Up until disclosure of the Ben Rhodes email outlining Benghazi talking points for U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, the Obama administration has managed to keep the narrative away from the central issue that was the reason for a coverup in the first place. According to the White House there wasn't a coverup, but the Ben Rhodes email and others that were procured by Judicial Watch all but confirm that there was and that the White House had a hand in it.
Let's step back for a moment. In the months leading up to the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens by Islamic terrorists, the State Department had denied several requests by the ambassador for additional security at the consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Aside from testifying that she took responsibility for what happened, Hillary Clinton who was Secretary of State at the time, never satisfactorily addressed the issue of why those requests were denied. Oh, a few State Department careerists were shuffled from one job to another in a show of accountability exacted, but that was pretty much the end of it.
In Washington today, particularly the Obama administration, saying that you take responsibility does not mean you are responsible. That sort of talk is just for show. In another day you might expect a resignation to follow when someone takes responsibility for such a gross failure of security. You would expect real men and real women to own up. But not now, and certainly not Hillary Clinton, not ever.
No, Hillary blamed a film maker and promised a grieving father that the film maker would be brought to justice. Susan Rice laid the groundwork for it when just days after the attack, she made the rounds of five Sunday morning talk shows, reciting the Ben Rhodes talking points at each one: There was a spontaneous protest, not an attack. And this was supported by the best intelligence available to the administration at the time. Even after it became inescapably clear that there were no protests, the administration stuck with the "best available intelligence" story. They still do.
But the damaging issue is why the ambassador's requests for more security were denied. The administration began by maintaining a Sergeant Schultz style of innocence: "I know nothing! I see nothing! NOTHING!" A CNN article purporting to "fact check" statements by Joe Biden and Paul Ryan during their Vice Presidential Debate in October, 2012 quoted the Vice President saying just that:
Biden: "We weren't told they wanted more security. We did not know they wanted more security."
Ryan: "There were requests for extra security. Those requests were not honored."
On Wednesday, the State Department's former point man on security in Libya told the House Oversight Committeethat he asked for additional security help for the Benghazi facility months before the attack, but was denied.
Various communications dating back a year asked for three to five diplomatic security agents, according to testimony at Wednesday's hearing. But Eric Nordstrom, the one-time regional security officer, said he verbally asked for 12 agents.
The request for 12 agents was rebuffed by the regional director of the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Nordstrom testified.
Biden went on to say that Republicans were to blame for the lapse in security, anyway. He argued that the ambassador others who were killed were actually victims of Republican budget cuts. The Obama administration couldn't afford to beef up security in Benghazi.
A scramble was on to evade blame. Hillary Clinton testified, "specific security requests they didn't come to me. I had no knowledge of them." Is it possible that those two, Joe and Hillary, really didn't know about the dangers that Ambassador Stevens faced in Benghazi? Let's just say we're willing to concede the point: They didn't know.
The fact is, they should have known. And the email from Ben Rhodes makes clear that they knew that they should have known.
The Rhodes email was sent on sent on Friday, September 14, 2012, at 8:09 p.m. with the subject line: “RE: PREP CALL with Susan, Saturday at 4:00 pm ET.” The documents show that the “prep” was for Amb. Rice’s Sunday news show appearances to discuss the Benghazi attack.
The document lists as a “Goal”: “To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy.”
As the attack was being carried out, all of them knew. Security at consulate in Benghazi was insufficient and somebody should have done something about it. The Ben Rhodes email portrays a quick thinking politically minded administration settling on a political strategy to address a domestic political crisis.
Out came Susan Rice with their story: There was no attack by armed terrorists. There was no connection to Al Qaeda. A mob of otherwise peaceful civilians, our Libyan friends, became justifiably incensed by an insulting video. Out of the blue. Completely without warning. Who could have predicted a protest would get so badly out of control? Send in the troops against civilians? Enlightened administrations don't do that sort of thing.
It implied that leaving the Benghazi consulate unprotected was what anybody in the same circumstances would have done. With a little stretching it might even explain why there was no military response, no attempt to save the ambassador, when the attack on the consulate was under way — when everybody, Obama and Hillary included, knew it. That was what the internet video was intended to explain away.
In actuality the Obama administation had implemented a policy to normalize operations in Libya. Several weeks after the embassy was attacked, a Washington Times report described what that policy meant.
The shift in narrative from the State Department comes amid revelations the Obama administration told U.S. diplomats during the months leading up to the attack to draw down security in Libya in an effort to show that life was returning to normal after the revolution that shook the North African nation last year.
That policy, formulated by Barack Obama and carried out by Hillary Clinton, was behind the denial of those requests. The bitter fruit of those denials is why there was this nonsensical story about an internet video. It's why Ben Rhodes outlined a strategy to "underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy."
The broader failure was in imposing a policy that dictated a denial of each and every request by Ambassador Stevens for the security forces that might have prevented his death. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both knew it. The Ben Rhodes email was the administration plan for shielding themselves from blame for their own policies. That's the normal operation in the Obama administration. It was like that in the Clinton administration. (Who can forget Bill, wagging his finger?) It will be like that in the next Clinton administration. If there is one.