Though the Benghazi attack involved clear failures of U.S. security, Republicans have concentrated on a dubious subsidiary issue: the alleged failure of the administration to publicly recognize quickly enough that the incident was “a terrorist attack.” In fact, Mr. Obama has acknowledged that “the information may not have always been right the first time.” But if there was a White House conspiracy to cover up the truth, Republicans have yet to produce any evidence of it — much less a connection to Ms. Rice, who had no involvement with the Benghazi attack other than those television appearances.
Nor was her account of what happened as far off the mark as Republicans claim. Though investigations are not complete, what has emerged so far suggests that the attack was staged by local jihadists, not ordered by the al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan. Officials believe that it was inspired in part by demonstrations that took place that day in Cairo. That is not so far from Ms. Rice’s explanation that “this began as a spontaneous . . . response to what transpired in Cairo.” Republicans claim that Ms. Rice “propagated a falsehood” that the attacks were connected to an anti-Islam YouTube video. How then to explain the contemporaneous reports from Western news organizations quoting people at the burning consulate saying that they were angry about the video?
The oddity of the Republican response to what happened in Benghazi is partly this focus on half-baked conspiracy theories rather than on the real evidence of failures by the State Department, Pentagon and CIA in protecting the Benghazi mission. What’s even stranger is the singling out of Ms. Rice, a Rhodes scholar and seasoned policymaker who, whatever her failings, is no one’s fool.
Could it be, as members of the Congressional Black Caucus are charging, that the signatories of the letter are targeting Ms. Rice because she is an African American woman? The signatories deny that, and we can’t know their hearts. What we do know is that more than 80 of the signatories are white males, and nearly half are from states of the former Confederacy. You’d think that before launching their broadside, members of Congress would have taken care not to propagate any falsehoods of their own.