But none of that is weird. Whats weird is the dysfunctional timeline of our governments response both to Libya and Egypt. You can start with that tweet, in which Larry Schwartz stated that America deplores hurting Islams feelings. This is the comment Mitt Romney seized upon; it was later deleted, and the White House disavowed the tweet. Oddly, Schwartz went back onto Twitter and tweeted that his deleted condemnation still stands. Then, Ambassador Rice announced that the spontaneous Libyan protests were based on some little-seen film, which the President echoed repeatedly. Then, news broke that the victims of the violence had been requesting the State Department for additional security, followed by an announcement that these were always considered acts of terror, and at no time did anyone consider them spontaneous protests.
Any idea what the hell is going on? Actually, the whole mess makes a little more sense if you line up the contradictions:
|State Department||White House|
|Hillary Clinton||Barack Obama|
|Appointed Larry Schwartz||Appointed Susan Rice|
|Blamed Americans||Blamed the movie|
|Repeated the tweet||Repudiated the tweet|
|Knew it was terrorist attack||Called it spontaneous protest|
|Ignored warnings in advance||Denies warnings in advance|
|Deferred requests for security||Ordered reductions in security|
|Hillary refuses to comment||Gibbs defends Rice|
|Reveals considerable intel||Carney refuses to answer questions|
Perhaps you see the pattern; perhaps it is not clear. What you are seeing are two competing narratives, and each not only looks bad, but is trying to make the other side look worse.
Why? There are two competing goals.
First, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is ultimately responsible for the foreign policy disaster that resulted in Al-Qāʿidah seizingyeah, and by the way, still holdingour embassy in Egypt, as well as the nauseating brutalization and murders of Americans in Benghazi, especially after having considerable fore-knowledge of the attack and, instead of increasing security, allowed the White House to order a reduction in security for reasons still unclear to anyone with a brain. This incredible screw up will severely damage her ability to run for President in 2016, and will give plenty of leverage to primary opponents as well as President Romney gunning for re-election. Unless, of course, you get the press and public to sorta draw a line that maybe President Obama is the incompetent one here....
Second, President Obama is sliding backward down a hill right now in popularity, and with foreign policy becoming the thème de la jour for the upcoming debates, the President is going to look like a moron if his Secretary of State and hand-picked pal UN Ambassador look like total jackups in front of the world, unable to defend one of our strongest embassies in the very country that was used to launch the Presidents reset button with Islam. Goodness, but the Republicans could make incredible progress exposing what a disastrously inept cluck the President is at basic foreign policy, right when he is about to lose an election. Unless, of course, you get the press and public to sorta draw a line that maybe the Secretary of State dropped the ball here....
Certainly there are other explanations; none of them make a whole lot of sense. On the other hand, this bipolar self-contradiction is easily explained if you consider that Obama and Clinton are re-running their 2008 primary. Heck, the two biggest memories voters have of that awful primary were (a) Hillary Clinton putting out the 3 AM wake-up call idea to call attention to Obamas sinful incomprehension of foreign policy, and (b) Barack Obama dismissing her as likeable enough. Both of these themes are bearing fruit now, but not as echoes of 2008but as strategies that worked once and could easily resonate again.
Let us be clearyou will not see some massive explosion between the two in the next two weeks. Clinton will not spectacularly resign, nor will Obama expose her dalliance to the world stage. But you do see Clinton playing offense for 2016 and Obama playing defense for 2012.
Why shouldnt they culminate this feud weeks before the election? After all, that is precisely what Al-Qāʿidah did: they took advantage of Obama being his weakest. They clearly know him pretty well; certainly better than he understands them. Clinton is being savvy enough to distance herself and ensure that, no matter what happens, the President is linked to this, not her. And Obama is certainly shrewd enough to recognize that Hillary Clinton is completely prepared to cost him a second term if it protects her chances in the future.