President Barack Obama has taken a bit of heat for his ‘not optimal’ remarks in an interview on The Daily Show (Comedy Central), responding to a question about the administration’s response to the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks in Benghazi. The heat was misplaced.
Conservative/Republican pundits attacked the words themselves in an attempt to portray Obama as insensitive to the four American deaths. They ignored the definitions of those words and the fact that we all agree the situation wasn’t optimal.
What they should have attacked was Obama’s avoidance of the question itself. His response wasn’t optimal. For this, many Republicans are doing themselves a disfavor by missing the larger point. (To be fair, some of them are sticking to the larger point.)
The larger point is that the administration’s right hand still doesn’t seem to know what its left hand is doing in this situation.
All those shouting “coverup!” are missing the point too. It’s not a coverup (by definition) when half the administration is saying one thing and the other half is saying something else. A coverup is when all the important players are instructed (before anything goes public) to say nothing or to all say the same thing. A coverup requires coordination and solidarity among those in the know.
What’s happened here wasn’t a coverup by any stretch of the imagination. It was a bungle. It showed a complete lack of coordination. The fact that several different representatives of the administration initially said several different things — each apparently unaware of the other’s statements — makes it look like they don’t know what they’re doing.
And this is still going on.
I’ve never been a politician or bureaucrat (I don’t count my time as vice president of the sophomore class in college), but I assume any big-news situation like this should immediately result in whoever’s in charge (Obama) calling all his people to get the story straight — whether it’s the right story or a coverup. “Here’s how we’re going to handle this”, that person would say. “This is what we know,” and lay out the facts up to that point, and “This is how we’re going to respond”.
In this case, it looks like that obvious scenario never happened. And as the weeks pass, it looks like it still isn’t happening.
At this point, there’s no fixing it, and it doesn’t look like there’s even a best course of action.
What do I want, as a voter and as a citizen? I want Obama and his folks to quit acting like confused children on this matter. Get together (perhaps not physically, but with some form of communication) and straighten out all the stories. Make a list of incorrect statements that were made and decide which ones need correcting. Get on the air and straighten it out.
Fortunately for them, voters have short memories. There are still two weeks left before Election Day, and quite a few of the “undecided voters” haven’t even heard of Benghazi at this point.