Monday, May 13, 2013

The Liberal Wall of Benghazi Denial Cracks

by Jonathan S. Tobin

On Friday, I wrote about what seemed to be a solid wall of liberal indifference to the recent revelations about Benghazi. The chorus of “move along, there’s nothing to see here” admonitions from Democrats and liberal journalists lacked credibility. As Peter Wehner said this morning, White House spokesman Jay Carney’s disgraceful “no regrets” performance Friday afternoon showed just how desperate the administration has become. But its determination to keep stonewalling and denying was rooted in a not unreasonable conviction: So long as the Democrats and liberal journalists close ranks behind the president, and more importantly, the reputation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Benghazi will be viewed as a partisan club used by Republicans rather than a genuine scandal.

But while most in the chattering classes are sticking to the new talking points, a prominent exception today marks a significant crack in that heretofore-solid wall of liberal opinion. Conservatives rightly disdain Maureen Dowd as the New York Times’s queen of snark, a writer whose work has long become the byword for pointless nastiness and deeply unserious takes on the news of the day that gives a bad name to political hatchet work. Yet, harking back to her salad days in the 1990s when she earned a reputation as the rare liberal who was willing to challenge Bill Clinton’s cult of personality, Dowd has today written what may be the first sign that Hillary is not going to be able to escape accountability for 9/11/12 and the cover-up that followed that tragedy.

In discussing the revelations of the last week, Dowd must, of course, try to depict Republican attempts to bring accountability to the scandal as equally reprehensible as the administration’s failures and lies. But her framing the current debate as a contest between “Hillaryland” and “Foxworld” has at least the virtue of acknowledging the fact that what we are discussing is a disgraceful dereliction of duty by the administration:
The toxic theatrics, including Karl Rove’s first attack ad against Hillary, cloud a simple truth: The administration’s behavior before and during the attack in Benghazi, in which four Americans died, was unworthy of the greatest power on earth.
This is important not because Dowd’s any kind of a moral authority but because as one of the resident op-ed gods of the New York Times, her breaking of the liberal code of omerta on the subject of administration misconduct on Benghazi signals that what is unfolding is a genuine scandal with unforeseen repercussions, and not a Republican temper tantrum.
In the midst of a re-election campaign, Obama aides wanted to promote the mythology that the president who killed Osama was vanquishing terror. So they deemed it problematic to mention any possible Qaeda involvement in the Benghazi attack. … Looking ahead to 2016, Hillaryland needed to shore up the mythology that Clinton was a stellar secretary of state.
Dowd goes straight to the heart of the matter when she rightly notes that the lives of Americans were sacrificed for the sake of trying to make Libya appear as if it were a triumph of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. Just as important, the subsequent cover-up was clearly intended to protect Mrs. Clinton’s reputation. The lies that were told about the attack being caused by a video and the effort to quash mention of al-Qaeda and terrorism were clearly intended to bolster the president’s re-election efforts as well as avoid damaging a future Democratic candidate.

There are three issues here that still remain unresolved.

How is it that decision makers failed to understand the danger?

How is it that forces were not made available to save four Americans when they were placed in peril?

Why did the administration fail to tell the truth about all of this?

Those questions will require the formation of a select congressional committee with subpoena power to get to the answers the American people need. Democratic counter-attacks trying to portray the effort to get those answers as mere partisan squabbling are failing. The premise of Hillary Clinton’s rhetorical question, “What difference does it make?” was the belief that the media would protect her and ensure that Americans wouldn’t care. She’s wrong, and the betting here is that Maureen Dowd won’t be the last rat to leave the sinking ship of liberal denial. 

Jonathan S. Tobin


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