Will Obama’s Benghazi Cover-Up Succeed?

Barack Obama’s prospects for re-election have been fading for some time now. As Mitt Romney surges, Obama flails, embarrassing himself with silly trivialities that are often summed up as Big Bird, binders and bayonets. That’s what happens when your record is so bad that you can’t talk about it; not truthfully, anyway. So it has been clear for a while that Obama’s re-election hopes can’t absorb another blow. Which the Benghazi story, to the extent the facts get out, surely is.

That is why Obama made a decision early on to stop referring to the Benghazi debacle as a successful terrorist attack. Acknowledging what really happened would have utterly destroyed one of Obama’s main campaign themes, that through his own personal heroism he had al Qaeda on the run. Instead, Obama chose to pretend that Benghazi was an unfortunate but essentially meaningless mob uprising, prompted by a YouTube video. So we got the nauseating spectacle of Hillary Clinton hugging the father of one of the murdered SEALS and assuring him not to worry, the Obama administration would prosecute the guy who made the video to the fullest extent of the law.

But, with a little over a week to go until the election, the lid was blown off the administration’s cover-up by Fox’s story yesterday, alleging that the administration turned down repeated pleas for help over the course of the seven-hour Benghazi battle, and by the white-hot anger of Charles Woods, who has repeatedly called Barack Obama and his White House “cowards” for failing to come to his son’s aid.

If the allegations of Fox’s story prove to be true–still an open question at this point–and if voters know about them, Obama has no chance on November 6. So how will the media formerly known as mainstream, which have done their best to try to drag Obama’s sorry campaign across the finish line, deal with the Benghazi story?

The New York Times, for one, has dealt with it by not mentioning the current allegations. This is what you get if you search the Times site for “Benghazi:”

The Times is too busy talking up the economy–“U.S. Growth Rate Up to 2%!” “Slow But Steady Improvement!”–and banging away at John Sununu to bother with anything as mundane as national security.

The Washington Post doesn’t seem to have written anything original about the latest allegations, either, although it has prominently featured the administration’s various defensive efforts, for example by highlighting Geraldo Rivera’s criticism of his colleagues at Fox and his urging that any discussion of Benghazi wait until after the election. “Vintage Fox News stuff,” wrote the Post’s Erik Wemple. But of the current controversy the Post has reported nothing, unless it has printed the Associated Press article that appears on its web site.

Since the AP coverage is what the vast majority of newspaper readers will see about the Benghazi story (if they see anything), it is worthy of study. The article that appeared this morning begins not with the allegations that were made on Fox yesterday, but with the administration’s response:

Obama administration officials defended their response to the September attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, amid new claims that the White House failed to send help quickly enough as militants overran the mission. The U.S. ambassador and three other Americans died in the hourslong battle.

Fox News reported that security officers working for the CIA in Benghazi heard the attack on the consulate but were twice told to wait before rushing to the compound. Fox also reported that U.S. officials refused when the security team asked for U.S. warplanes to bomb their attackers, which would have meant violating Libyan airspace.

So the AP summarizes fairly the key allegations near the top of its story. That’s good. But what is this about violating Libyan air space? I have not seen any administration official claim that it didn’t go to the aid of the embattled security men because of a concern about Libyan air space. Is the AP just throwing this in gratuitously, or did an administration spokesman make this argument off the record?

The AP continues:

In response to the report, CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood said the CIA “reacted quickly to aid our colleagues during that terrible evening in Benghazi.”

She added: “Moreover, no one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate.”

As Scott and others have already noted, the CIA’s statement is ambiguous, and can be read to suggest that someone other than the CIA–i.e., the White House, the State Department or the Department of Defense–vetoed sending military relief to Benghazi. The AP presents the CIA’s denial without comment, but then, to its credit, calls out President Obama’s evasions on the topic:

President Barack Obama said repeatedly Friday that his administration would “find out what happened” and punish those responsible, but he twice ducked questions about whether U.S. officials denied requests for help.

The rest of the AP story reviews some of the history of the Benghazi story and touches on the political significance of the current controversy. All in all, not a bad job by the AP.

It will be critical to watch the treatment that the media, especially network television news and widely-read organs like the Associated Press, give to Benghazi over the next week. What we already know about Benghazi is a scandal of the highest order: the ambassador asked for more security after a series of terrorist threats and attacks, but didn’t get it, even on the anniversary of September 11. The administration knew that four Americans had been killed in a successful terrorist attack by an al Qaeda affiliate, but lied about the event for weeks in hopes of minimizing political fallout. Extraordinarily courageous Americans fought a seven-hour gun battle against well-armed and well-organized terrorists who vastly outnumbered them before finally succumbing, during which time the Obama administration did nothing. And when the bodies of the dead Americans were returned to the United States, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton misappropriated the occasion to deliver politically-motivated lies, both to the victims’ survivors and to the American people. All of that we now know for sure. If, in addition, there is credible evidence that American soldiers, fighting desperately for their lives against our country’s most bitter enemies, called for help but were cynically left to perish in order to protect Barack Obama’s petty re-election campaign, Obama will not only lose the election but will be turned out of office in disgust by a clear majority of voters. Reporters and editors know this. It will be interesting to see how they respond during the coming days: will they do their jobs, or will they assist their candidate with his cover-up?

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