A dozen women representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives said it was "sexist" to beat up on United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice for her misleading account of what happened in Libya on Sept. 11, and there's this to be said for their position: Rice wasn't the one most at fault for the deception.
President Barack Obama himself said in a recent press conference that she made her public remarks at the request of the White House and only cited information she had been given. And Gen. David Petraeus, the recently resigned director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told of how the intelligence initially sent out by the CIA spoke of al-Qaida's likely involvement in what appeared to be a terrorist event, information left out of the Rice account.
The Rice story told in five TV interviews was that the killing of four Americans at the Benghazi consulate rose out of a spontaneous response to an anti-Islamic film produced in the United States. That version of the event is little short of a hoax, and the real sexists would appear to be the people who altered the information before it was given to Rice, in effect making this bright, articulate, highly educated woman a convenient tool sent out to tell an untruth -- unwittingly -- to the American people during Obama's re-election campaign.
The version of events as told by Rice obscured the threatening rise of al-Qaida despite the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Some explanations proffered for disguising the truth are laughable. One is that the administration did not want al-Qaida to know we were spying on the group, as if these terrorists who are viciously evil are also stupid. They aren't. The truth is that Obama's policies on dealing with terrorists have not been nearly as successful as oratory would have it, and that his policies in a variety of areas have fallen short or failed miserably.
It would be unfair to blame Obama for everything going wrong in our country and the world, but there has been a pretense of high accomplishment that is not matched by actual events. This supposedly bold, transformative administration failed in preventing an outbreak in hostilities in the Middle East, as we are now seeing in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Its policies have also failed to keep Iran from advancing its nuclear program and in holding Russia to a 20-year treaty requiring the destruction of its nuclear weapons.
Domestically, Obama policies have gotten in the way of a major energy boom and have failed to restore the American economy to anything close to what would have happened under the austerity programs that have worked pretty well for some European nations.
On top of all this are such outrages as potentially dangerous leaks of classified information, the unconstitutional revision of laws without congressional approval, the illegal appointment of a new, hugely powerful regulatory chieftain and the enactment of Obamacare, a measure now causing layoffs and likely to impede health delivery and complicate ordinary life in ways yet barely imaginable.
The difficult process of finding out all the details of the Libyan tragedy and the details of what actions preceded it suggest serious fumbling, a cover-up and the possibility of a serious scandal.
I honestly hope I am wrong. While scandals may ultimately lead to the rectifying of wrongs and a stronger democracy, they can be scarily disabling in the short term, making it somewhere between difficult and impossible to accomplish some ends endorsed by people all over the ideological spectrum.
As we get closer to the truth, we may discover decisions that were defensible even if regrettable in hindsight. That, I think, is the best we can hope for.
Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.