This week’s Congressional hearing concerning the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was rough on the White House and the State Department. But a number of outside events drew the attention of Americans away from Washington.
Wednesday afternoon all the cable news stations were analyzing the implications of testimony from State Department employees who had not previously had the opportunity to give their information on the attack. Then the jury in the Jodi Arias murder trial reached a verdict and the news shows switched to rehashing her trial while waiting for court to reconvene.
Arias was convicted of murdering her boyfriend in Arizona. Analysis of possible sentences followed. An hour or so later, a news conference was held in Cleveland to announce the charges against the man accused of holding three women captive in his home for ten years.
The tragedy of four deaths in Benghazi and the scandalous nature of the testimony before Congress should have riveted everyone’s attention. The idea that one or more persons ordered a halt to military rescue operations should shock all of us. There was also testimony that some State Department employees were told not to talk about the events surrounding the attack on the consulate.
But, as sensational as the hearing was, Americans have become used to periodic scandals in government: Nixon and Watergate, Reagan and Iran-Contra, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. We seem to doubt we can find a politician who has integrity. Just this week, Mark Sanford, former governor of South Carolina, was elected to Congress although he lied while in his former office and had an extra-martial affair.
So it is not surprising that news outlets focused on the conviction of a woman who stabbed and shot her boyfriend and the horrific tale of three women held essentially as sex slaves in a rundown section of a major US city. I am sure President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others directly involved in decisions during the Benghazi attack were relieved to have the focus of attention turn elsewhere. Sigh of relief!
Unfortunately for them, a story broke today that ABC News obtained e-mail messages that show that the narrative concerning events in Benghazi had been changed multiple times before being released to the public. White House Spokesman Jay Carney underwent severe questioning by the press, who did not seem to trust his answers today. (And why should they, when he apparently has lied about this event in the past?)
Amazingly, the administration was rescued again. The Internal Revenue Service announced that last year employees slowed down applications from conservative groups seeking non-profit status by demanding more information than is required in the application. There was an apology and the statement that no high level IRS employees or anyone at the White House knew anything about this.
The federal government rarely admits mistakes without prompting from an outside source. And when the truth comes out, government employees or appointees try to minimize their actions or the impact. (E.g. Today Carney insisted on the truthfulness of past statements about Benghazi, although they have apparently been disproved.)
The IRS announcement does not fit the norm. Right now there does not seem to be anyone outside the agency who found out what was happening. And there was little explanation for the actions and no attempt to dismiss the seriousness of the offense. That is pretty unusual, as is the timing of the confession.
I doubt the White House and State Department will continue to be so lucky. Conservative news organizations had been driving the questions about Benghazi since the September 11, 2012 attack. But now that the mainstream news media is investigating, the questions will keep coming until real answers are given.