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ALLARD: White House watchdogs, or lapdogs?
The oleaginous scribes are easily burned
Question of the Day
With White House scandals dominating each news cycle, President Obama’s newly minted media critics may prefer to ignore their own culpability in creating this unfolding debacle. That sordid legacy began during the presidential campaign of 2008, when modern journalism’s most storied institutions stacked the deck in favor of Mr. Obama.
In a lurid “expose” subsequently awarded journalism’s highest honor, the Pulitzer Prize, The New York Times alleged that the military analysts once widely seen on TV (including me) were effectively on the take from the Bush-Rumsfeld Pentagon. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama loudly demanded investigations. It took time and tax dollars but four different federal investigations thoroughly discredited the Times’ story. The Wall Street Journal sarcastically described it as “myth-making,” but truth was never the issue. The real objective of the always objective Times was to discredit Bush foreign policy, ushering in the Democratic resurgence.
Four years later, amidst a sluggish economic recovery, the embattled Obama White House could best justify a second term by highlighting the recent killing of Osama bin Laden. While Hollywood allies eagerly brought once-secret SEAL operations to the silver screen, the White House had still another ace up its sleeve. It routinely granted extraordinary West Wing access to David Sanger, the New York Times’ Washington bureau chief, as though he were an unusually well-tailored KGB mole.
In a country long accustomed to recycling national security secrets into best-sellers, the publication of Mr. Sanger’s July 2012 book, “Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power,” was still astonishing. The White House had deployed the state-of-the art Stuxnet virus in a deliberate campaign of industrial sabotage against the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The president himself was the shadowy James Bond behind the drone campaigns of “Obama’s secret wars.” Few people who bought or downloaded the book seemed concerned that it compromised the nation’s most precious secrets. Even worse: No one on the White House staff was ever investigated, disciplined or held accountable. The president’s spokesman was highly offended that anyone would even suggest that the leaks had been deliberately orchestrated. At his party’s convention, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. triumphantly brayed the campaign slogan, “Osama Bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive.”
On Sept. 7, 2012, my column in The Washington Times concluded, “Espionage, once a capital crime deterring saboteurs and spies in war and peace, has effectively become the relic of a bygone era.” Just four days later, al Qaeda attacked our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, proving that terrorist networks have a devilish ability to exploit the glaring, uncorrected weaknesses of their enemies. Just as on Sept. 11, 2001, those who masterminded this attack must have been astonished by its success. The perpetrators escaped cleanly while the Great Satan himself took almost a month to admit the attack had even taken place.
It must have come as an even greater surprise when Benghazi belatedly grew into the bonfire of all vanities:
The world’s most powerful military machine failed to anticipate the attack on Benghazi. It also failed to reinforce that embattled outpost for more than 10 hours, unless you consider evacuation an effective military strategy.
The leaders of our military establishment — multi-starred, beribboned and occupying prestigious billets — swear up and down that there was nothing else that could have been done. As my colleague Bing West argued in National Review, “This is not the behavior of a healthy organization. If it persists, we are in for a nasty shock in a future crisis.”
Having failed to predict the attack, our intelligence establishment was repeatedly overruled by its political masters in characterizing what really happened at Benghazi. During his meeting Monday with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr. Obama was unwittingly accurate in characterizing the talking-points controversy as a “sideshow.” He’s right: The role of current CIA chief John O. Brennan in Stuxnet and the West Wing reaction to Benghazi — now that’s the main event.
Because it has ineffectively plugged leaks from SEALS to Stuxnet, the Obama administration will be snake-bitten if our special forces and intelligence operatives begin to emerge from the woodwork. As the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee showed last week, whistleblowers and tragedies always trump sidestepping politicians.
Having helped to create Barack Obama, the media probably deserves Gov. Mike Huckabee’s derisive assessment that they have become more lapdog than watchdog. That problem gets even worse when the media reflexively treats every Obama utterance as secular gospel while dismissing any opposition as vaguely or overtly racist. It may be too late now as the Fourth Estate suddenly realizes that the Internal Revenue Service has inexplicably become intrusive and discovers that phone records of The Associated Press have suddenly been seized.
This latest abuse of power follows the familiar pattern: First, target the expendables. Other enemies will follow in due course.
Col. Ken Allard, retired from the Army, is a former NBC News military analyst and author on national security issues.
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