'Transparent' Obama seems to have disappeared

Having pledged to lead the most transparent administration in U.S. history, there is suddenly an aura of a cover-up in the Obama White House

Is something missing in the shadows?
Ewan Watt
On 28 September 2012 08:28

For two weeks the Obama administration has sought to convince a war-weary, and increasingly isolationist, American public that the violence that has unfolded in the Middle East has been in direct response to an anti-Islamic movie.

In fact, in the past week, the administration has even bought air time in Pakistan in an attempt to quell the violence. Given that it’s questionable whether this movie is even the cause behind the bloodshed, such a move might even have been counterproductive.

But ever since these tragic events occurred, the administration has successfully dodged questions pertaining to the motivations behind the violence, whether the U.S. consulate in Benghazi had adequate security, and, most importantly, whether State Department officials repeatedly ignored warnings about an imminent terrorist attack.

Curiously the only individual who has faced much scrutiny over the past two weeks has been the president’s Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, who came under a coordinated attack for raising questions about the administration’s response. Romney no doubt could have been a little bit more eloquent and tactful in his critique, but the points he raised were fair game.

Thus far the administration has only had to deal with attacks from Romney that Obama resembles Jimmy Carter, a weak president overseeing a rapid decline in American prestige in the Middle East. This could be about to change. As most sections of the media filled their Sunday shows by analyzing yet another ‘gaffe’ from Romney, questions are starting to emerge not just over the administration’s competency, but whether they deliberately misled the American people over the events of Tuesday, September 11.

Things started to noticeably unravel a week past Sunday, when Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, curiously stated that the attacks in Benghazi were “a spontaneous – not a premeditated – response to what had transpired in Cairo.” Such an analysis would be comedic if it weren’t so tragic.

Libyan President Mohammad el-Megarif thought otherwise, stating that “The idea that this criminal and cowardly act was a spontaneous protest that just spun out of control is completely unfounded and preposterous.” At the United Nations this week, Obama doubled down on the movie. And yet still, despite a handful of voices, the media has been more fascinated by Romney’s ill-advised remarks from five months ago.

However, to their credit, CNN is now daring to do what other news outlets have been reticent to do for the past fortnight and actually ask for some answers. This largely emanates from their discovery of a diary written by the late U.S. ambassador in Libya, in which Christopher Stevens expressed concern about the “rise in Islamic extremism” in the country. The journalistic ethics behind CNN using the diary as a source has come under fire, but it has at least finally sparked a greater effort by the country’s fourth estate to scrutinize the administration’s side of events and hold them to account.

Obama has been able to sail through the controversy so far, but it’s only a matter of time before voters start to raise questions about his handling of the affair—and whether his handling of this foreign policy debacle merits a second term.

Having pledged to lead the most transparent administration in U.S. history, there is suddenly an aura of a cover-up in the Obama White House.

At best, the botched response from the administration, not too unlike the cack-handed spin after the Osama bin Laden raid, might simply be the result of an incompetent bureaucracy. At worst, it looks like an administration all too eager to play fast and loose with the truth in an election year.

Voters tend to find the former commonplace in Washington. The latter, however, is unforgivable.

Ewan Watt is a Washington DC-based consultant. You can follow him on @ewancwatt 

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