November 2 2012
Are We Seeing a Modified Limited Hang Out on Benghazi?
The sight of President Obama in his Commander-in-Chief jacket, which he has been wearing almost constantly since Sandy, only serves to remind me that we don’t have answers on Benghazi.
We know that the president looks dapper dressing in his military jacket, but how did he wear the C-in-C mantel on the night our consulate in Libya was attacked by organized terrorists on the anniversary of September 11?
Apparently alarmed that senior Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote earlier this week that there are “lingering questions” about Benghazi that should be answered before we vote, administration sources have shared he “timeline” for that night with Ignatius.
The timeline deals almost exclusively with what happened on the ground in Benghazi. But no one who is running for president was on the ground in Benghazi. We need to know what the president did that night. What the voter needs to know is a matter of character and judgment, and it is not about the character and judgment of the heroic CIA fighters on the ground in Benghazi.
Employing a term from Watergate, the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol says that, in giving Ignatius the timeline, the administration is engaging in a “modified limited hangout.” It looks as if the administration is revealing something when, in fact, it is not.
Leave aside the total straw man in the Post’s headline—"no evidence of conspiracy"—as if that's the alternative to the administration's account; presumably the administration didn't write the headline. Leave aside the fact that Ignatius's account makes it utterly incredible that any senior CIA official (or administration official who was following the events that evening) could have believed that what happened was a spontaneous riot caused by a video—which raises the question of why the CIA apparently produced talking points to that effect a couple of days later, and why the administration peddled that story for the next week or two.
The basic point is this: Ignatius's timeline is an attempt to make it look as if the administration is being somewhat forthcoming, when it's not in fact answering any of the serious questions it ought to answer.
Kristol quoted from a White House meeting forty years ago:
PRESIDENT NIXON: You think, you think we want to, want to go this route now? And the—let it hang out, so to speak?
JOHN DEAN: Well, it's, it isn't really that—
H. R. HALDEMAN: It's a limited hang out.
JOHN DEAN: It's a limited hang out.
JOHN EHRLICHMAN: It's a modified limited hang out.
When Richard M. Nixon was elected to a second term, the stuff that was hidden refused to stay hidden. The modified limited hang out worked—but only up to a point.