During the House Watergate hearings, special White House counsel John Dean famously remarked, “We have a cancer within — close to the presidency that is growing.” That cancer was never completely excised. After 40 years of remission, it’s growing once again.
If, in June 1972, then-President Richard Nixon denounced the Watergate break-in as not authorized by the White House and called for all records of his re-election committee to be made available to an independent investigator, he would have claimed an even greater share of the popular vote than the 60 percent he received.
But he didn’t. By stonewalling and covering up, he disgraced the office of the presidency and took a lot of good people down with him.
Forty years later, it’s déjà’ vu all over again.
This time, the storm swirling around the White House has nothing to do with the president’s re-election efforts. This storm began half a world away in Benghazi, Libya.
The very idea of a planned and coordinated terrorist attack on our foreign mission in Benghazi didn’t fit the White House narrative of “bin Laden is dead and al-Qaida is on the run.” The narrative grew into something of a battle cry at the Democratic National Convention.
Now that the election is over, the White House faces a Hobson’s choice. It can either backpedal from its original position or stubbornly adhere to it.
The president chooses neither. He instead ignores the problem. He either deflects the question or changes the subject whenever Benghazi is mentioned. So far, the media has been accommodating. This can’t last forever.
Further clouding the issue is the question of where the intelligence talking points memo got changed from “coordinated terrorist assault” to a “spontaneous demonstration that got out of hand.” As it turns out, this inquiry bears little relevance to the real question of “what the president knew and when he knew it.”
The military, the State Department and the intelligence community knew of the true nature of the assault from the outset. The president also had to have known, given the fact that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey met with the president within an hour of the attack. To say Benghazi didn’t come up during this meeting defies imagination.
United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on five different Sunday talk shows and stated the White House’s current assessment was that what happened in Benghazi was “in fact, initially a spontaneous reaction” to a YouTube video.
U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., stated in Congress, “I don’t know what the phrase ‘in fact’ means in diplomatic legalese — I can tell you what it means in a courtroom, Mr. Chairman. It means it’s a fact.”
Gowdy went on to say, “Then she said she relied solely and squarely on the information the intelligence community provided her.”
Gowdy then quotes White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “I’m saying that based on information that we — our initial information that includes all information, we saw no evidence to back up claims by others that this was a pre-planned or premeditated attack. What we saw was evidence that it was sparked by the reaction to this video. And that is what we have thus far based on evidence — concrete evidence.”
As late as Sept. 25, a full two weeks after the raid, the president himself spoke of the video at the United Nations.
“Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well,” Obama said then.
All evidence gleaned thus far leads to one irrefutable fact: The president knew the true nature of Benghazi within hours of the event, yet purposely misled the American people in order to assure his own re-election.
The cancer has once again invaded the White House. It’s the president’s responsibility to come clean and remove that disease before it becomes fully metastasized.