Who fed Rice the Benghazi lie?
At his news conference Wednesday, President Barack Obama postured as the young Galahad striding out onto the schoolyard to stop a pair of bullies from beating up a girl.
Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham had charged U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice with misleading the nation when, five days after the Benghazi attack in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed, she appeared on five TV shows to say it had all resulted from a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video.
Susan Rice, thundered Obama, "made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her."
"If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. ... But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous."
The indignation here is more than a bit cloying. Far from being a convincing defense, Obama's remarks call into question the competence or the truthfulness of the White House itself.
Consider again what Obama said.
Susan Rice "had nothing to do with Benghazi." But if she "had nothing to do with Benghazi," why was she sent out to explain Benghazi? Why did the White House not send Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CIA Director David Petraeus, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta or National Security Adviser Tom Donilon?
Rice was scripted to tell the nation it was not a "preplanned" attack, when that is exactly what it was.
Here we come to the heart of the matter.
Though journalists, CIA personnel and State Department people listening in real time all knew from intercepts and reports from our people on the ground that this was a terrorist attack involving automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, the fabricated story - that it came out of a protest - was pushed relentlessly by the administration.
Jay Carney pushed it two days after the attack. Petraeus pushed it on the Hill three days after the attack. Obama mentioned the video half a dozen times at the U.N. on Sept. 25.
Another question arises from the press conference.
When Obama said Rice "gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her," was that also the best intelligence the president of the United States had? If it is, he ought to clean house at his intelligence agencies.
Many inside knew, during or right after the attack, the truth about what had happened and were leaking it to the press. So why would the administration hierarchy collaborate in putting out a phony story?
Two answers come to mind:
One, the "spontaneous protest" story would enable Obama to keep pushing his campaign line that he had gotten Osama bin Laden and that al-Qaida was "on the path to defeat." A successful al-Qaida-type attack in Libya would have contradicted his best foreign policy claim.
Second, a spontaneous attack would absolve the administration of responsibility for failing to see it coming, failing to provide greater security, failing to have forces prepared to deal with it.
What was behind the cover-up is what Congress needs to find out.
Pat Buchanan is the author of "Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?"