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Sunday, October 21, 2012

The politics of Benghazi

I believe the President was concerned that the terrorist attack on Benghazi would be seen a harbinger of the collapse of his middle eastern foreign policy.  That is why for two weeks his administration conducted a media campaign to convince us that it was a demonstration that got out of hand and not an organized activity.  Being more clever than most he also made a statement the day after which minimized any mention of terrorism and still included some indirect references that could be used, if needed, to claim that he had said all along that it was an act of terror.  Romney’s ineptness and Candy’s expansion of her role from moderator to active participant in the second debate made that work out for the President temporarily.

Perhaps on Monday we will delve into the broader issues centering on the fact that it was an organized terrorist attack.  I think there are two.

First is the question of whether there was appropriate security.  It appears not.  Biden’s defense in his debate with Ryan was that Ryan had supported a $300 million reduction in funding for Foreign Service Security.  This is a silly argument.  How much they had was not the problem.  The problem was where it was placed and that is a presidential responsibility.

Second is that the entire Obama policy for that part of the world is brought into question.  Whether it should or not it will certainly be part of the campaign. 

I do not believe that the murder of the Libyan Ambassador and others is a particularly important piece of evidence that our current middle eastern policy has failed.  (I hope not.)  However, I believe that the Obama administration thought that it was very important in that regard and that it had major political implications.  To blunt the impact of those political considerations is the reason that they have concealed evidence of the nature of that attack in the hopes of convincing the public that it was only a minor incident that grew out of a demonstration. 

As usual the attempt to cover it up is going to be worse for them than the event itself.  

PS  This was talked about by Tom and Rob in comments on the post on Oct 18.


  1. I do not see the Benghazi attack as an indictment of US foreign policy in the region and I too rather agree with O’s foreign policy in the area.

    I am troubled that the security request in advance of the attack went unfulfilled, but I can categorize (and dismiss) that as simply poor judgment, at least in hindsight.

    I also feel that once the attack started our response could, and should, have been rapid and more forceful, but again I can be dismissive and categorize that as simply poor judgment.

    But this is what really bothers me (politically) about the whole affair and that I cannot dismiss as simply poor judgment, and that is the clear and consistent insistence (for over 8 days) by the Administration that the Benghazi attack was a demonstration in response to a movie trailer. With what I THINK I know about the incident today I have to feel that the “movie trailer” mantra was a deliberate attempt to mislead that continued far beyond the point when the Administration knew it was not true.

    1. Not to make light of what happened but it seems clear to me that the response by the administration was the standard damage control that we see from our institutions from time to time when events threaten to damage their brand. Should we expect better? Sure. But I can't think of any instance where we actually received it. Perhaps someone else can think of an example where an institution threw their concerns for their continued existence out the window to bare all. I'm not defending it but it's not that much of a surprise either, is it?

    2. In 1999 a child choked to death on the plastic cap from a toy furnished in a kid’s meal purchased at Burger King. Burger King did NOT blame the toy manufacturer, or wait for a second child to choke to death, or deny responsibility. They immediately recalled every toy, worldwide, in what was, and is, the largest toy recall in history.

      The reason you never heard of this event is that Burger King immediately did the right thing. Now that is damage control.

      In the past year you may remember a salad recall by Dole (listeria) or you may remember a Peanut Butter recall by Valencia (salmonella) but if you google “recalls 2012” you will find a long list of recalls that never made the news because the companies involved have and use business continuity plans to address an event that rises to the level of media exposure.

      So, my opinion is that the administration’s media messaging in Benghazi is atypical and a surprise.

    3. Tom, you are correct of course and I was clearly mistaken. But I am still left with this feeling of "here we go again" as opposed to "I can't believe they just did that". Perhaps because it is in the political arena.