White House spokesman Jay Carney is successfully stonewalling media questions about the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi, Libya, amid damaging new revelations about security flubs, new congressional inquiries and the election-eve crash of the administration’s Muslim outreach strategy.
“Embassy security is a matter that has been the purview of the State Department. … So I’m not going to have very much to provide to you on the security situation on the ground in Libya,” Carney told ABC’s Jake Tapper, in response to a question about the leaked news that requests by embassy staff for increased security were rejected by officials in Washington.
So far, the administration’s defensive stonewall has helped prevent the legacy media from treating the Benghazi attack as a foreign policy scandal during the last few weeks of the 2012 campaign.
Prior to the 2004 and 2006 elections, however, legacy media outlets did not hesitate to portray President George W. Bush’s campaign in Iraq as a shambles, despite its eventual victory over anti-government gunmen.
Carney kept up the defense of Obama on Tuesday.
“It is a known fact that in the eastern part of Libya there are militant groups, and in the country as a whole, but especially in eastern Libya, a great number of armed individuals and militias — that is one of the legacies of the revolution there and the civil war,” Carney told Tapper.
“So beyond that, I’m just not going to be able to comment on what is a matter under investigation and review by both the FBI and the State Department,” he insisted, before inviting another reporter to ask a question.
The Sept. 11, 2012, attack was launched by a Libyan jihadi group, which emerged and armed itself from government armories while Obama used U.S. air power to help overthrow Libya’s dictator. The attackers killed the ambassador, an aide and two other Americans.
Since the attack, media outlets have gradually revealed that the facility was a poorly protected, walled villa, that it was defended by only a handful of Libyan and U.S. guards, that jihadis had attacked U.S. and U.K. diplomats on multiple occasions, and that officials had missed warning signs of an attack.
On Oct. 2, Rep. Darrell Issa sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seeking information about the attack.
“Multiple U.S. federal government officials have confirmed to the committee that prior to the September 11, 2012 attack the U.S. mission in Libya made repeated requests to increase security in Benghazi … [but] was denied these requests by officials in Washington,” the letter read.
Issa chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and has spearheaded the investigation of the administration’s Fast & Furious program, which allowed guns to be smuggled to Mexican drug gangs.
Immediately after the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, White House officials tried to argue that attack was caused by people enraged at a little-viewed YouTube video that made fun of Muhammad. The California-based producer of the video was repeatedly attacked by White House officials, and has been subsequently jailed on a probation violation.
In late September, Obama deputies — but not the president — dropped the claim that enraged anti-video protestors attacked the embassy.
But the attacks and attempted cover-up have damaged his poll ratings on foreign policy, and have prompted Republican nominee Mitt Romney to repeatedly criticize his foreign policy.
The policy was built around Obama’s June 2009 “new beginning” strategy of outreach to the Middle East.
That strategy helped Islamists gain power in Egypt’s general election, and spurred Obama’s decision to overthrow Libya’s dictator in 2011.
Those empowered and ambitious Islamist leaders in Egypt, Turkey and other countries are now pushing Obama to curb Americans’ free-speech, to provide more financial aid, and to increase pressure on Israel.
Islamists are also playing a leading role in Syria’s civil war against its dictator, Bashir Assad, and they have seized control of Northern Mali.
Mali is the country just south of Libya. Islamist jihadis, armed with weapons and experience from the Libyan war, have imposed Islamist rule on the norther part of the impoverished country.
Iran is also refusing to stop its nuclear weapons program.
Despite this and the Benghazi attack, few legacy media outlets are highlighting the collapse of the president’s 2009 strategy.
During the Oct. 2 press conference, Carney fended off Tapper’s questions, and only faced a follow-up from one other reporter, who asked about the news that the FBI investigators have not reached Benghazi because of danger from local jihadis.
“Well, the president is committed to ensuring that those who are responsible for the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, including our ambassador, are brought to justice,” Carney said.
“He is committed to the investigation into what happened being full and comprehensive and uncovering all the facts that we need to know about that event,” he added, before inviting a question from another reporter.