Nearly every administration falls into the same trap: A policy misfires. The White House acts to protect the president from the political fallout, especially in an election year. They throw a lot of dust up in the air, so it’s not clear what happened. When the dust settles, the White House says it’s not their fault. They cast blame elsewhere, and usually try pointing the finger at some mid-level bureaucrat.
But in the end, it never works. Because eventually the career civil servants crawl out from the woodwork and turn into whistleblowers. They talk to Capitol Hill staffers or reporters, anonymously at first, and then publicly. Slowly but surely, the real story drips out. And in the end, it is often worse for the White House than if they had come clean in the first place.
That’s where we are now with the Libyan assassinations, or "Benghazi-Gate" as some have tagged it. It turns out that Ambassador Stevens had warned the administration that he was an Al Qaeda target. His security detail made repeated warnings that the situation was deteriorating in Eastern Libya. But someone back in Washington didn’t take it seriously. He or they, decided not only to deny the request for additional security for the ambassador and our Consulate, but also to reduce the existing minimal security detail.
So now we have it. Despite requests, security was denied. As a result, four Americans died. And soon we are likely to discover that somebody lied. Blame the movie, blame the intelligence community, blame the security folks. One former Reagan adviser says, it is criminal negligence.
The question today is the same question that has been asked time and again about these White House scandals.
I was in the White House during Watergate, and the Pentagon during Iran-Contra. Nothing has changed in one regard. Failed policies, scandals and cover-ups all follow a predictable path. "What did they know, and when did they know it? Who knew about it? Who made the decisions that ultimately resulted in attacks on US soil, and assassinations of Americans? And how high up did this go?
My advice to the White House? It's better for everyone -- the American people as well as the Obama administration -- if they answer those questions now.