The noise in the hen house this morning is the flutter and cackle of the chickens from Benghazi, scuttling home to roost. The House committee opening hearings Wednesday on what happened there is likely to serve up chicken surprise.
The four whistleblowing witnesses scheduled to testify to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are said to be eager to tell a story far different from the various accounts, all confused and all contradictory, peddled by the Obama administration. Someone at the White House should have remembered that old Washington chestnut, as true now as ever, that “it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.” Smarter men than even Barack Obama, wiser women than even Hillary Clinton, have paid dearly for lapses of convenient memory. (The crime was bad, too.)
Mark Thompson, the ex-Marine who is now the deputy co-ordinator for operations in the State Department’s counterterrorism bureau, is expected to testify that Mrs. Clinton tried to cut the bureau out of the loop when Ambassador Chris Stevens was pleading for help from Benghazi. The administration was preoccupied in the midst of a presidential re-election campaign and cries for help at a consulate surrounded by radical Islamic killers was not something the White House thought was fit to hear. The war on terror was over.
Mr. Thompson’s lawyer, the pugnacious Joe diGenova, says his client has been subjected to threats and intimidation from his superiors at the State Department, but they all deny that and insist that everything everybody else says are fibs, stretchers and “full growed lies.” That’s what superiors always say (and once in a while they’re right). Mrs. Clinton convened an internal review board to look into such allegations and several coats of whitewash were duly applied, but the facts are still showing through. “You should have seen what [Mrs. Clinton] tried to do to us that night,” a second official in the State Department’s counterterrorism bureau told his colleagues in October.
Emails and documents from the State Department, the CIA and the National Security Administration, published in the current edition of the Weekly Standard magazine, reveal that officials of those agencies tried to delete all references to the involvement of al Qaeda in the talking points, and identify Victoria Nuland, spokeswoman for the State Department, as complaining that the revisions did not go far enough to satisfy “my building’s leadership.” The leadership of the “building,” and no doubt the people in it, wanted all evidence of al Qaeda involvement, not only in the attack on Americans in Benghazi, but in attacks on other Western target, removed from the “talking points.”
Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the Republican who will chair this week’s hearings, told “Face the Nation” interviewers Sunday that both the CIA and Gregory Hicks, the deputy chief of mission in Libya when the ambassador and three colleagues were slain, knew at once that the Americans were under attack, not under protest.
Mr. Hicks watched the Sunday talk shows after the attacks on the consulate in September and was astonished by the claims of Susan Rice, the ambassador to the U.N., in five appearances, contradicting the emphatic assertion of the president of Libya that he had “no doubt” that the attacks were the work of terrorists, not mere community activists. “The net impact of what has transpired is that the spokeswoman of the most powerful country in the world has basically said the president of Libya is either a liar or doesn’t know what he’s talking about. My jaw hit the floor as I watched this,” he told investigators for the House committee. “I’ve never been as embarrassed in my life, in my career, [as I was] on that day.” He is expected to repeat that to the committee this week.
All politicians are interested most in what happens to them. It’s the bipartisan reality of how things work. But the Obama White House, perhaps unique in our times, plays partisan politics 24/7. Bubba, for all his sins, frequently interrupted politics for a roll in the White House hay and gave us a little comic relief. If Hillary isn’t paying attention to the politics of 2016 she isn’t the player we all think she is.
It was easy for her to take the long view when Chris Stevens was pleading for his life, but she may pay yet for forgetting the Bard’s warning in Hamlet (Act 2, Scene 2) that “murder, though it have no tongue, will speak with most miraculous organ.”
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.