Legendary journalist Carl Bernstein says Republicans and conservatives have made the Benghazi issue "over-politicized" by ignoring the context of the 2012 attack that left four Americans dead.
Bernstein's analysis follows the familiar pattern:
If the scandal involves a Republican, the story is the scandal.
If the scandal involves a Democrat, the story is the Republican (over)reaction to the scandal.
Bernstein was on CNN's Reliable Sources yesterday with Brian Stelter:
Among the pearls of wisdom offered by the famous reporter:
"This is not Watergate or anything resembling Watergate. Watergate was a massive criminal conspiracy led by a criminal President of the United States for almost the whole of his administration."
"That does not obviate the fact that this particular memo should have been turned over by the State Department to those who called for it."
If the Benghazi story is simply about some lies told by the Obama Administration about an internet video, I'd be more inclined to agree with Bernstein.
But Bernstein says it's impossible to get a legitimate investigation because of the media - mainly the conservative media.
"This is about an ideological scorched earth politics that prevails in Washington on Capitol Hill and by the media that goes way beyond Fox. It goes to the web. It goes to MSNBC, to some extent. It also goes to general coverage."
"Benghazi is a story that ought to be examined in a fact-based way. Lower the temperature. It's not about criminal presidencies or anything of the kind. It's about finding out about what happened. And it's not that difficult to do in a sane atmosphere. We don't have a sane atmosphere."
So, he says it should be examined, but then proclaims his findings - declaring it's not about criminal presidencies. He goes on to say that we already know "most of the truth about what happened at Benghazi." Which also begs the question - why does it need further examination?
Bernstein's final point gets to the heart of why conservatives have been pushing the Benghazi story for so long... although I doubt he realized he was saying it...
"What we do have here, though, is the Congress of the United States asking for documents that it is entitled to have, and the failure of the executive branch to turn those documents over. The omission of this one document, in particular, is troubling. And the White House ought to have a much better explanation than [Press Secretary] Jay Carney's double-talk has shown so far. But that is not to confirm in any way the wild assertions of the right and the Republican Party."
"Was Susan Rice trying to go out there and deliberately lie about what had happened? It sure doesn't look like it to me."
"I do think that the scale to which the Republican right, the Tea Party right, has made this issue... tried to make it an over-politicized it and over-ideologically taint it is wrong. And has taken the thing wholly out of context."
I disagree. I think it's more likely that Rice was, in fact, deliberately lying about the role of the video in the attack.
The dismissiveness with which Bernstein approaches this betrays his bias.
The reason the right is angry with the way the talking points were crafted and pitched to the public was because it fundamentally misled people about the broad foreign policy failure of the Administration just weeks before the President election.
And conservatives believe it led to this moment in the CNN debate:
This exchange is seared into the minds of conservatives. It exemplifies everything they believe is wrong with the Administration and a media eager to pardon and aid the President.
The exchange became the focal point in the aftermath of the debate - as CNN's host Anderson Cooper noted.
But, more importantly, this exchange during the debate prompted the Romney camp to completely abandon any mention of the Benghazi attack - along with the argument about the failure of the "Obama Doctrine."
Many Republicans believe this moment helped defeat Mitt Romney.
In other words, the lie helped determine the outcome of an election and the media refused to act as the arbiter of truth.
That's why Republicans are so intent on determining how the Administration crafted the narrative about an internet video.