On last Friday’s Washington Week, PBS moderator Gwen Ifill brought in a panel of four liberal journalists to dissect the three scandals that have plagued the Obama administration the past couple of weeks. Predictably, most of the panelists attempted to downplay the seriousness of the Benghazi fiasco.
Midway through the Benghazi discussion, Ifill turned to The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe and posed the question that has surely been on every left-wing reporter’s mind for months: “But Ed, why is this -- why is this stuck? Why is this a story that never went away?”
Well, maybe it never went away because it was a massive security and intelligence failure that cost four Americans their lives. Or maybe because the White House sent Ambassador Susan Rice out to lie to the world about the reason for the attack. Or maybe because they are now trying to cover up the coverup by claiming that only one word of Rice’s talking points were changed, when we now know they went through 12 iterations.
In short, this story has staying power because it is an enormous case of government incompetence and deceit. No matter how much the liberal media wants it to disappear, it has endured because it is, in fact, a major story. Right-wing media outlets have always been willing to hold the administration’s feet to the fire on this issue, as have Republicans in Congress.
For his part, O’Keefe gave House Republicans credit for keeping the story alive. But he wished they would just be satisfied with the e-mails released by the White House late last week: “And now that they have these emails, the fact that we're talking about it at all, to them is a victory.”
Why should Republicans stop talking about Benghazi when those emails confirmed one of their major suspicions – that administration officials had scrubbed Rice’s talking points of any reference to terrorism, or to prior CIA warnings of an al-Qaeda threat in the area? Shouldn’t O’Keefe, as a responsible reporter, be interested in pursuing this further?
O’Keefe also fell back on liberals’ favorite Benghazi narrative: Republicans are just out to destroy Hillary Clinton since, "2016 is coming" and "The thought is that she's the Democratic front runner. Republicans are doing everything they can to deflate her wildly good poll numbers."
Like many journalists in the past two weeks, O’Keefe also parroted House Republican leadership’s warning: “House Republican leadership is saying... be careful. Don't overreach. Don't turn this into a Lewinsky-like scandal where we begin to look ridiculous for doing some things and saying things.”
To this, CNBC’s John Harwood, seated to O’Keefe’s left, scoffed, “I think we’re already there.” Of course, Harwood is the same man who said last weekend that Republicans should go easy on these scandals so as not to impede their efforts to change their party, so his personal bias is pretty much set in stone.
Near the end of the show, Ifill turned to one of the “unintended consequences” of the week: the Tea Party has come roaring back. O’Keefe agreed that the IRS scandal had launched the Tea Party back into prominence. He sniffed, “I mean, it becomes a fundraising tool for them again. It reminds people that they existed. They're relevant again.”
Of course, they were never gone. They have been with us this whole time, always fighting for smaller government and increased fiscal discipline. The liberal media may have wanted the Tea Party to disappear, but it is still around and still relevant. Much like the Benghazi story.
Below is a partial transcript of the segments:
GWEN IFILL: But Ed, why is this -- why is this stuck? Why is this a story that never went away?
ED O’KEEFE: It never went away because House Republicans especially believed that there was always something more. And now that they have these emails, the fact that we're talking about it at all, to them is a victory. They continue to believe that, you know, that they haven't heard necessarily everything they could from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The fact that this internal review that was done at the State Department didn't involve actually talking to her about what she knew, even though the two people who wrote the report said that she didn’t know anything so we didn’t bother having to talk to her about it. You know, that sits out there. The other big reason is Hillary Clinton herself. 2016 is coming. The thought is that she's the Democratic front runner. Republicans are doing everything they can to deflate her wildly good poll numbers. And see this as an opportunity. The big problem, just real quick, is that now House Republican leadership is saying, despite their genuine concerns and interests in this, be careful. Don't overreach. Don't turn this into a Lewinsky-like scandal where we begin to look ridiculous for doing some things and saying things. Let's do a measured response.
JOHN HARWOOD: I think we're already there.
O’KEEFE: Well, some would say.
IFILL: Let's talk about some of the unintended consequences of this week. One of them is that the Tea Party, which we had not heard much of for a long time, is roaring back.
O’KEEFE: Back in a big way, absolutely. I mean, it becomes a fundraising tool for them again. It reminds people that they existed. They're relevant again. And it requires now the Republicans in Congress and also, frankly, the national party apparatus to stand up for them because they understand that these are the base voters.