COVER UP 2012
by HERBERT LONDON
November 6, 2012
In 1973 there was a feeding frenzy among journalists who could not consume the details of the Watergate break-in fast enough. Pulitzer prizes awaited those with a new factoid or an interview with someone in the administration who broke ranks with President Nixon. In retrospect, this was a clumsy effort to interfere with the campaign of the Democratic challenger. There wasn't any justification for the act and a clumsy cover-up ultimately brought down the administration. President Nixon's resignation was ignominious as the Washington Post and the New York Times congratulated themselves over the president's decision. This was catnip for Nixon haters.
In 2012 there is another apparent cover-up over the attack on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya and the subsequent murder of the ambassador and three colleagues attempting to defend him. Although President Obama claims he did everything in his power to avoid the tragedy, several facts challenge this account. He was told several weeks before the attack that it was imminent and security at the embassy should be bolstered. Drones overhead provided the president with a bird's eye view of the marauding mob.
Most significantly, the president attributed this attack on the anniversary of 9/11 to an obscure trailer on You Tube about the Prophet Mohammed. It strains credulity that Libyan killers spend their evenings surfing the web for American made films about Islam. Nonetheless, this ridiculous alibi was expressed by Ambassador Susan Rice at the U.N. and by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. While this claim was thoroughly discredited, it was repeated several times over a two week period and even led to a tax payer underwritten apology that aired in several Muslim dominated nations, yet another example of a supine national response to the murder of American offices abroad.
President Obama may disagree with this account, but there appears to be consensus that the essential features of the story are correct. Moreover, the contradictions emerging from the White House and the State Department along with the claim by several observers at the site that "someone" told those who wanted to assist the ambassador to "stand down," not once, not twice, but three times, suggest this is on event that warrants intense journalistic investigation.
Yet remarkably aside from Fox news, this isn't a story the so-called newspapers of record - The New York Times and Washington Post - even recognize. Aren't Pulitzers beckoning? Admittedly the proximity of the presidential election may have compromised analysis, but one might assume, based on journalistic platitudes that spring from the lips of the Fourth estate, that reporters have an obligation to search for the truth, even if this muse is elusive. Surely journalists do not have an obligation to defend the president, nor is it their responsibility to attack him. However, they do have an obligation to a report on a story with significant policy implications.
Did the president or a member of his team mislead the public because the attack by al Qaeda does not square with the view this radical group has been rendered impotent by the tactics of the administration? Was this communication confusion a function of presidential ineptitude? Perhaps what is most interesting is whether this is a cover-up?
If so, this is a cover-up of murder. Watergate may have been transmogrified into a major historical event, but in most respects the deaths in Benghazi are far more noteworthy than a clumsy break-in forty years ago. Americans deserve the truth; they deserve a journalistic community devoted to the search for it. Should political bias influence the decision about what is worth covering or ignoring, journalism will have succumbed to propagandistic accounts.
There are many instances when newspaper reports display bias, but rarely has there been an example of systematic silence about the murders of U.S. officials. This saga offers texture and national appeal; President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, Ambassador Rice, CIA head General Petraeus are the actors in a complicated drama. Each should be interviewed; inconsistencies revealed and accountability determined.
Herbert London is a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the President of the London Center for Policy Research. He is the author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America).