Speaking to reporters during a joint press conference with Prime Minister David Cameron Monday, President Obama called the controversy surrounding the editing of Benghazi talking points a “sideshow.”
“The whole issue of talking points, frankly throughout this process has been a sideshow,” Obama said. “There’s no there, there.”
Despite openly blaming a YouTube video in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attack, Obama said Monday at the time of the attack his administration wasn’t sure who was responsible for the deaths of four Americans, including U.S Ambassador Chris Stevens.
“Immediately after this event happened we were not clear who exactly carried it out, how it occured or what the motivations were,” Obama said. “Nobody understood exactly what was taking place during the course of those first few days.”
Last Wednesday, Whistleblower and Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya Gregory Hicks said in sworn testimony that he spoke to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at 2 a.m. on the night of the attack and told her, “We are under attack.” He didn’t mention a protest because there wasn’t one. Hicks also said he was shocked when he heard UN Ambassador Susan Rice blame a YouTube video and a spontaneous protest on Sunday talk shows five days after the attack occurred.
ABC News reported late last week that the Benghazi talking points were edited 12 times and that all references to terrorism and al Qaeda were scrubbed. The initial version of unedited talking points were from the CIA and included warnings about terrorism, al Qaeda and a lack of security at the consulate in Benghazi. The best assessment sent from the intelligence community included multiple warnings about the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi. The final talking points with scrubbed references to terrorism and al Qaeda were edited by the State Department after communication and a meeting in the White House.
Just a quick refresher from Mark Steyn about what Benghazi means:
The L.A. Times, a dying newspaper, had a lame headline, even by its own pathetic and abysmal standards, playing up the partisan element. There isn’t actually a partisan element here. All the players involved in this are Democrats. Chris Stevens is in fact the poster boy for the Obama-Clinton view of the Arab Spring. He’s one of their guys. I mean, as chaps like me look on it, he was in large part deluded about the nature of the Arab Spring, that he was a personally courageous and brave man who was on the front line of the Obama-Clinton narrative about the Arab Spring. And they let him die, and then told lies over his coffin. And Democrats, liberals should ask themselves about that, if they are willing to, that’s, no right wingers, no Republicans, no conservatives are involved in this. They did that to one of their own.
[…]…it is now clear that the local militia on who the security of these guys, to whom the security of these guys was entrusted, were actually complicit in the attacks. Elements of the militia participated in the attacks. His body, the dying ambassador was taken to a hospital in the control of one of the radical Islamic groups. He was there in Benghazi on a symbolic day at the personal request of Senator Clinton. In a sense, he not only died for the Obama-Clinton fiction, he was sacrificed to the Obama-Clinton fiction of the Arab Spring. This is absolutely disgraceful. I cannot conceive of how empty and dead you have to be inside to put Ambassador Stevens through that, then leave him to die, and all the nonsense we heard about oh, they couldn’t have got there in time? Oh, really? You had, it’s like a football match, is it? It’s like a football game, you’ve got an end time, you know they’re all going to pack up and go home at 5:00 in the morning or whatever? They didn’t know how long it was going to last. They left him to die. They decided to let their guy die in the confusion of the stuff happening in Egypt and Tunisia over the stupid no-account video.
Stuart Schneiderman has an idea about what is motivating the Democrats with their “protesting a video” cover-up.
It might not seem obvious, but the Obama terrorism policy has been run by an idea.
The idea tells us that the fault for Islam terrorism does not lie with the terrorists. It lies with the racism and Islamophobia of the victims. As Jeremiah Wright famously suggested, America was responsible for the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. It got what was coming to it. Some would call it justice.
To the Obama administration Muslims are rightly outraged at being disrespected by many people in the world. Their outrage is so righteous that they must try to restore their honor by committing terrorist acts.
