- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2013

Barack Obama’s second term may be remembered more for his scandals than for anything else he’s done thus far in his troubled presidency.

It’s hard enough trying to put out one fire, but the White House now has three fires burning out of control at once — igniting a torrent of investigations on Capitol Hill, a criminal investigation in the Justice Department and the resignation of the man who ran the Internal Revenue Service.

The scandal over the Obama administration’s handling — and apparent cover-up — of last year’s al Qaeda-driven attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that led to the killings of our ambassador and three other Americans is showing no signs of going away.

It began with questions about why the desperate pleas for added security from U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens went unheeded at Mr. Obama’s State Department. Then it morphed into the White House’s dubious claim that the killings resulted from a protest that just got out of hand. It turned into something a great deal more sinister when the administration’s talking points went to great lengths to downplay, or even refute, that this was a terrorist attack by an al Qaeda-affiliated group.

Days went by before the White House could admit the Benghazi assault was a terrorist act. Any admission that al Qaeda was involved came even later as the scandal’s fires intensified. More recently, a State Department official told a House hearing he knew it was a terrorist action from Day One.

Getting information from the White House has been like pulling teeth. At a news conference this week, Mr. Obama dismissed Republicans’ criticism about the administration’s multiple explanations of the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks as nothing more than a political “sideshow.”

That dismissive counterattack ranks with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s insensitive, “What difference, at this point, does it make?” remark at a Senate hearing into the killings and their aftermath.

Then on Wednesday, Mr. Obama's administration grudgingly released what GOP leaders were seeking — 100 pages of emails that revealed multiple, heavily laundered drafts of its talking points about what happened.

The emails revealed that the explanations went through a dozen revisions, showing that the State Department was more concerned with how the talking points would play on Capitol Hill, especially among their Republican critics.

Dropped from the draft, for example, were references to the CIA’s early warnings about potential terrorist violence at the U.S. Consulate.

Victoria Nuland, who was then the State Department’s spokeswoman, emailed on the evening of Sept. 14 that the agency’s warning “could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department so why do we want to feed that, either?”

Administration officials also resisted any reference that the terrorist attackers included the Islamist extremist group Ansar al-Sharia that is closely affiliated with al Qaeda. A chief political claim in Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign at the time was that al Qaeda had been “decimated,” while the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate suggested otherwise.

“Why do we want [Capitol] Hill to be fingering Ansar al-Sharia, when we aren’t doing that ourselves,” Ms. Nuland wrote. The reference to Ansar al-Sharia was dropped.

The more recent scandal over the Justice Department’s unprecedented, secret seizure of The Associated Press’ phone records strikes at the heart of the Bill of Rights and freedom of the press under the Constitution’s First Amendment.

In this case, the White House was directly involved in the administration’s efforts to head off publication of an AP exclusive about a foiled al Qaeda plot to blow up a U.S. passenger jet.

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