For at least a few conservatives, Election Night opened eyes about the danger of confining yourself to the right-wing information echo chamber. Because out here in the real world, as opposed to ConservaWorld, it turned out that the polls weren’t skewed, Mitt Romney wasn’t surging and a majority of the American people really did want to re-elect Barack Obama as their president.
Those who had relied on Fox “News” for their information were prepared for none of that.
To my mind, though, the utter collapse of the Fox narrative regarding the attacks on our consulate in Benghazi should be at least as instructive for those who are willing to see things as they are, rather than how they wish them to be. For more than two months, the network and those in Washington who follow its lead tried to create a firestorm of controversy regarding Benghazi, but time and again, as facts came to light, each right-wing claim about Benghazi was exposed as false and inflammatory.
Let’s review the litany, shall we?
“It never would have happened if consulate security had been bolstered as requested!”
No feasible level of consulate security could have saved the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team against an assault by 50 to 100 armed attackers.
“This only happened because under Obama, nobody is afraid of us anymore!” As Charles Krauthammer slickly phrased the argument on Fox, “these are the fruits of apology and retreat and lack of confidence in our own principles.”
Under President Bush, seven U.S. consulates or embassies were attacked, including those in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia and Syria, with considerable loss of life. But unlike Benghazi, none of those attacks became the pretext for crass partisanship.
“They refused to bring in the AC-130 gunships that could have saved the ambassador.”
The closest AC-130 was 2,500 miles away, in Afghanistan.
“They had Special Forces units sitting there in Italy ready to intervene but instead the cowards just watched our people die!”
The Special Forces units in question did not arrive in Italy until several hours after the attacks had ended, and were never in position to have played a role.
“UN Ambassador Susan Rice lied to the American people, and by doing so disqualified herself from consideration to become secretary of State.”
Rice accurately communicated to the American people the best, most current information as assembled by our intelligence community. There is no evidence that the intel assessment was altered for partisan political reasons, and former CIA Director David Petraeus and current Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper have informed Congress of that fact.
However, the best indication of how completely the Fox narrative has collapsed comes from recent events on Capitol Hill. Sen. John McCain, who had heatedly pledged that “I will do everything in my power to block (Rice) from being the United States’ secretary of State,” has backed off that pledge and in fact is meeting with Rice today. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who had charged that Rice had disqualified herself from consideration, has also changed his tone and is also meeting with Rice today.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had earlier accused Rice of lying and said she would not be a “fitting replacement” for Hillary Clinton at State. Yesterday, Inhofe acknowledged that “I’m not at all convinced of that now.”
Those men may yet decide to vote against Rice, should she indeed be nominated by the president. But they appear to understand that they allowed their partisanship and anger to cloud their judgment, which is why they’re now moonwalking things back as quietly as possible.
In addition, State Department and congressional investigations into the Benghazi tragedy are still under way and may yet produce lessons into how such setbacks can be avoided in the future. That again is how it ought to be: When mistakes are made, you try to learn from them and get smarter, so you don’t repeat those mistakes the next time.
– Jay Bookman