In order to put an end to terrorism, the administration has chosen to remove all references to Muslim terrorism, whether it involves the massacre perpetrated by Major Nidal Hasan or the attack on the Benghazi consulate. Associating Islam with terrorism is offensive, and, since offensive language is the root of the terrorism problem, eliminating it will eventually eliminate terrorism.
No one should have been surprised when Jonathan Karl of ABC News reported on the extensive bowdlerization of administration talking points about Benghazi.
Unfortunately, the government does not exercise absolute control over the marketplace of ideas. So, despite the best efforts of the Obama administration, a random Islamophobe might well do or say something that offends Muslims to the point that they feel obliged to defend the honor of their religion by killing a few Americans.
In that case, the fault lies with the instigator, not with the perpetrator. As Hillary Clinton famously said to the mother of one of the murdered Navy SEALs, the administration would stop at nothing to punish the person responsible: the filmmaker.
Peggy Noonan described what happens when this theory was put into practice in Benghazi:
Because of that, it [The White House] could not tolerate the idea that the armed assault on the Benghazi consulate was a premeditated act of Islamist terrorism. That would carry a whole world of unhappy political implications, and demand certain actions. And the American presidential election was only eight weeks away. They wanted this problem to go away, or at least to bleed the meaning from it.
Because the White House could not tolerate the idea of Benghazi as a planned and deliberate terrorist assault, it had to be made into something else. So they said it was a spontaneous street demonstration over an anti-Muhammad YouTube video made by a nutty California con man. After all, that had happened earlier in the day, in Cairo. It sounded plausible. And maybe they believed it at first. Maybe they wanted to believe it. But the message was out: Provocative video plus primitive street Arabs equals sparky explosion. Not our fault. Blame the producer! Who was promptly jailed.
If what happened in Benghazi was not a planned and prolonged terrorist assault, if it was merely a street demonstration gone bad, the administration could not take military action to protect Americans there. You take military action in response to a planned and coordinated attack by armed combatants. You don’t if it’s an essentially meaningless street demonstration that came and went.
By Noonan’s analysis, the Obama administration was conducting policy in a fictional world. In its alternative world, what happened in Benghazi was a spontaneous protest provoked by an offensive video. You do not send in commandos to gun down righteous protesters.
[…]If the world does not correspond to your vision, you act as though it does. Your job, if you work for the Obama administration is to change the world by changing the fictional lens through which we see it.
Of course, this looks suspiciously like government by propaganda. Naturally, sophisticated academic thought has offered a theoretical rationalization for it.
Many of the smartest academics in the best universities have convinced themselves that reality is just another fictional world, one that has been constructed by the powerful to exploit the weak.
When put upon to explain why so many people accept that reality is real, they explain that all of these people have been brainwashed by the ruling powers.
When lots of people say it’s real, more and more people act as though it’s real. Then, it becomes real.
By this theory, what we inaccurately call Islamic terrorism is really just a spontaneous and understandable expression of Muslim outrage. It represents a moral reckoning for insults, injuries and slights dating back to the Crusades. It might be a crime, but it does not reflect on individual Muslims.
It’s government by postmodernism. There is no reality independent of our ideology. If you just believe our propaganda about America being to blame for everything that evil people freely do, then there will be world peace. Islamic terrorists just want us to blame ourselves for their killing of us, then they’ll stop killing us.
The main goal of the Obama administration is to make sure that the Islamic world is not judged by the actions of Islamic terrorists. That’s why terrorist attacks can never be the fault of Islam. It must always be America’s fault. We caused the protest with our YouTube videos. Major Nidal Hasan’s shooting up Fort Hood was not terrorism… it was “workplace violence”. The terrorists are always the victims. This is what you get when you put leftists in charge of national security. There will be more violence against us in the future, because the truth is that weakness emboldens aggressors to attack more. That’s not what Obama and his leftist ilk learned in university, but that’s what history teaches.
UPDATE: Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard has a podcast up on Obama’s dismissal of the evolving talking points scandal.