Even by today’s standards of rabid partisanship, the breast-beating threat display from Democrats and members of the press alike to which voters were privy yesterday was something to behold. The message has been clearly received: Republicans, back off from the nest in which Barack Obama’s anointed Democratic successor is incubating.
Media elites raced to confirm the conventional wisdom that Clinton’s more-in-sorrow tone, her theatrical shows of boredom, and her policy knowledge handed her a “win,” as though the verbiage of a petty contest was appropriate to describe an investigation of such objective gravity. The gushing over the beatified Clinton’s poise under pressure has reached levels of hagiography the left once reserved exclusively for Beyoncé Knowles. The number of political reporters who chose in their reaction to the hearing not to distinguish themselves markedly from partisan Democratic communications operatives is too copious to recount fully. A small sampling:
“Hearing preceded by admission it was politically motivated — ends with admission it was useless,” wrote Politico’s Glenn Thrush.
“Politically speaking, over the last week Clinton has broken the back of Sanders, Webb, Biden, and the Benghazi committee,” the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza marveled.
“Even conservatives realize Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi Committee hearing was ridiculous,” Huffington Post politics averred.
“After all that buildup, was that really the best the Republicans could do? Seriously?” the incredulous Michael Tomasky affirmed in The Daily Beast.
“Hillary Clinton wraps up 11-hour marathon hearing on 2012 Benghazi attack that produced little, if any, new information,” read a blurb that graced the screens on New York’s commuter trains courtesy of MSNBC.
Surely, if they say it enough, they’ll hope it becomes its own truth. And it very well might; many honest political analysts have evaluated Clinton’s performance as they would a Broadway play. Her posture, her composure amid withering and extended questioning, and her general command of the issues was indeed impressive. The notion, however, that nothing had been revealed that was previously unknown by the Benghazi committee is nothing short of a lie.
What we discovered is this: The White House and Clinton apparently knew that the Benghazi attack was the premeditated work of Islamic terrorists before the bodies were cold. She and the administration nevertheless proceeded to propagate a falsehood that advanced the president’s preferred political narrative just six weeks before a tightly-contested national election. That’s a scandal on par with the so-called “October Surprise,” in which Ronald Reagan was alleged to have some role in convincing Iran to surrender the American hostages in its custody in 1980 (a conspiracy theory House Democrats were still investigating 12 years later).
At 10:32 p.m. on the night of the attack, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement in which she noted that “some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.” The committee disclosed never-before-seen emails revealing that Hillary Clinton emailed her daughter, Chelsea Clinton, who she referred to by her pseudonym, Diane Reynolds – like anyone who was communicating through a secure and impenetrable personal email address would – at 11:12 p.m. saying “an Al Queda-like group” was responsible for the attack.
“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our Embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet,” read a statement from Clinton released the following day. That same day, however, Clinton held a telephone call with Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil in which she dropped this bombshell: “We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack – not a protest.”
“Based on the information we saw today, we believe the group that claimed responsibility for this was affiliated with al Qaeda,” she added. No qualifiers, no wiggle room; clear blame for this attack affixed to al-Qaeda operatives.
“We have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack,” Jay Carney told the White House press corps on September 12. “I know that’s going to be frustrating for you, but we really want to make sure that we do this right and we don’t jump to conclusions,” State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland informed reporters on the 13th. “That said, obviously, there are plenty of people around the region citing this disgusting video as something that has been motivating.” “We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned,” former National Security Advisor Susan Rice told CBS News as part of her September 16th media blitz. Instead, she directly and repeatedly blamed “that hateful video” for the violence in Benghazi.
“In other news Thursday, Judicial Watch unveiled a new cable, sent the day after the attack, from the Defense Intelligence Agency to the State Department Command Center. It explains that the attack was carried out by a ‘Salafi terrorism group’ in ‘retaliation for the killing of an Al Qaeda operative,’” the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel noted. This would suggest that it was flawed to suggest that America’s intelligence agencies, the CIA in particular, forced the White House to soften their efforts to blame Islamists for the attack in the infamous “talking points.”
Even if you were inclined to be extraordinarily charitable toward former Secretary Clinton and the administration in which she served, one must at least concede that new questions about what the administration knew and when it knew it have been opened up by this committee. It seems, however, that those with a passing attachment to intellectual honesty are in short supply inside the Beltway.
The Benghazi Committee is owed a public debt if only because it has exposed the decay in Washington’s culture of wagon-circling. Pundits who forever lament America’s sense of alienation from the political class and their growing cynicism towards elected elites appear not to notice when they are exacerbating that condition. While news media and Democrats are praising Clinton’s performance, Americans are waking up to the notion that they might have been deliberately misled about the deaths of their fellow citizens in a terror attack and likely for petty political gain. There is something rotten here.