In trying to walk back the White House's initial assertions that the Benghazi attack was nothing more than a violent mob upset over an anti-Muslim movie, press secretary Jay Carney defended the Obama administration in this way (emphasis mine):
Q: If the President does not call it, label it a terrorist attack as you and others have, is there some legal or diplomatic trigger that that brings? Why hasn’t he said that?
JAY CARNEY: I think you’re misunderstanding something here. I’m the President’s spokesman. When the head of the National Counterterrorism Center, Matt Olsen, in open testimony in Congress answered a question by saying yes, by the definitions we go by — this is me paraphrasing — this was a terrorist attack — I echoed that, because this President, this administration, everybody looks to the intelligence community for the assessments on this. And it has been since I said so, the President’s position that this was a terrorist attack.
There are broader issues here that the President has addressed in answering questions, and he’s obviously interested in, as we all are, in waiting for the final result of an investigation. But let’s be clear about this. Every step of the way, the information that we have provided to you and the general public about the attack in Benghazi has been based on the best intelligence we’ve had and the assessments of our intelligence community. We have said all along that there’s an ongoing investigation and that as more facts come out, we will follow those facts wherever they lead and apprise you of our assessments as those facts come to light.
If this line of defense sounds familiar, it should -- it's the same defense the Bush administration used in fighting back against claims that the Bush administration lied or falsified evidence as a precursor to a war in Iraq.
The pre-war intelligence gathered before the war in Iraq suggested that Saddam Hussain's regime had over 500 installations and mobile labs that could produce anthrax and other deadly biological weapons. Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell went before the United Nations Security Council six weeks before U.S. troops were on the ground and explained the sources of intel included a captured al Qaeda operative and a defected Iraqi. Some questioned the credibility of the intelligence at the time, but then-CIA Director George Tenet assured Powell that the CIA stood by its intel. The Bush administration chose to play it safe, preparing for the worst case scenario but hoping for the best.
The real political finger-pointing came after the invasion of Iraq turned up no weapons of mass destruction, despite the for the war having received bipartisan support at the start. Bush continued to defend the decision to go to war with Iraq on the grounds that the intelligence information he had at the time demanded it. "They looked at the same intelligence I did, and they voted — many of them voted — to support the decision I made," President Bush said of his Democratic critics.
Then-Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama dismissed Bush's excuse and had this to say at the time:
What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.
What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income - to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.
Now, with the Obama administration's version of the Benghazi story falling apart, the president is dodging public criticism & questions and hiding behind the very same excuses he once deplored.
There may be a new liberal chant here: Obama lied, our ambassador died...?