On the day before the 2012 presidential election, MSNBC’s Morning Joe program turned to the topic of Republican efforts to suppress voter turnout in Florida. The show’s host, former Florida Congressman Joe Scarborough, who enjoys fifteen hours of airtime a week on liberal MSNBC and is widely considered among the sanest conservative commentators these days, responded to the raising of this topic as follows:
“I have three words for you: Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi…. Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!… Why do you want to cover up Benghazi? Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!… Benghazi, Benghazi…. So what happened in Benghazi?”
Viewers learned precious little about Florida’s voter-suppression efforts that morning, but they learned nothing at all about “Benghazi”—which, as Scarborough perhaps surmised, was all Republicans felt they needed to know. The following spring, Public Policy Polling found that 74 percent of Republicans questioned believed that the Benghazi crisis and alleged cover-up was “worse than Watergate.” Of course, nearly half of them had no idea where—or even what—Benghazi was.
The media’s discourse on the tragic events in Benghazi has always been ridiculous. Virtually without exception, the incident has been treated as a black mark on Barack Obama’s record as president. In their ur–insider account of the election, Double Down, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann mock the Romney campaign for failing to exploit what they term—sans evidence—“a horrendous failure on the part of the administration.” CBS’s 60 Minutes disgraced itself with Lara Logan’s foolish report when it promoted the version of these events put forth by the apparently pathological Dylan Davies, a British security contractor whose lies had already been trumpeted in a book published by Simon and Schuster, which, coincidentally, is owned by CBS.
Is it the president of the United States or even the secretary of state who determines the security arrangements for our far-flung embassies and consulates? Are the numbers and positioning of guards in these places the kinds of issues decided on this level? Could it be someone else’s job to make this determination? Is this really so difficult to figure out?
Now, thanks to New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick, who spent months researching what happened that day and returned with a 7,000-plus-word story titled “A Deadly Mix in Benghazi,” we need no longer speculate about the essential facts of the attack. Kirkpatrick discovered evidence to discredit pretty much all of the accusations Republicans had leveled, and about which the mainstream media have obsessed. Among the most significant of these was the widely accepted narrative that the attack had been carefully planned and executed and carried out in association with Al Qaeda, rather than being a largely spontaneous popular reaction to an obnoxious anti-Islamic YouTube video that had recently appeared on the Internet.