Republicans have reason to believe that a lie by the White House helped guarantee President Obama’s re-election. Now, the truth could produce big gains for the GOP in the midterms.
The lie was about the deadly attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi. Evidence is mounting that presidential aides manufactured the idea that a video fomented the violence as a way to allow the president to escape responsibility just weeks before voters went to the polls.
Democrats could rue the ruse this year. It appears that a new, select committee in the House will continue to expose the facts, and voters will hear them. If the cover-up really is worse than the crime, Democrats stand to lose in November.
The danger is that the GOP could botch the investigation. Facts are what matters, not overheated rhetoric or partisan hysteria. So far, Republicans have delivered too many empty assertions. The new panel will have to make the still-murky Benghazi situation clear or fail to deliver on an obvious opportunity.
President Obama and his party are vulnerable. The administration’s foreign policy has been feckless in Ukraine, the Middle East and virtually everywhere else. The economic recovery remains meager. Obamacare is a problem, and the president’s poll ratings probably haven’t hit bottom yet.
Scandal, though, is what could be the White House’s downfall. Lois Lerner may well have targeted conservative groups from her perch at the Internal Revenue Service. The Obama administration may have overstepped its bounds on many fronts, from spying on Americans to refusing to follow the law on deportations.
Everyone knows that the president is adept at giving a great speech. He and his people, though, have shown little patience or aptitude for management. Neglecting the mechanics of government is a fundamental error. Poor execution has and will continue to hurt the White House and the Democratic Party.
On Benghazi, Democrats have done well by mocking some of the unproven accusations by their critics. They have calmed their base voters by shrugging off the controversy as a just another conspiracy theory.
Still, if Republicans can show that the White House put up Susan Rice when serving as United Nations ambassador to perpetrate a lie on the Sunday talk shows, they have an issue with legs. Remember also that the president himself talked about the video as Benghazi’s cause in late September of 2012, just weeks before his re-election. The video was a good excuse if true, but a terrible subterfuge if he knew the story was false.
Plenty of thinking people doubted the story almost from the start. Commentators, albeit mostly on the political right, spoke out early and often. They questioned how anyone could believe what Mrs. Rice and Mr. Obama were saying. The narrative about the insulting video strained credulity.
Democrats are now saying that there was confusion early in the investigation. OK. What we also know is that the confusion abated fairly quickly. Why didn’t the official story from the White House change with the new information? Could the delay have been caused by concern over the pending election? That’s an explanation that makes sense to me.
Making sense and proving a point are different things, though. Republicans on the select committee will have to understand the distinction. They must focus on facts, not loud accusations.
Rushing to the cameras is a Capitol Hill addiction. Republicans will have to kick the habit and show some restraint for a change.
Certainly, Republican voters are stirred when they hear the word Benghazi. More than one news channel and website have attracted lots of eyeballs by playing the Benghazi card.
But the next cards that are dealt on the subject will have to contain new and revealing information. There will have to be, for example, more emails like the recently disclosed note from White House aide Ben Rhodes, which pressed the case for the video even though intelligence agencies hadn’t made such a connection.
Republicans need to be careful not to oversell what they have. “Just the facts” should be their motto. If they stick to that, they could win back some of the elections they lost the last time as a result of a lie.
Jeffrey H. Birnbaum is a Washington Times columnist, a Fox News contributor and president of BGR Public Relations.