Hear ye, hear ye! Sarah Palin hereby accuses President Barack Obama of the high crime of shucking and jiving or, more precisely, a “shuck and jive shtick” with “Benghazi lies.”
Evidence? She don’t need no blinkin’ evidence. In the art of paranoid politics, one needs only to raise questions — and suspicions.
“Why the lies?” she wrote on her Facebook page about the aftermath of the tragic Sept. 11 attack on our consulate in Benghazi. “Why the cover up? Why the dissembling about the cause of the murder of our ambassador on the anniversary of the worst terrorist attacks on American soil? We deserve answers to this. President Obama’s shuck and jive shtick with these Benghazi lies must end.”
Predictably, some sensitive souls charged that the former Alaska governor’s use of “shuck and jive” smacks of racism. But quite frankly, if all racism were this mild, I think we’d have a much happier world.
I am much more concerned about Palin’s central charge. “Benghazi lies” has become like “Obama’s phony birth certificate,” a bundle of allegations based less on a desire to find the truth than to feather one’s nest as a five-star foe of the president.
Republicans and other conservatives have alleged that Team Obama tried to protect the president’s re-election chances by blaming the attack on a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim YouTube video, made in the USA, that touched off violent protests in Cairo that day.
Palin’s outrage was set off by a newly reported State Department e-mail that indicates the Obama administration knew while the consulate was under siege that an al-Qaida affiliate, not a spontaneous uprising, claimed responsibility.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and two other Senate Republicans also wrote recently to Obama, saying: “These e-mails make clear that your administration knew within two hours of the attack that it was a terrorist act and that Ansar al-Sharia, a Libyan militant group with links to al-Qaida, had claimed responsibility for it.”
But not quite. Closer examination reveals that the e-mail may only have been one of several inaccurate spot reports on a chaotic, confusing and rapidly changing situation. And Ansar al-Sharia denied responsibility for the attack, although they praised the attackers. Modesty is not an attribute for which terrorist groups are widely known, unless they really didn’t do what other people say they did.
In the meantime, political partisans back here at home have the luxury of cherry-picking information that raises suspicions about the administration, even when they sometimes trip over the facts.
That’s what happened to Obama’s Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, in the second presidential debate when he claimed, “It took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.” No, the president corrected him by simply citing the transcript, available on the White House website, of his speech in the Rose Garden on Sept. 12.
He also could have cited the transcript of his campaign speech the next day in Golden, Colo., where he was even more specific about the “act of terror” that “killed our fellow Americans.” Or he could have cited a CBS’ 60 Minutes interview he taped just before he stepped into the Rose Garden on Sept. 12, in which he discounted the video and instead suspected “folks involved in this who were looking to target Americans from the start.”
United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice aroused the political right the following Sunday by mentioning the anti-Muslim video on TV talk shows. But she also added, that “soon after that spontaneous protest” the best information indicated “extremist elements” joined the mob “with heavy weapons.”
U.S. intelligence had uncovered evidence that same weekend that discredited earlier reports of a video-inspired protest but the new information did not get to Rice before her talk show appearances, CBS News and Washington Post columnist David Ignatius reported Oct. 19.
All of this needs to be investigated, but investigations take time. Unfortunately, the worst time for a slow-moving investigation is during a tight presidential race, but it’s a great time for paranoid politics.
CLARENCE PAGE’s column is distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.