Looks as though our folks must finally come clean on Benghazi.
In my defense, the attack on our consulate occurred in the middle of my re-election campaign. Mitt Romney and the Republicans were banging me pretty good about foreign policy failures — particularly our new "leading from behind" strategy in dealing with the world's trouble spots. They seemed to forget I was elected on a platform to bring the boys and girls home, regardless of consequences!
To make matters worse, Mr. Romney and his cowboy allies were alleging a retreat in the war on terror … er, our "overseas contingency operations." This was so unfair. After all, I was the one who ordered the hit on Bin Laden when it was anything but clear that the operation would be a success. There was no way I was going to let Romney operatives "swift boat" me on the terror theme — even if my "al-Qaida is now on the run" mantra was quite a stretch.
You must admit the original cover story was pretty good. Americans are accustomed to watching video of angry Islamists protesting just about anything America did around the world. You know the scene: shouting protesters raising their fists in anti-American rants while burning "Old Glory" outside American embassies.
Of course, it all came together when the CIA found the anti-Muslim video. And did we run with it! Just blame the video for a spur-of-the-moment attack on our consulate and protests at other American embassies around the world. It all fit into a neat narrative — too good to pass up even after subsequent intelligence discredited the storyline. After all, nobody had actually seen the video. Yet, Americans know a mere rumor about an alleged insult directed toward Mohammed would generate major protests throughout the Muslim world.
The believable storyline and a compliant press kept this story off the front pages for a couple of years. And it would have stayed that way but for the pesky lawsuit brought by "Judicial Watch." These right-wing kooks have now forced us to produce embarrassing emails that show our communications advisers orchestrated the entire Internet video charade. Worse, the emails were reported in the mainstream press. Seems even our cronies at MSNBC and CNN don't appreciate being lied to.
Nevertheless, our go-to option for "all things that go wrong" continues to produce for us. Of course, I refer to the "angry racist right wing zealots will do anything to bring me down" narrative. Although now six years old, this oldie but goodie continues to register in the opinion polls. Even today, despite a weak recovery and continuing bad reviews on Obamacare, congressional Democrats remain on message. Just check out media reports wherein Democratic leaders repeat the "nothing more can be learned from the Benghazi witch hunt" mantra in answer to every revelation about our botched cover up. "Speaker in Waiting" Nancy Pelosi even had the media repeating her "equal representation" demand for the Benghazi select committee — for a while. Alas, we had to give on that one. It's always better to be in the room than standing outside.
Our good timing may not extend to my former secretary of state, however.
From the jump, Hillary Clinton played it straight up with our White House "Talking Points." Recall her incredible performance wherein she assured the world that no member of the U.S. government played a part in the dissemination of the "disgusting" video. Man, she can really pretend to be mad — and on cue. Better still was her promise to track down the perpetrators of the evil tape and make them pay — sorta like OJ promising to track down the "real killers."
It was a terrific performance, but all for nought in the aftermath of her unfortunate testimony before the U.S. Senate. You can bet the "…at this point, what does it matter?" clip will show up in every Republican attack ad come the fall of 2016.
At the end of the day, it does matter. A sitting ambassador and three other American heroes were murdered by a coordinated terrorist attack. We just couldn't level with the voters because it was far more important that I win than get sidetracked by Republican attack dogs intent on ending my presidency.
Once the country gets over all the bad news from the Middle East, I'm going back to my "can't we all just get along" mantra. I know the "leading from behind" thing hasn't worked too well, but maybe, just maybe, Vladimir will fall for it before western Ukraine "rejoins" Mother Russia, too!
Now … off to another night of fundraising!
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding and the author of "Turn this Car Around" and "America: Hope for Change" — books about national politics. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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