The Obama administration jumped on the story and rode it in the direction it was going. “The video! The video!” the president and his cohorts cried, almost as if they were part of that crowd in Cairo. Even in the presence of America’s dead being returned to our shores, Hillary Clinton could not help speaking of the video and linking it to the very different kind of attack that had destroyed our consulate and people in Benghazi. Ambassador Susan Rice’s performances on TV were an exercise of calm demeanor in the service of a wild exhortation.
With Clinton, Rice and other messengers beating the drum for “the video,” one could not only identify the president as the source of this view but actually see the strength of his attachment to it. Analysts will have their explanations, but the fact is pretty striking all by itself. For the president, America’s troubles in the Muslim world — an ambassador and three other Americans murdered, our installations under attack in 20 countries, radical Islam rising, our nation’s image in a shambles — have pretty much begun and ended with “the video.”
A policy that issues from such reflection is not so much “leading from behind” as it is leading by rumor. A story that started as a breeze has exploded like a bomb. The long line of jackery that began with peasants in medieval France has scaled the heights of power and continues to move events from the top of the world.
David Landau, a San Francisco editor, used to be a foreign-policy expert but gladly gave that up to be a novelist and playwright.