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Obama Goes for a Modified Limited Hang Out

11:45 PM, Nov 1, 2012 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Obama administration officials are feeling the pressure to answer some basic questions about their responsibility for what happened September 11 in Benghazi. As has become very clear, the administration doesn't want to answer the questions, such as what the president did and didn't do that evening; what military assets were available and why, if certain ones were available, they weren't deployed; why senior Administration officials claimed subsequently that what happened was a riot caused by a video; and so forth. But stonewalling looks bad.

Obama Running

So the administration gave the Washington Post's David Ignatius access to their "timeline," one that might appear to provide some useful information. Except it doesn't. It's basically an exercise in misdirection.

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.

Another administration tried this almost forty years ago. Here's a brief excerpt from a March 22, 1973, White House meeting:

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.

In November 2012 we have the beginning of the Obama administration's tentative effort at a modified limited hang out.

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