Libya Attack Timeline Simmering as a Campaign Issue
The issue of the timeline involving the Libya attacks and whether the adminstration knew more than it was saying is now simmering as a political issue. I need to preface this by saying that on this I’m not going to read left and right blogs since you know how they’re going to spin this. You can also glance at headlines of some of the more ideological mainstream media news sources and predict how it will be explained.
I prefer to read — and pass on to readers — this story from the Washington Post’s Fact Check so they can read and decide themselves. Here’s the intro:
In any kind of confused overseas event, initial reports are often wrong. But the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed, including the ambassador, is a case study of how an administration can carefully keep the focus as long as possible on one storyline — and then turn on a dime when it is no longer tenable.
For political reasons, it certainly was in the White House’s interests to not portray the attack as a terrorist incident, especially one that took place on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Instead the administration kept the focus on what was ultimately a red herring — anger in the Arab world over anti-Muslim video posted on You Tube. With key phrases and message discipline, the administration was able to conflate an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Egypt — which apparently was prompted by the video — with the deadly assault in Benghazi.
Officials were also able to dismiss pointed questions by referring to an ongoing investigation.
Ultimately, when the head of the National Counterterrorism Center was asked pointblank on Capitol Hill whether it was a an act of terror — and he agreed — the administration talking points began to shift. (Tough news reporting — as well as statements by Libya’s president — also played a role.) Yet President Obama himself resisted using the “t” word, even as late as Tuesday, while keeping the focus on the video in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly.
On Wednesday, however, White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged also that Obama himself believes the attack was terrorism — and so more than two weeks after the attack the Rubicon finally was crossed.
As a reader service, we have compiled a comprehensive timeline of administration statements, showing the evolution in talking points, with key phrases highlighted in bold. Many readers sent suggestions for this timeline, for which we are deeply grateful.
We will leave it to readers to reach their own conclusions on whether this is merely the result of the fog of war and diplomacy — or a deliberate effort to steer the storyline away from more politically damaging questions. After all, in a competitive election, two weeks is a lifetime.
Read the story in full an decide for yourselves.
Or you can go to an ideological radio or cable show or your favorite left and right website and before you get there know you’ll read something that fits in with your political preference on this story, perhaps missing or downplaying a few facts that don’t advance one party or the others’ agenda…
However, if there’s an issue that may be a “break out” issue that would couple the media and the Romney campaign, this would be it. Enough to tip the election? I doubt it: a)too many voters being turned off by Romney and the most assuredly non-moderate version of the Republican Party, b)too many Democratic constituencies being activated with each passing day, c)continued evidence that Romneys 47% secret video has extremely negative impact and the Dems will make sure it’s in many many many ads between now and election day.