Obama Libya story changes subtly

Mickey Kaus Columnist
Font Size:

The Libya story apparently changes–subtly: [See mildly eviscerating update, below]

Friday’s Team Obama line: Biden was speaking only for himself and the president when he said, “We weren’t told they wanted more security” in Libya, according to Deputy National Security Advisor for Communications Ben Rhodes (reported in Foreign Policy).

Sunday’s Team Obama line: “I think the vice president was talking about what the White House knew. … [N]o doubt, some of these matters went into the security department at the state security agency at the State Department. But it didn’t come to the White House …” says Obama Senior Campaign Manager David Axelrod on Fox News Sunday. Apparently Biden was speaking for the entire White House, not just himself and the president.

So why did Rhodes put out the more limited interpretation earlier? … Were the Obamaites worried that someone at the White House–e.g. Tom Donilon— might have been told? And that someone–Hillary?–might have proof? … Are they not worried now? …

Update: Thanks to Politico‘s Josh Gerstein, who emails to note that on Friday press secretary Jay Carney bridged the gap between Rhodes and Axelrod regarding Biden’s denial:

He was speaking directly for himself and for the President.  He meant the White House.  In over four hours of testimony, the testimony that you just referenced the other day, no one who testified about this matter suggested that requests for additional security were made to the President or the White House.  These are issues appropriately that are handled by security professionals at the State Department. [Emphasis added]

1) This makes the discrepancy subtle indeed–the Foreign Policy story paraphrasing Rhodes is time stamped 10:40 AM. Carney’s briefing was an hour later at 11:41;. 2) It still seems very odd that two spokesmen would use the limited “himself and the President” phrase, instead of just saying “White House” and leaving it at that–it at least suggests they were thinking of allowing some fallback room in case someone in the White House other than Obama and Biden turned out to know of the request; 3) It’s possible that Carney was cleaning up after Rhodes–expanding the “himself and the President” to include the whole White House precisely in order to allay the suspicion in (2); 4) Since Rhodes isn’t quoted directly by Foreign Policy, we don’t know exactly what he said. This suggests I shouldn’t push it; 5) Still! …Note how Carney moves the goalposts on what Biden is denying: Biden said “We weren’t told they wanted more security.” What Carney denies is that a request for security was made to the President or White House. But of course Biden denied much more than that–he denied even knowing (or being “told”)about a request made to the State Department or any other agency; 6) That makes it even more relevant to know what Tom Donilon knew and when he knew it, no? ….


Mickey Kaus