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The New York Times And Presidential Politics

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The New York Times, in a front-page story last week about its investigation into what really happened in the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi last year, purported to debunk the accepted wisdom concerning the incident.

As it turns out, according to the Times, President Obama, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice got it right from the get-go: there was no involvement by al Qaeda or any other international terror groups; only locals were involved, to whatever extent the attack was organized and pre-planned; and yes, the attack “was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.”

Of course, one of these local perpetrator groups identified by the Times is Ansar al-Sharia, notorious as the largest Libyan affiliate of al Qaeda. And of course even President Obama has acknowledged that his administration was wrong when it initially blamed the attack on the spontaneous reaction of enraged Muslims furious about that anti-Muslim video.

Yet The Times ignores those seemingly relevant facts. Nor does the Times satisfactorily explain why its investigation was superior to those conducted by various Congressional committees, the State Department and the various U.S. intelligence agencies.

So one wonders what the Times was up to. Perhaps the answer lay in a Times editorial that ran two days later: good old presidential politics. An embattled President Obama, who at one time boasted that he had virtually eliminated terrorism in Benghazi, had to be thrown a lifeline. And the road to the White House must be cleared for Hillary Clinton, on whose watch the Benghazi tragedy occurred and who notoriously responded to a senator’s questions about her role in the debacle with this gem of compassion: “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of protest or was it because guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans? What difference does it make?”

The Times editorial – “The Facts About Benghazi” – said, somewhat pretentiously:

An exhaustive investigation by The Times goes a long way toward resolving any nagging doubts about what precipitated the attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.The report by David Kirkpatrick, The Times’s Cairo bureau chief, and his team turned up no evidence that al Qaeda or another international terrorist group had any role in the assault, as Republicans have insisted without proof for more than a year. The report concluded that the attack was led by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s air power and other support during the uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and that it was fueled, in large part, by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.

And then the piece de resistance:

In a rational world, that would settle the dispute over Benghazi, which has further poisoned the poisonous political discourse in Washington and kept Republicans and Democrats from working cooperatively on myriad challenges…. But Republicans long ago abandoned common sense and good judgment in pursuit of conspiracy-mongering and an obsessive effort to discredit President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who may run for president in 2016.

In other words, the race to salvage what is left of the Obama legacy and to push the anointment of Hillary Clinton as his successor is clearly on. But we take this strange episode as yet one more indication of the dread that has spread among liberals whose championing of Mr. Obama as an exemplar of competence and virtue now seems like a sad joke, even to them.

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