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PRUDEN: Betrayal that whitewash won’t cover

- The Washington Times - Monday, December 30, 2013

Transparency, the current vogue word for truth-telling, is usually a good thing, unless you're trying to fool all the people some of the time, like spending 7,000 words to resurrect a fairy tale in Benghazi, all to give a helping hand to a lady in distress.

The New York Times understands that Hillary Clinton is likely to be the only credible hope the Democrats have for 2016 and that she already needs lots of remedial help. The Times huffed and puffed to deliver an excuse for betrayal in Benghazi, meant to second Mrs. Clinton's famous alibi for her tortured misfeasance as secretary of state — "What difference, at this point, does it make?"

The right response might have made a lot of difference to an American ambassador who lay dead, slain at the hands of Islamic terrorists, and three other Americans who had to give up their lives because nobody at the White House could be bothered to ride to the rescue. President Obama and his frightened and timid acolytes, including Mrs. Clinton, insisted that this was not Islamic terror or the perfidy of al Qaeda, but merely the reaction of innocent Muslims offended by a video posted on YouTube mocking the religion of the Prophet Muhammad.

Even after the White House dispatched Susan Rice, who was then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to push the confection about the video as revealed truth, almost nobody believed it. The White House couldn't even find anybody else who would say he believed it.

David Kirkpatrick, the Cairo bureau chief of The New York Times, grunted, burped and produced a tiny mouse of special pleading, an account with nothing new of much importance, except a few colorful facts of the sort that were once the popcorn of newsmagazine journalism. He describes, for example, the vase in the living room of the mother of one of the suspects in the Benghazi attack. Vases are no doubt important, but mostly to interior decorators. This account, so transparent to anyone who reads it even with casual attention, seems hardly worth the effort of a good reporter who was willing to take certain risks to himself.

It's important to Hillary and her presidential campaign, now in its early planning, to repeat the con that al Qaeda was not in any way involved, because Mr. Obama was supposed to have killed al Qaeda graveyard dead when he dispatched Navy SEALs to terminate Osama bin Laden with extreme prejudice.

The length and timing of the account naturally whetted appetites for more in Washington, where the art of the reading of the entrails of exotic animals in search of hidden meanings has been raised to science. But why was such work, once accomplished, relegated to publication, front-page placement or not, in the deadest news week of the year? This is the week when news editors usually must be satisfied with a factory fire in Lower Volta or a flood in Upper Slobbovia to fill their pages. The Benghazi whitewash, such as it was, appeared unexpectedly and disappeared just as quickly. The Drudge Report, read in every newsroom as an invaluable tip sheet, treated it as a top story on Sunday morning, when it was fodder for the Sunday morning talk shows, and on Monday the story was gone, replaced by stories about two men planning their same-sex wedding on a float in the Rose Bowl parade, a Florida woman arrested for beating up her boyfriend because he wouldn't take her to bed for a cuddle, and a Louisville man who disturbed the peace in a bingo parlor by dropping his pants and racing through the hall shouting, "Bingo!"

Hearts among Hillary's campaigners no doubt quickened when they saw the front page of The New York Times on Sunday, but the story is hardly likely to change anybody's game. The early word is that Congress was not impressed, and not just the usual Republican suspects. Rep. Adam Schiff of California, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, complimented The Times for adding "valuable insights" (unidentified), but observed that The Times' account was "heavily reliant obviously on people ... who had reason to provide the story that they did."

Benghazi remains the most toxic example of feckless incompetence and criminal impotence in the face of crisis that will be the legacy of Barack Obama's presidency. Hillary Clinton was part of that, and she shares the legacy of Benghazi that will haunt her for the rest of her life. Ours, too, alas.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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