By Dick Morris - 05/07/13 10:36 PM EDT
Americans can stand pretty much anything, but not being lied to by their president. When Bill Clinton lied about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, his personal favorability ratings dropped 20 points and never recovered for the duration of his presidency.
As the Benghazi hearings unfold, it will become more and more clear that President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton knowingly lied to the American people when they both pretended that the attacks on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, were just a demonstration against the anti-Muslim video gone violent — even as the State Department wrote an intelligence assessment that said “we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al Qaeda” were involved in the attack.
Beyond the cover-up lies the question of why we were not more robust in our military intervention on the ground as the attack was being waged. Special forces nearby in the country were apparently ordered to “stand down” from responding to the attack. Is it possible that this order was given without consulting with the president or with the secretary of State? While possible, it is most unlikely. This was no minor attack, and the use of American forces eight weeks before an election would certainly need to be cleared with the commander in chief.
Are Obama and Hillary really going to stake their future political credibility on the idea that they were out of the loop during this crisis? Are they really going to try to sell the idea that they were not informed by their own employees?
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Even if they try to sell this bill of goods, it won’t succeed. For Americans to believe them, we would have to believe that Obama was so distracted by the presidential campaign that he was practically out of office when it came to crucial national security issues — as if he should have invoked the 25th Amendment citing as his disability the fact that he was busy running for a second term.
The reality, which will become more and more apparent to everyone, is that he was busy claiming credit for extinguishing terrorism by killing Osama bin Laden and that he was not about to compromise that claim by admitting that al Qaeda could pull off an attack in Benghazi. He wants us to ignore the curious timing of the attack on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
This attempt is, of course, doomed to fail. Once we learn — as we have already — that the intelligence reports were doctored, and that the military actions were aborted, it is only a matter of time until the blame filters up to Obama and Clinton, ruining one presidency and possibly preventing another.
Presidents fail when they get “stuck,” when their past statements tie them down and deny them the freedom of maneuver that presidents need to survive. Former President Nixon got stuck in Watergate. Former President Reagan got stuck in Iran-Contra. Former President Clinton couldn’t get around his lie about Lewinsky. Former President George W. Bush, who did not intentionally lie, was stuck by his claim that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Now Obama is stuck also. Hillary, too. They will not be able to free themselves or save themselves. The die is cast.
Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Clinton, is the author of 16 books, including his latest, Screwed and Here Come the Black Helicopters. To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to dickmorris.com.