In an interview on CNN, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said "the entire reason" the attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi has become a political lightning rod is because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
"The entire reason that this has become the political topic it is is because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. It's a big part of their stump speech and its reckless and irresponsible," Cutter said this afternoon.
O.K., hold on a second. The "entire reason"?
To Cutter's point, Romney has leveled some nakedly opportunistic accusations in wake of the September 11 attacks. (The night of the killings, Romney accused the administration of sympathizing "with those who waged the attacks," an essentially groundless charge.) But Romney and his running mate are hardly responsible for the Benghazi attack's resilience as front page political news.
Need we remind Cutter, a U.S. ambassador was murdered along with three other personnel and dozens of State Department personnel and CIA agents were evacuated. If that weren't enough to give the story credibility, the administration's confusing briefings on the murders have left the public mystified as to the origins of the attack.
Those raising questions aren't just political opportunists. They're people like Pat Smith, whose only son died in the Sept. 11 attacks. "They haven't told me anything. They are still studying it. And the things that they are telling me are just outright lies," she told CNN's Anderson Cooper last night. "I look at TV and I see bloody hand prints on walls, thinking: 'My God, is that my son's? I don't know if he was shot. I don't know—I don't know."
It's not surprising that Smith is confused about the nature of her son's death. Initially, the administration attributed the attacks to an anti-film protest gone awry, but later shifted that assessment to a planned terrorist attack. While the administration contends that it merely provided the public with the latest intelligence, at least one U.S. intelligence officer has accused officials of "cherry picking," or "choosing one piece of intelligence and ignoring other pieces, to support a preferred thesis," as the Daily Beast's Eli Lake reported.
Then there's the valid issue of diplomatic security. Did the State Department do enough to make sure U.S. personnel were protected? Yesterday, officials acknowledged they rejected requests to increase security personnel in Libya in the monts ahead of the attack.
This is the stuff that keeps news in the headlines weeks before an election. And yet, on Twitter, Cutter seems oblivious to these facts. "Romney has politicized Libya w/ no plans of his own," she tweeted, in response to critics. "POTUS' priorities are getting facts & bringing terrorists to justice." While Romney's unbridled broadsides about Benghazi have made him look out of touch with reality, Cutter's comments only serve to cast the administration in the same light.