The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Obfuscation and Deflection

For three days after the attack on our diplomatic compound in Libya, all the media could talk about was Mitt Romney's public "attack" on the Obama administration's handling of the situation. Of course, this allowed the media to avoid discussing early indications that the President's foreign policy "success" in Libya (and the broader Middle East) had begun to implode. The liberal media was outraged that Romney had the temerity to break the unspoken rule that there should be no criticism while a foreign event is in progress. Some conservative commentators chimed in, and as a whole, it appeared to be a debacle for Romney. With hindsight, there's only one problem. Romney was right.

In a deconstruction of the events surrounding the murder of our ambassador and three others and the sacking of our embassy, Bret Stevens summarizes the situation so far:
The U.S. ignores warnings of a parlous security situation in Benghazi. Nothing happens because nobody is really paying attention, especially in an election year, and because Libya is supposed to be a foreign-policy success. When something does happen, the administration's concerns for the safety of Americans are subordinated to considerations of Libyan "sovereignty" and the need for "permission." After the attack the administration blames a video, perhaps because it would be politically inconvenient to note that al Qaeda is far from defeated, and that we are no more popular under Mr. Obama than we were under George W. Bush. Denouncing the video also appeals to the administration's reflexive habits of blaming America first. Once that story falls apart, it's time to blame the intel munchkins and move on.

It was five in the afternoon when Mr. Obama took his 3 a.m. call. He still flubbed it.
The M.O. of this President is to obfuscate first, and then when obfuscation no longer works, find a scapegoat and throw him under the bus. Obfuscation began with the administration's insistence that the Libyan attack was driven by an anti-Muslim film trailer and this continued for a number of days, even though there was clear evidence of a terrorist attack. A few media folks raised their eyebrows but generally looked away. When obfuscation began to fall apart, the administration claimed that they were only presenting the best information they has at the time, but if information was unclear, wouldn't a "deliberative and calm" President simply tell the media, "We don't know and refuse to speculate about the cause of the attack." When this line of defense crumbled, the blame game began. The intelligence services were forced to fall on their swords and admit an intelligence failure. The administration hoped they would look blameless or duped by incompetent intel — failing to recognize that the President has responsibility for acquiring good intel (after all, Bush was labeled a "liar" because of bad intel, wasn't he?).

Obama's unsavory strategy of obfuscation and deflection (blame) works only because the media is unwilling to out it. In this case, it's reasonably clear that we had warning of al Qaida operation in Libya long before the attack, but that the administration couldn't process that information because it ran counter to its narrative that (1) Libya was a success story, and (2) al Qaida was defeated or weakened to such an extent that it was irrelevant ("OBL is dead," after all).

If this were a one-off event, it might be easy to give Obama a pass. But the obfuscation and deflection strategy is one that this President uses in virtually every policy arena. When his policies fail (often catastrophically), he obfuscates as long as he can and then, when outed, deflects blame by finding a scapegoat.

I'll explore this in greater detail in a follow-on post.