James Warren offered up some good perspective on "Benghazi!" yesterday. He concluded with this:
Though Stevens was an admired former Lugar staffer, Lugar has neither condoned nor condemned U.S. actions in response to the Benghazi attack. And a former Republican staffer on that committee underscored his own bottom line: "This is not Iran-Contra," he said, alluding to the bonafide Reagan era scandal in which secret arms sales to Iran were used to fund anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua.
"These were people here in a dangerous position trying to do the best they could," said the former staffer. "There were probably real communications issues. Rice knew when going on air this all didn't add up. In retrospect she should have simply said, 'It simply wasn't clear what was happening.' That would have taken care of it."
Team Obama fumbled. And Republicans saw an opportunity to diminish Obama and Clinton. It was a twofer, with Benghazi serving as a potential real-time version of the nastily effective "Swift Boat" attacks on Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004.
But it's not having that same impact, and thus it's folly to think this hurts Clinton's chances if she chooses to run. Tom Bowen, a shrewd Democratic consultant in Chicago, says, "The idea that one of the most popular secretaries of state to serve this country will be damaged by revisions of 'talking points' is foolhardy."
Yes, four Americans killed in a terrorist attack is nothing to be flip about. But voters by and large understand that the world is a dangerous place — and there are plenty of narratives that fall far short of being deemed Nixonian.
Here's the thing, though. The right sees these contretemps as vehicles for creating an atmosphere of scandal. And the press, caught up in the daily churn of information, fails to see the forest for the trees every time. As I've mentioned before:
These are patented "smell test" stories. They are based on complicated details that make the casual reader's eyes glaze over and about which the subject has to issue long confusing explanations in return... No single story will bring down a candidate because they have no substance to them. It's the combined effect they are looking for to build a sense overall sleaziness. "Where there's smoke there's fire", right?
The major media has never copped to their role in the tabloid sideshow that politics in the 90's became. They have never copped to their part in elevating Bush to the status of demigod and running beside him like a bunch of eunuchs waving palm fronds during the lead-up to the war. Even today we see them pooh-poohing the significance of a federal trial that exposes them for whores to Republican power.
It's reflexive at this point. They don't even know they're doing it.
But it happened and it will happen again. They have learned nothing and feel they have nothing to answer for. Clinton's spokesman is right when he says “I think that history demonstrates that whoever the nominee is is going to engender opposition from the right, and we will certainly be prepared" but it is only part of the story. All Democrats will also engender reporting from a press corps that persists in seeing politics through the lens of the rightwing narrative that was set forth by Scaife and his various hitmen back in the 1990's.