[Update: please see my correction to this post here]
A couple of obvious things. The notion that the Ben Rhodes email was really about the broader situation in the Middle East and not about Benghazi – something actually peddled with a straight face by Jay Carney yesterday – is absurd. The email was specifically sent to prep Susan Rice for her Sunday morning talk show appearances after the attack on the US Consulate. It’s an obvious attempt to push back on the idea that the attack in Benghazi was a coordinated Jihadist effort which took the US by surprise and to present the infamous video as the real cause. I really can’t see any other viable interpretation:
The question is whether Rhodes was conveying the best spin on a confusing situation, or whether he knew full well that the video was unrelated to the attack and was providing political cover for the president. I simply don’t know the answer to that. Spinning and lying are related but different things. But even if the reports were confusing, as they probably were, Rhodes is clearly trying to pin the attack on one cause alone, for which there was no categorical evidence. At the very least, this was self-serving spin. But that alone, it seems to me, is hardly a high crime or misdemeanor. Governments spin events all the time. And if there’s chaos and confusion, best to cherry pick the facts that put you in the best light – especially in an election season. Until we have evidence that Rhodes was knowingly propagating something untrue, I don’t think there’s much here.
But the administration’s withholding that email from previous inquiries truly does stink. In fact, that is the real reason to regard this email as meaningful. Yes, I know this is really about finding ways to derail Hillary Clinton’s path to the White House – this WSJ editorial almost says that out loud at the end. Yes, it’s really not that big a deal – the real scandal is that the consulate was unprotected and vulnerable and the blame for that has always belonged to the State Department and to tighter budgets imposed by the GOP. But you don’t withhold transparently relevant evidence if you truly believe you have nothing to hide.