By Marta Mossburg
— What a great month for lies. It's almost as good as when the nation was forced to ponder the meaning of "is" by President Bill Clinton trying to wiggle his way out of the l'affaire Lewinsky.
The first ones started flying immediately after the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. They could be called "buy some time lies" or even "focus group lies," to see which of them would stick.
On Sept. 12 White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "It's too early for us to make that judgment (on whether it was a planned attack). I think -- I know that this is being investigated, and we're working with the Libyan government to investigate the incident. So I would not want to speculate on that at this time."
On that same day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insinuated it could have been prompted by Internet clips from "Innocence of Muslims," the anti-Islam movie made in the United States.
"We are working to determine the precise motivations and methods of those who carried out this assault," said Hillary. "Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet."
On Sept. 13, Mr. Carney's arduous quest for the truth ended: "The protests we're seeing around the region are in reaction to this movie. They are not directly in reaction to any policy of the United States or the government of the United States or the people of the United States."
Those statements could be forgiven as bad attempts to explain to the voracious 24/7 news media the situation during a chaotic time. But once made, the administration wouldn't back down in spite of a deluge of evidence contradicting official accounts.
On Sept. 13, the same day the video was being blamed for the deaths by anyone connected to President Obama, an anonymous state department official told CNN that, "It was not an innocent mob. ... The video or 9/11 made a handy excuse and could be fortuitous from their perspective, but this was a clearly planned military-type attack."
Anyone who had seen footage of the attack would have surmised the same thing. People do not carry rocket-propelled grenade launchers to spontaneous demonstrations.
Yet there was no change in the party line from the White House, as if this were some dispute about the president's golf score, not about the first U.S. ambassador killed since 1979 and three other American deaths.
Worse was yet to come. On Sept. 16, five days after the attack, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice visited Sunday talk shows to proclaim what everyone already knew to be false: the video did it.
After her appearance, however, the party line began to look like one of Jackson Pollock's drip paintings, with one set of Obama officials contradicting another set on an almost daily basis. For example, claims that no one asked for more security at the consulate were shot down by a state department official. According to the Associated Press, the official said, requests for more security in Benghazi were turned down "because the department wanted to train Libyans for the task. Another U.S. official testified he had argued unsuccessfully for more security for weeks."
And earlier this week President Obama said he called the murders of the four Americans an "act of terror" from the beginning in his debate with Republican rival Mitt Romney. He didn't.
What he said in the Rose Garden on Sept. 12, the day after the attack, was: "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for."
He was speaking generally in that sentence, not specifically referring to the killings of Ambassador Stevens and the other Americans. As late as Sept. 25 he refused to call what happened in Benghazi a terrorist attack when asked about it by Joy Behar on "The View."
All of this must be doing wonders for recruiting diplomats. And it has to make Americans wonder what other fibs the administration has fed the public if they could so cavalierly mock the truth on Libya.
- Marta H. Mossburg is an independent columnist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.