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Mendacious Mitt Politicizes Benghazi

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On November 22, 2011, Mitt Romney's campaign released an ad that criticized President Obama's handling of the economy. To support its critique, Romney's people inserted a snippet from a speech by Obama, which appeared to suggest that even Obama knew that the economy was a losing issue: "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose."

However, when the fact-checkers looked into the ad, they found that it grossly misrepresented Obama's statement. First, Obama spoke those words on October 16, 2008, three weeks before being elected President. Thus, he could not possibly have been referring to bad economic performance during his time in office.

Second, Obama used those words in the course of quoting an admission made by somebody in John McCain's campaign. Obama's actual statement reads: "Senator McCain's campaign actually said, and I quote, "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.'"

When the media confronted Romney about the brazen falsehood, he brazenly conceded nothing. His response spoke volumes.

Mendacity became Mitt's modus operandi. Even Newt Gingrich called Romney a lair. Romney, who seeks to turn Medicare largely into a voucher program, even had the gall to assert that the Obama administration was attempting to "end Medicare as we know it." To people actually paying attention, his mendacity has become the stuff of legend.

But, even I was surprised when Mendacious Mitt denied that he advocated a 20 percent across-the-board tax cut, when confronted on it by Obama during their first debate. It was like Peter denying Jesus.

Beyond his mendacity, however, is Romney's unseemly opportunism in the wake of tragedy. Do you remember Romney's private fund-raising speech in Boca Raton, where he denigrated the 47 percent of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes as people who refuse to take responsibility for their lives? If you do, then you might also remember that Romney expressed his hope for a foreign policy opportunity to exploit: "If something of that nature presents itself, I will work to find a way to take advantage of the opportunity."

Well, he certainly did! But it was unprincipled and unseemly. Consider what journalist Phillip Rucker wrote after the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012: "Crises overseas tend to create moments of joint resolve back home, a time to pause from the daily bickering of partisan politics. But as news was streaming in about attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya; Mitt Romney broke from that protocol." [Washington Post Sept. 12]

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Do you remember how all Americans, regardless of political affiliation, rallied around President George W. Bush in the aftermath of al-Qaeda's terrorist attacks on 9/11? Had any Democrat, on the very day of the attack, tried to politicize the obvious failure of Bush to protect America, Republicans would have accused him of treason.

Yet, Romney seized the opportunity to criticize the Obama administration on September 11th, even before "the full gravity of the situation was known." [Ibid] According to Mr. Rucker, Romney "seized on a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo -- apparently a response to outrage in Egypt over an anti-Muslim film made in California -- that said: "The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims -- as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.'" [Ibid]

It's important to know that "the [Embassy] statement was written hours before protesters breached the embassy's grounds"" [Ibid] Why? Because, that fact proves Mendacious Mitt delivered an erroneous, opportunistic cheap shot, when he asserted: "It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks."

But, Romney's cheap shot was nothing new. It is part of a larger big lie by Republicans that accuses President Obama of repeatedly apologizing for America, rather than standing up for American values. That big lie was thoroughly demolished last year by the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler. But it appeals to many white Americans, especially those nativists who now wallow in "white victimology" and believe that the very election of a black President is the final proof that they need to take their country back.

The very day after the attack, President Obama asserted, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation"" Mendacious Mitt, perhaps suffering from his frequent "Romnesia," or perhaps relying too much on a right-wing media that deliberately ignores Obama's actual statements, seemed to miss it. He and his surrogates also overlooked a similar statement made by Obama a day later. Instead, they chose to pounce opportunistically on statements made by United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice three days after that, on September 16th.

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Ambassador Rice appeared on five major news shows on September 16th to assert that the Obama administration believed that the Benghazi attack resulted from a protest against an anti-Islam video that "seems to have been hijacked, lets us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons"" But, Ambassador Rice went on to caution: "We'll wait to see exactly what the investigation finally confirms, but that's the best information we have at present."

A report by the New York Times on September 12th supported Rice's subsequent assertions, when it stated: "Fighters involved in the assault"said in interviews during the battle that they were moved to attack the mission by anger over a 14-minute, American-made video"" So, too, did a report by Anne Flaherty of the Associated Press, "A CIA memo obtained by the Associated Press cited initial intelligence that supported the assertion." [Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 15]

On September 28th a spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence admitted that, yes, intelligence officials first believed that the attack was part of a spontaneous revolt, but revised these assessments "to reflect new information indicating that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists" [NYT, Oct. 17].

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Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San (more...)

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