While President Obama hit the beaches and golf courses of sunny Oahu for a three-week vacation in December, palace intrigue was afoot in the White House and beyond.
First, The New York Times began the lengthy rehabilitation process of Hillary Clinton, the highest Cabinet member to depart so far. As the president has plunged in approval rating, hitting a new low of just 39 percent, Hillary has hit a lifetime high of 66 percent (goes to show you what disappearing from the public eye can do for your popularity).
The paper published a 7,500-word account of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that all but ignored the former secretary of state's role in the terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya, which left four Americans dead. More, The Times quoted a "terrorist" as saying a supposedly anti-Islam video insulting the Prophet Muhammad "might well have justified" the attack.
The story was widely criticized by Republicans, who saw the new narrative as an attempt to whitewash Hillary's role. More, the new version of events dovetails with the lies the secretary of state told during her final days on the Cabinet, giving her ample cover. In fact, she did not appear anywhere in the long-winded piece.
But Democrats know that Benghazi is one of the most damaging events for the woman setting up a 2016 run for the White House. No doubt her Republican opponent will repeatedly replay the fiery retort Hillary spat out when grilled by lawmakers — "With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they'd they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?"
Meanwhile, as a top House lawmakers hints he may seek to prosecute Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over "false and misleading" testimony about Obamacare, ex-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has blasted the president, along with Hillary and Vice President Joe Biden.
The new tell-all book set off a frenzy at the White House, which on Wednesday suddenly scheduled five joint events with the president and his veep (See? He really is an important cog in our Great Machine!).
The book, "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War," is chock full of juicy backbiting, frank admissions — and at least one fascinating nugget that leads to all kinds of conspiracy theories.
In one revelation, Mr. Gates suggests that the president grew dissatisfied with his own troop surge strategy in Afghanistan, losing confidence in Gen. David Petraeus. It's worth remembering that the general had a very public sex scandal that made him disappear in minutes.
Mr. Gates says he was "deeply uneasy with the Obama White House's lack of appreciation — from the top down — of the uncertainties and unpredictability of war. ... I came closer to resigning that day than at any other time in my tenure, though no one knew it."
More damning, the book says both Hillary and the president opposed the 2007 surge in Iraq for "political" reasons.
Mr. Gates writes: "Hillary told the president that her opposition to the surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. ... The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying."
While this may come as a surprise to the mainstream media, it's a fact most conservative voters recognized immediately.
The former DefSec saved his sharpest knife for Mr. Biden (who famously once advocated that Iraq be "partitioned" — broken into three separate countries, giving three ethno-religious groups their own territory).
"I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades," Mr. Gates wrote about the vice president.
This is the winter of Mr. Obama's discontent. With his popularity at a record low, the economy still in the doldrums, his policies increasingly unmasked as disastrous and his administration about to enter Year 6, staffers high and low will soon be bailing.
And talking, we hope.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times and is now editor of the Drudge Report. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.