From Watergate to Benghazi, where are Bernstein and Woodward when we need them

When it comes to cover ups, Benghazi and President Obama far exceed the hubris of President Nixon and Watergate. So where are Bernstein and Woodward when we need them? Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON, November 28, 2012 ― The Benghazi coverup makes Watergate look like child’s play. The White House is refuting testimony by former CIA Director David Petraeus to Congress saying the administration didn’t make any changes in its early talking points about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, to downplay the role of terrorists.

This sounds something akin to the Watergate cover-up in 1970s, but there is one notable difference: In Benghazi we have four murdered Americans.

The Watergate scandal was a political scandal in the 1970s, the result of a June 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington D.C. What started as a “third-rate burglary” launched an investigation that led to the highest levels of the Nixon Administration, which attempted a cover-up of its involvement.

The scandal eventually led to the trial, conviction, and incarceration of 43 people, including dozens of top Nixon Administration aids and Attorney General John Mitchell, and culminated in the resignation of President Richard Nixon on August 9, 1974, the only resignation of an American President.

We seem to be experiencing a similar furious game of cover-up, lies and damn lies in the investigation into the real story of who knew what, and when, about the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi, and the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stephens and three other Americans.

On Friday, only one day before the White House refuted his testimony, Petraeus told a congressional committee investigating the Libya attack that the CIA’s references to “al Qaeda involvement” were stripped from his agency’s original talking points. Other intelligence officials were unable to say who changed the memo, according to a top lawmaker who was briefed.

Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, appeared on several Sunday-morning talk shows soon after the attack, and declared that the attack appeared to be the result of a spontaneous demonstration over an anti-Islam video produced in the US. 

Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor, said that Rice and other administration officials were working from unclassified talking points distributed by the intelligence community.

“We worked off the points that were provided by the intelligence community,” according to Rhodes.

Does this sound like a cover-up, or what? 

It does sound a little confusing, and from the White House perspective, it’s probably supposed to. It took a long time to put the pieces together on Watergate. The President and all the king’s men and women are planning to stretch this out for at least four more years. 

But remember, this isn’t Watergate; we have four good American men murdered in Benghazi. This can’t be allowed to go away without finding the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Where can the truth be found? The top is usually a good place to start. That is, after all, where the buck stops. 

Why would a president send out someone like Susan Rice to inform America and the rest of the world about what happened on that bloody night inLibya, and not give her the truth?

Rice may have looked at the materials in her possession and gone from there, a good soldier doing what her superiors told her to do without any questions. And why wouldn’t she? As an ambitious political player, she would obediently take the talking points and repeat them. She could have done more, she could have asked questions, she could have repeated them more tentatively as simply “our current best guess,” and because she didn’t, she showed herself unsuited to be Secretary of State. But she did what the Obama Administration wanted her to do.

At the time she might have guessed that the Benghazi attack wasn’t a spontaneous outburst provoked by a YouTube video, but it wasn’t her job to say what she believed. But whoever produced her talking points almost certainly knew that the YouTube explanation was utter malarky, and whoever redacted the version of the talking points Petraeus described to Congress knew that without a shaddow of a doubt.

And so someone in the administration deliberately crafted a lie, and deliberately sent Susan Rice out to put it in front of the American people with the full authority and reputation of the United States Government to give it credibility. 

As with Watergate, the immediate cause of concern isn’t really the issue. President Nixon didn’t break into the DNC headquarters, and it probably wasn’t his idea. Rice’s comments weren’t a crime, and had they been quickly corrected, they would have been forgotten almost immediately. 

The problem isn’t what she said, but that someone deliberately sent her out to say it knowing that it was false, then that questions on the subject were stonewalled. Someone let our people in Benghazi down. Even that, as tragic as it was, doesn’t have to reach to the level of the White House. It was the stuff of firings and reprimands, not a White House scandal. But again, questions have been stonewalled.

Where there’s a coverup, there’s something wrong. Now we need a Woodward and a Bernstein to dig it up, and someone with enough honor and disgust in the administration to help them do it. 

But most of all, the four Americans who were murdered must not be forgotten. Their sacrifice demands the truth. If we’re worthy of the sacrifices of the men and women who serve us in dangerous places around the world, we’ll demand that the truth be revealed.

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George Weir

George Weir is a guest writer for Communities

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