In case you missed it, former Rep. Jane Harman and Fox News’ Brit Hume got into it a little bit on Fox News Sunday over Benghazi.
Unlike many Obama defenders, Harman (attempting to make the case in a less-than-hospitable milieu) employed a more moderate, if misleading, rhetorical strategy.
She essentially implied this: The Obama administration was simply confused in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
So when Susan Rice went on TV and spouted talking points about this being a spontaneous response to an anti-Muslim video, she wasn’t knowingly misleading the country for political purposes. Instead, she was simply passing along the best (if incorrect) information she had at the time.
“This was an intelligence failure,” she said. ”I think there was legitimate confusion.”
Occam’s razor suggests that confusion is a more likely culprit than a conspiracy — which is why this is a shrewd argument.
But there’s just one problem. For Harman’s revisionist theory to be true, Rice’s story would have presumably had to at least seem plausible at the time (only to have fallen apart when the fog of war cleared).
But it didn’t. Rice’s comments never really passed a prima facie smell test. For example, here’s a Tweet I sent the same day Rice made her now infamous comments:
The kindest way to put it is to say that Ambassador Susan Rice’s comments this morning lacked verisimilitude…
— Matt Lewis (@mattklewis) September 16, 2012
(Note: While I do try to follow foreign policy as best I can, I’m hardly an expert. And yet, somehow, I sensed — almost immediately — that Rice’s talking points didn’t add up. And, of course, I wasn’t alone.)
If I knew these talking points didn’t add up, then how is it possible that the State Department and the White House were so easily misled?
Even assuming she is correct, Harman’s concessions about an “intelligence failure” and “confusion” (the fact that our consulate was blindsided on the anniversary of 9-11 implies an obvious intelligence failure — but here Harman is talking about another intelligence failure — the inability to accurately explain what happened in hindsight) are problematic.
One can only conclude the Obama administration is either guilty of a politically-motivated cover-up — or of utter incompetence. I’m not sure which is worse.