On the eve of Wednesday's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the terrorist attack against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the Obama administration's already tenuous story of what had happened there on Sept. 11 completely unraveled. Knowing officials would be questioned the following day under oath, the State Department hastily arranged a conference call for the press to admit there was never any anti-American protest staged outside the Benghazi mission -- just an organized attack by well-armed militants. Four Americans were killed in the attack, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Asked why senior officials had said in the immediate aftermath of the attack that it was related to an anti-Islam video, a department spokesperson replied: "That was not our conclusion. We don't necessarily have a conclusion [about that]."
Of course, this is not true. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice flatly blamed the anti-Islamic YouTube video in appearances on national television. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also strongly hinted the video was to blame, although in retrospect she was very clever with her use of the word "conclusion" when first asked about the motivations behind the attack on Sept. 13: "[W]e don't draw conclusions ... That said, obviously, there are plenty of people around the region citing this disgusting video as something that has been motivating."
The disingenuous nature of the State Department pales next to the tall tales served up on this topic by President Obama and his White House staff. Whatever their motives, they picked up the ball days after the attack and ran with the falsehood that spontaneous anger over a ridiculous YouTube video had torched off demonstrations and violence -- coincidentally, on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. As we have mentioned before in this space, the Daily Beast's Eli Lake has reported credibly that the White House knew the Benghazi consulate had been attacked by al Qaeda and even had a suspect list in hand within 24 hours of the attack.
Wednesday's hearing made clear that official negligence had increased the terrorists' likelihood of success. Personnel at the consulate in Benghazi were well-aware that the situation was extremely dangerous. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, cited two recent, less successful strikes on the same U.S. consulate, as well as an attempt on the life of the British ambassador in Benghazi. The diplomatic staff's repeated requests for additional security were denied by a State Department official who had never even been to Libya. Still, the State Department was aware enough of the danger to give employees in the consulate a hazard-pay increase.
Democrats on the Oversight committee did not acquit themselves well in the hearing, which was intended to explore what went wrong and how to prevent such attacks in the future. Even before it began, Democrats tried to divert attention from the administration with partisan attacks, blaming Republicans in Congress for cutting embassy security funding SEmD even though the cuts came with 149 Democratic "yes" votes.
Obama will have to do better than that in his next two debates against rival Mitt Romney. This issue will come up, and if Obama continues with the evasions before an audience of tens of millions, voters may well turn him out of office. It looks like it's going to take an election to get the truth out of our president about how and why one of his appointees was murdered by terrorists.