lives are at stake?

* * *

From the day of the attack until this week, the White House spin was too clever by half. In the weeks and months after the attack White House spokesmen said they were investigating the story, an internal review was under way. When the story blew open again, last week, they said it was too far in the past: "Benghazi happened a long time ago." Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, really said that.

Think of that. They can't give answers when the story's fresh because it just happened, they're looking into it. Eight months later they don't have anything to say because it all happened so long ago.

Think of how low your opinion of the American people has to be to think you can get away, forever, with that.

Will this story ever be completely told? Maybe not. But it's not going to go away, either. It's a prime example of the stupidity of all-politics-all-the-time. You make some bad moves for political reasons. And then you suffer politically because you made bad moves.

2 comments:

Tom said...

I must have missed the part where someone is suffering politically.

TS said...

Ha! I was thinking the exact same thing when I read that. Probably wishful thinking on Ms. Noonan's part.