New Frontiers in Libya Question-Begging

There are three possible political responses that Republicans can have toward the ongoing Libya story. The first: Don’t talk about it. The second: Accuse the administration of lying about what happened. The third: Accuse the administration of screwing the pooch and basically getting men killed.

The Romney campaign has basically walked through Door Number One. The candidate has switched out the Libya message – “the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy” – for a generic “momentum” message. Speaker of the House John Boehner is walking through door number two. His letter to the president (why do people still send the “open letter”? It’s like an unholy mail-merge of a subpoena and a press release) asks why – damn, it why – we’re not getting the truth.

It is clear that information now in the public domain contradicts how you and senior Administration officials consistently described the cause and nature of the terrorist attack in the days and weeks immediately following. Why did the Administration fail to account for facts that were known at the time? I also request that you explain how the Administration’s policy response has shifted now that it is publicly acknowledging the attack as an act of terrorism and not a result of an escalating protest against an internet video.

We can’t get any more specific than that? If this is a reference to previous administration statements, then everything save Jay Carney’s September 19 press conference contradicts the idea that the administration denied any terrorism. If it’s a reaction to the new “Libya e-mails,” those e-mails don’t change the story as much as was initially hyped. The big revelation that “Ansar al-Sharia is taking credit for the attack” was not true; one of the e-mailers said that in error, and Ansar al-Sharia never actually took credit.

Walking through Door Number Three: Rand Paul, who’s written an op-ed focusing on the lack of security at the consulate.

In Libya, there were no uniformed Marines guarding our ambassador. Originally, there was a 16-person security team led by Col. Andrew Wood, who had requested to stay in Libya. In July, Stevens sent memos to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee requesting an “extension of tour of duty (TDY) personnel.” Stevens was referring to Col. Wood’s 16-man team, which was scheduled to leave in August. Stevens requested on Aug. 2 - just six weeks before his murder - to keep security personnel in Libya “through mid-September,” calling the conditions there “unpredictable, volatile and violent.”

That’s the key question; if Obama’s re-elected, I’d guess that the “what did he know” question fades and the Paul question becomes the focus of new hearings. The idea that the president led a cover-up is just irresistable, though, so that leads the response.