Why would the Obama administration stonewall requests for documents relating to Benghazi? Why did it go to such lengths to hide the fact of a preplanned terrorist attack? Why, to this day, does it deny that there was a political effort to obscure the true nature of the attack?
We should remember five likely reasons.
1) That GM was alive and bin Laden was dead was a cute fall 2012 Obama campaign slogan—as was the trope that al-Qaeda was on the run due to the president’s sober and judicious approach to the war on terror. The idea that al-Qaeda affiliates assassinated four Americans in Benghazi endangered that narrative and begged a response. The same could not be said of a video-inspired riot. Things, of course, just happen. And how can an administration be expected to go after spontaneous rioters? Without a cover-up alleging a spontaneous riot, the public might have wondered why we never identified and hunted down the culprits and planners—a question that lingers to this day.
2) Blaming the filmmaker offered liberals the chance to affirm that reactionaries and bigots are the source of much of the world’s troubles. Therefore, jailing Mr. Nakoula was loud validation of the Obama Administration’s progressive, multicultural bona fides, and proof that Obama has zero tolerance for such “hate speech.” That narrative became important for practical reasons as well: did the Administration really wish to defend itself from the charge that it had arrested and jailed Nakoula on a trumped up parole violation when his video had nothing to do with violence in Libya? Moreover, by blaming a filmmaker, the administration de facto conceded that some sort of unjustified provocation had occurred, as if reactionary “hate speech” earns retribution that falls on the innocent.
3) Obama had released all sorts of photos of the Situation Room during the bin Laden hit (although bagman Reggie Love claimed that the president was mostly with him playing serial hands of spades). Those pictures proved to be important spike-the-ball material for the 2012 race. But where was he during the antithesis—of they killing us rather we them? Was he monitoring the situation as diligently as he had during the bin Laden raid? To this day, we have no idea where the president was and what he actually said or did—or did not do—during the long, drawn-out attacks.
4) Why was the CIA in Benghazi in such numbers in the first place? Rounding up Ghadafi’s confiscated arsenal and rerouting it to Syria? Scouting out hand-held anti-aircraft missiles and doing what with them next? Why were they doing this— and for whom exactly — and did our enemies know it and respond against it? A campaigning Barack Obama apparently thought he was not the sort of president to have authorized covert CIA gun-running to overthrow even odious governments like Assad’s Syrian regime, especially if it might prompt a messy and lethal pushback from terrorists. Instead, the better campaign narrative (then) and damage control story (today) was that lots of CIA contractors just happened to be around when a riot erupted over a video—end of story, and end of late-campaign worries about revelations of CIA covert operations.
5) Then there are the mysterious and near contemporaneous problems of General David Petraeus. At some future date, when all is sorted out, we will learn exactly when and how the Administration learned of Petraeus’s personal problems, what his role was in the contradictory and then not-so-contradictory interpretations of the White House and CIA talking points, and why exactly his resignation promptly followed the reelection of Barack Obama.