WashPost Frets 'Deadly Benghazi Attack Could Mar Clinton Legacy'

Four Americans are dead from a September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and it's becoming abundantly clear that security at the compound had been incredibly lax and that the Obama administration may have actively attempted to deceive the public about the terroristic nature of the strike in the first few days subsequent to it. A House committee is holding a hearing as I write this to get to the bottom of things.

So how did the Post cover the story in the Wednesday, October 10 paper? By worrying about the political impact on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Here's how staff writer Anne Gearan opened her page A1 story headlined "Deadly Benghazi attack could mar Clinton legacy":

The fatal attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya last month has become a test of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s leadership and a threat to her much-admired legacy as America’s top diplomat just a few months before she plans to step down.

Clinton was among the first Obama administration officials to publicly condemn the attack and mourn the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. But as the State Department has weathered Republican-led criticism that it misread warning signs before the Sept. 11 attack, Clinton has been far less visible.

Clinton will not appear at a Wednesday oversight hearing on the Libya attack, where House Republicans have said they will question the State Department’s security preparations and the administration’s account of the attack. The State Department will instead send a trusted career diplomat along with three security officials.

Of course, as long as we're talking about political consequences, surely Gearan weighed the impact the Benghazi fiasco has on President Obama, who faces the voters in a mere 27 days, right? She did, very briefly, four paragraphs later:

A month before the presidential election, with Mitt Romney surging in the polls, Republicans increasingly see the Libya attack as a political vulnerability for President Obama. Republicans accuse Obama and top administration officials of overlooking warning signs before the attack and trying to deflect questions about terrorism afterward.

But after that her focus returned to Clinton and lower-level Obama administration officials, such as Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who "initially said that the attacks were apparently the result of anti-American protests that spun out of control."

Yet as was reported yesterday by Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy, the State Department now says there was, in fact, no such protest against the "Innocents of Muslims" YouTube video outside the consulate on September 11 (emphases mine):

Prior to the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi late in the evening on Sept. 11, there was no protest outside the compound, a senior State Department official confirmed today, contradicting initial administration statements suggesting that the attack was an opportunistic reaction to unrest caused by an anti-Islam video.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, two senior State Department officials gave a detailed accounting of the events that lead to the death of Amb. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The officials said that prior to the massive attack on the Benghazi compound by dozens of militants carrying heavy weaponry, there was no unrest outside the walls of the compound and no protest that anyone inside the compound was aware of.

Although Rogin's piece cited above was published at 6:35 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday, nothing about the State Department's admission made it into Gearan's piece, which noted the following (emphasis mine):

Still, Issa sent a stern letter to Clinton last week, asking why additional security had been denied to diplomats at the lightly defended mission in Benghazi where Stevens died. The letter questioned the administration’s early public claim that the attack was part of a spontaneous public protest over an anti-Muslim Internet video.

The State Department has said that a review panel, led by retired diplomat Thomas Pickering, is working to answer such questions.

“Our posture is to be as cooperative as we possibly can,” Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman, said Tuesday.

Her comments came as the Republican-led oversight committee released the State Department’s compilation of more than 200 security-related threats in Libya since June 2011.

We at NewsBusters have documented the Post's spotty coverage of the aftermath of the Benghazi terrorist attack. You can read more about it here and here.

Campaigns & Elections 2012 Presidential Foreign Policy Libya Washington Post Obama Watch Government & Press Chris Stevens Hillary Clinton Michael Birnbaum Anne Gearan Barack Obama

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