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Has Benghazi become the Obama administration’s Watergate? (+video)

New reports show that the State Department 'extensively edited' talking points about the terrorist attack on the US diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. Most Americans disapprove of the way President Obama has handled it, presenting the administration with a major political problem.

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The drip-drip-drip of trouble for the administration regarding Benghazi continued Friday when ABC News reported State Department e-mails showing that official talking points on the attack were “extensively edited as they evolved from the drafts first written entirely by the CIA to the final version distributed to Congress and to US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice before she appeared on five talk shows the Sunday after that attack.”

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“Summaries of White House and State Department emails … show that the State Department had extensive input into the editing of the talking points,” ABC reported.

In a piece headlined “Spinning Benghazi,” the New Yorker’s Alex Koppelman writes: “For a long time, it seemed like the idea of a cover-up was just a Republican obsession. But now there is something to it.”

“It’s striking to see the twelve different iterations that the talking points went through before they were released to Congress and to United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice,” Koppelman writes. “Over the course of about twenty-four hours, the remarks evolved from something specific and fairly detailed into a bland, vague mush.”

Much of what comes out of political spokesman (and politicians themselves) is spin. But this was about an event in which an American ambassador and others were killed in an apparently preplanned and coordinated attack that revealed failures in intelligence and security preparations.

Left, right, and center, pundits put their own spin on Benghazi.

“Was all this incompetence? Or was it politics disguised as the fog of war? Who called these shots and made these decisions? Who decided to do nothing?” asks Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan. “Will this story ever be completely told? Maybe not. But it's not going to go away, either. It's a prime example of the stupidity of all-politics-all-the-time. You make some bad moves for political reasons. And then you suffer politically because you made bad moves.”

On her MSNBC show Friday night, Rachel Maddow tried to put Benghazi into broader context, citing many Republican scandals and failings.

“One of the challenges for conservatives pushing Benghazi conspiracy theories is the leap of imagination,” Maddow blogged the same day. “In order to actually see the elusive wrongdoing that only Republicans and Fox News can see, one must accept bizarre accusations with no basis in fact… has Fox News convinced you that Barack Obama is an inhuman madman? If yes, then it stands to reason Benghazi is the most important story in the world. If no, this story is about a tragic attack that left four Americans dead, but it's about little else.”

Benghazi certainly was a tragic attack, no matter how its aftermath is spun. But it’s become far more than that.


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