Bottom line first: Ever since the Benghazi attack, President Obama and his advisers have lied through their teeth to avoid awakening the slumbering American electorate. They have been assisted throughout by a media establishment intent on supporting the president’s re-election while maintaining its usual charade of objectivity — the great oxymoron of our time.
My career encompassed that oxymoron as well as an even earlier one, military intelligence. So I watched in amazement as only the Fox News Channel seemed intent on unraveling an extraordinarily thin cover story. A flash-mob that got out of hand over a provocative YouTube video? But with mortars and automatic weapons, a coordinated assault that killed an American ambassador and three bodyguards? I felt like Carrie Mathison, the Claire Danes character in the Showtime series “Homeland,” constantly asking “Are you serious?” Yet President Obama, from the Rose Garden to the United Nations rostrum, kept repeating the flash-mob story until the second cover story was trotted out: Our intelligence community was working diligently to uncover the truth and go after attackers — a thrilling re-run of “Osama and the Seals,” coming soon to a theater near you!
But this week I received subtle warnings from old friends still in that beleaguered intelligence community. They expressed great irritation with Fox News, undoubtedly because of political motivations. But they were most offended by the idea that the spooks had done nothing. They suggested that the attack on Benghazi was like Mogadishu, the epic Somali battle that left a hundred American Rangers killed or wounded. They warned darkly of some “push-back” against the version of events gradually emerging from determined Fox reporters like Catherine Herridge.
Well, today that push-back surfaced as The New York Times and other papers reported background briefings from un-named C.I.A. officials. As Eric Schmitt wrote, “Thursday’s briefing for reporters was intended to refute reports, including one by Fox News last Friday, that the C.I.A.’s chain of command had blocked the officers on the ground from responding to the mission’s calls for help.” The New York Times account was not a headline — appearing on page 4. Neither its reporter not those anonymous C.I.A. officials used the word “inoperative,” as the Nixon White House used to do when Watergate cover stories were unraveling.
Yet in Benghazi-gate as well as Watergate, earlier lies were shed as smoothly as snakeskins. So the C.I.A. knew all along that it was a terrorist attack and not a flash-mob? Okay, then how do you explain the words of the president, his U.N. ambassador and his secretary of state — all endlessly repeated with supporting theatrics? If high officials from the Pentagon, the State Department and the West Wing knew the truth — that this was actually 9/11.2 — then how do you explain either of the administration’s mutually inconsistent cover stories? And why was the U.S. four-star general responsible for North Africa suddenly and mysteriously relieved of command after Benghazi?
Actually, you cannot explain any of these things unless you also account for the hear-see-report-no-evil approach of the media establishment. The Obama administration knew it could count on a friendly media that is loath to expose anything that might undermine its preferred foreign policy narrative. After Benghazi, the administration was understandably confident of running out the clock until the election, stonewalling legislative inquiries and sequestering those few media outlets actually trying to probe the Libya story.