During this summer's Democratic convention, Obama supporters trumpeted the successes of his Middle East policy: Osama bin Laden dead, al-Qaeda defanged and Arab Spring reformers in place of dictators.
To keep that shining message viable until the November election, the Obama administration and the media had been willing to overlook or mischaracterize all sorts of disturbing events.... For most of September, desperate administration officials still clung to the myth that the Libyan catastrophe was a result of a single obnoxious video. At the United Nations, the president castigated the uncouth film. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lamented the senseless spontaneous violence that grew out of one American's excesses, as she spoke beside the returning coffins of the slain Americans.Nonetheless, more disturbing facts kept emerging: Ambassador Stevens repeatedly had warned his State Department superiors in vain of impending Islamist violence. Security personnel -- to no avail -- had also urged beefing up the protection of the consulate, prompting former regional security officer Eric Nordstrom to say in exasperation that "the Taliban is on the inside of the building." Video of the attack revealed that there had been no demonstration at all, but rather a full-fledged terrorist assault.Even as the fantasy of a spur-of-the-moment demonstration dissipated, administration officials tried to salvage it -- and with it their idealistic policy in the Middle East. Vice President Joe Biden told a flat-out whopper in last week's debate, saying the administration hadn't been informed that Americans in Libya had ever requested more security. He scapegoated the intelligence agencies for supposedly failing to warn the administration of the threat.The new administration narrative faulted not one video, but the intelligence community for misleading them about the threat of an al-Qaeda hit on an American consulate -- and the Romney campaign for demanding answers about a slain ambassador and his associates. Meanwhile, the State Department, the Obama re-election team and the intelligence community were all pointing fingers at each other.What the Obama administration could not concede was the truth: The lead-from-behind intervention in Libya had proved a blueprint for nothing. Libya has descended into chaos. Radical Islam had either subverted or hijacked the Arab Spring. Al-Qaeda was not dismantled by the death of bin Laden or by the stepped-up drone assassination missions in Pakistan. Egypt was becoming Islamist; Syria was a bloody mess. Iran was on the way to becoming nuclear. Obama had won America no more good will in the Middle East than had prior presidents.In other words, the administration's entire experience in Libya -- and in most of the Middle East in general -- has been a bright and shining lie.
The key is the convention. The President's team knew probably as early as last spring that they wouldn't be able to run on the economy due to the persistent slow growth and high unemployment and high deficits. So they pivoted to two themes -- Romney is mean and scary and Obama is the great foreign policy President who got bin Laden and ended two wars. But they knew by the convention that their demonization of Romney wasn't working, despite hundreds of millions in advertising designed to paint him as a heartless outsourcer and plutocrat. So the foreign policy leg of their campaign was all that was left. But then the second 9/11 happened (recalling Marx who said that history happens twice, first as tragedy, then as farce). And their entire campaign, their entire convention was made to look foolish. Obama was Chamberlain, naively proclaiming "peace in our time," while the world was going to hell around him.
Desperate men do desperate things. Hence the Benghazi coverup. Can they kick the can of the scandal past the election? Candy Crowley helped them in the last debate, but Monday night will be focused entirely on foreign policy, and Romney will be coached up on the facts and on key lines of attack.
On a side note... isn't it passing strange that Obama, who ran as the anti-war candidate in 2008, now runs for re-election with his only real accomplishment being the military murders of bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders, and his main claim being that he has "decimated" al Qaeda around the world?