The Right-Wing's Most Brazen Lie of the Election -- Debunked
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The Right's narrative of how the Obama administration handled the attacks on our consulate in Benghazi began with a claim that is every bit as ridiculous as the belief that Barack Obama faked his birth certificate or is a communist, or that his policies reflect a “Kenyan anti-colonial worldview.”
While the attacks were still underway, the Romney campaign released a statement claiming that the president of the United States, upon hearing that our embassies were being attacked, felt a rush of sympathy with the attackers, and immediately responded by “apologizing for our values.”
The idea that a sitting president, of either party, would feel sympathy for extremists killing Americans overseas -- and would actually apologize for America's values in such a circumstance -- is something that no normal person could possibly believe. Only those on the hard Right, who have been told for the last four years that a moderate Democrat is in fact a wild-eyed radical and a crypto-Muslim who doesn't really understand America could possibly buy that spin. Only those gullible enough to accept the claim – debunked by every fact-checker in the universe because it just never happened -- that Obama went on a “global apology tour” could possibly put any credence in such a scenario.
Since then, the narrative has evolved. And it provides a perfect example of the effect of media “siloing” – the tendency for people to seek out sources of information that confirm their worldview. People who get the bulk of their information from Fox, conservative blogs, right-wing talk-radio or papers like the New York Post or the Washington Times cannot help but believe that the administration refused requests for help and delayed a rapid response force while they sat back and watched the attacks unfold. They would have no choice but to believe that the administration knew from the first moment that the attacks were preplanned and not directly related to the Islamophobic video that had roiled crowds in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere – but didn't mention the word “terrorism” for two weeks – and have been covering all of that up ever since.
That's a storyline built on speculation, and the unfounded opinions of conservative activists and Republican partisans trying, swiftboat-like, to attack Obama on one of his major advantages – the public's belief that he is better able to serve as commander-in-chief. But it hasn't worked.
A CBS poll taken after the final presidential debate – the foreign policy debate – found that voters thought Obama “would do a better job in issues of terrorism and national security by a margin of 64 percent to 36 percent, and 71 percent said they trusted Obama to handle an international crisis versus 49 percent who said the same of Romney.”
Part of the reason the Right's narrative has failed to go mainstream is simple: it is so widely understood that there's always a ton of conflicting information in the early stages of a story like this that the phrase “fog of war” has become a cliché. The Fox News storyline requires one to believe that the White House knew exactly what was going on in a war-torn country thousands of miles away, in real-time, and then lied about it (for reasons that have never been clear).
But more to the point: if you are a liberal or a moderate – or a Republican who gets your news from a major daily newspaper not owned by the Moonies or Rupert Murdoch – and you have paid attention to reports about Benghazi, then you'll have a very different picture.