What's Next in the Benghazi 'Sideshow'?

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Rush Limbaugh floated an interesting Benghazi theory on Monday: the Obama administration knew the attacks on the consulate in Benghazi were coming, and so they had the embassy in Cairo apologize for an anti-Islam video and thus "concocted this video excuse before anything happened." 

As we have noted before, the Benghazi scandal is boring. What is potentially scandalous is not what happened during the attack — that was done by bad guys, not the U.S. government — but the talking points U.N. ambassador Susan Rice gave on five political talk shows five days later. Naturally, people who are extremely skeptical of President Obama's intentions want to give the scandal a greater sense of urgency. Retired Admiral James Lyons, for example, explained to The Atlantic Wire last week the theory that Obama colluded with terrorists to have Ambassador Chris Stevens kidnapped in order to set up a prisoner exchange with the Blind Sheikh. On Monday, after Obama called the ongoing theories a "sideshow" and before White House Press Secretary Jay Carney did the same, Limbaugh floated a different theory that would make Obama's actions much worse, if not quite so treasonous. Rush was not alone in his floating; so long as there is an attack's aftermath with which to create more aftermath, he never will be.

In the CIA's original talking points, the very first bullet point says, "We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault…" We now know that's wrong. The video played no part; the attacks were pre-planned. Limbaugh explained on Monday that he thinks the CIA and the State Department knew even at the time of the attack that the video played no part. Limbaugh says American intel knew the attacks were coming in Benghazi and Cairo. When the Cairo embassy tweeted an apology for the anti-Islam video on September 11, 2012, it was because the tweeter "knew in advance it was going to happen." Limbaugh said, "The stated purpose of the apology was to stop and prevent any protest because we knew some were coming." Therefore, "I am convinced that the administration concocted this video excuse before anything happened."

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So many want more there to be there, no matter how much Obama says "there's no there there" — or perhaps because of it. At World Net Daily last week, Erik Rush speculated that Obama might have "orchestrated the attack" himself, "given his connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and legendary understanding of all things Islamic." On his radio show on Monday, Glenn Beck theorized that the Muslim Brotherhood was behind a whole bunch of things: "I want you to know, the IRS story, the Benghazi story, and the Boston bombings—and more importantly the Muslim cover up, the Muslim Brotherhood cover up— they’re all connected."

President Obama sounded annoyed on Monday when asked about the Benghazi controversy at a White House press conference. "The whole issue of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow," Obama said. The administration called it terrorism from the begining, Obama said, so "Who executes some sort of cover-up or effort to tamp things down for three days? So the whole thing defies logic." The reaction of some conservatives to that helps explain why Limbaugh might be looking for a more exciting theory of the Benghazi case. Michelle Malkin points out that Obama blamed the video eight days later on David Letterman's show. The scandal there would not be editing CIA talking points, but sticking with them too long.

Poor Darrell Issa was stuck with the boringest scandal theory of all — that "an 'act of terror' is different than a 'terrorist attack.'" Fox News' Megyn Kelly asked Issa on Monday about Obama using the term "act of terrorism," and sending his head of the National Counterterrorism Center to Capitol Hill two or three days after the attack. Though the Benghazi controversy is over what Obama told the public, Issa said that didn't count — it was what was said to the Libyan president that mattered. Issa said:

"I think when you look at official correspondence from the President through the acting ambassador to the president of Libya... the words that are being used carefully -- like you just said, act of terror -- an 'act of terror' is different than a 'terrorist attack.' he truth is, this was a terrorist attack, this had al Qaeda at it, this came over the wall very quickly, attacked and killed two people and then later two more hours later."

You can see why Rush Limbaugh wouldn't want to spend three hours a day fighting over whether terror should be used as a noun or an adjective.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.