President Obama knew that Benghazi was a terror attack. He wants to claim he said so right away. But he let an unsustainable story continue to float through the news cycles in hopes that they could spin the attacks as not terror, and by doing so he is exposing himself as having played politics with the events all along.
Fourteen hours after the attack, President Obama sat down with Steve Kroft of "60 Minutes" for a previously scheduled interview and said he did not believe it was simply due to mob violence."You're right that this is not a situation that was -- exactly the same as what happened in Egypt and my suspicion is that there are folks involved in this who were looking to target Americans from the start," Mr. Obama said.
In what certainly looks like an attempt to defend the president's awareness of the situation and forthrightness, the article actually calls into question the president's approach to dealing with the dissemination of that very truth via Ambassador Rice on the Sunday morning talk show circuit a full 5 days later. A few days ago CNN reported,
Washington (CNN) -- An Obama administration official whose now controversial comment that the attack on the U.S. mission in Libya was "spontaneous" relied on talking points provided by the CIA based on its assessment that an intelligence official said on Friday was updated days later with new information.The disclosure to CNN appears to offer some clarity around the administration's early stage explanation of the September 11 attack by armed militants that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans...Republicans have seized on televised remarks made five days after the attack by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. In one appearance, she said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that an assessment based on the best information available indicated a spontaneous reaction to demonstrations over an anti-Muslim film produced in the United States.Several senior administration officials told CNN that Rice's use of the word "spontaneous" came directly from an assessment provided to Congress by the CIA and was not edited by the White House.
Notice CNN calls out only one talk show, though clearly there were several where Rice spun this as a spontaneous reaction to a video, and not a terrorist attack. In the second presidential debate the president, aided and abetted by and incorrect and not impartial Candy Crowley, said he was calling it a terrorist attack right away. If you parse his words, he mentioned terrorism but did not call this attack a terrorist attack. No matter, the overall situation is still far more damning.
But first, for the record, here is what the president said,
Yesterday, four of these extraordinary Americans were killed in an attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi. Among those killed was our Ambassador Chris Stevens, as well as his Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith...The United States condemns, in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack. We’re working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats. I’ve also directed my administration to increase our security at diplomatic posts around the world.And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people. Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths.We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None....
Finally, fully 11 paragraphs later;
No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.
Nowhere, did he specifically call the Benghazi attack an act of terror, and where he does mention terror, it's 11 paragraphs after he mentions denigrating religious beliefs.
Here's the real issue though, the president knew this was an act of terror. While he may not have had a clear indication by the next morning, it sure sounds like he did based on the CBS story. And he certainly knew by the time Ambassador Rice made the Sunday morning news show circuit that this was indeed a terror attack, even if Rice herself did not. So who authorized her to make the statements she did, and why wasn't it Secretary Clinton saying them? More importantly, why didn't someone put a stop to it before those comments were made? Worst case, why weren't vociferous corrections made the next day, if as the president said, he called it terror from day one? We are left to conclude the only plausible explanation - the White House was trying to slip a terror attack under the radar and they've been caught red-handed and now are trying to weave a damage control story.
Unfortunately for the White House, there are far too many inexplicable facts that a significant layering of inexplicable lies and half-truths cannot hide.