This morning the Washington Post website announced that the paper had decided to endorse President Barack Obama for reelection. That endorsement should hit the print edition tomorrow. But make no mistake, endorsing the president is not the only cover the paper is granting the president. Witness the Post's treatment of the latest, damning development in the Benghazi fiasco.
Post editors buried a news story on the Benghazi State Department emails on page A9, assigning it a rather boring headline -- "E-mails show State named militant group on night of Libya attack" -- and a staff writer, Anne Gearan, who previously wrote a piece consumed with concern about Hillary Clinton's tarnished legacy post-Benghazi. By contrast, Post editors placed on the front page a 74-paragraph profile of Obama's counterterrorism advisor John Brennan, headlined "Brennan reshaped anti-terror strategy: CIA veteran emerges at core of effort to cement process for lethal action."
In other words, the Post devoted a positive story about an Obama advisor's efforts to kill terrorists on the front page, but shuffled a story damaging to the Obama administration deeper within the paper. For a taste of the pro-Brennan puffery, here are some excerpts to give you a flavor (emphasis mine):
In his windowless White House office, presidential counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan is compiling the rules for a war the Obama administration believes will far outlast its own time in office, whether that is just a few more months or four more years.
The “playbook,” as Brennan calls it, will lay out the administration’s evolving procedures for the targeted killings that have come to define its fight against al-Qaeda and its affiliates. It will cover the selection and approval of targets from the “disposition matrix,” the designation of who should pull the trigger when a killing is warranted, and the legal authorities the administration thinks sanction its actions in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond.
“What we’re trying to do right now is to have a set of standards, a set of criteria, and have a decision-making process that will govern our counterterrorism actions — we’re talking about direct action, lethal action — so that irrespective of the venue where they’re taking place, we have a high confidence that they’re being done for the right reasons in the right way,” Brennan said in a lengthy interview at the end of August.
A burly 25-year CIA veteran with a stern public demeanor, Brennan is the principal architect of a policy that has transformed counterterrorism from a conventional fight centered in Afghanistan to a high-tech global effort to track down and eliminate perceived enemies one by one.
When operations are proposed in Yemen, Somalia or elsewhere, it is Brennan alone who takes the recommendations to Obama for a final sign-off.
As the war against al-Qaeda and related groups moves to new locations and new threats, Brennan and other senior officials describe the playbook as an effort to constrain the deployment of drones by future administrations as much as it provides a framework for their expanded use in what has become the United States’ permanent war.
“This needs to be sustainable,” one senior administration official said, “and we need to think of it in ways that contemplate other people sitting in all the chairs around the table.”
The message of the story is clear: Brennan is one tough hombre doing the yeoman work to help President Obama and future administrations kill terrorists and keep Americans safe.
It isn't until the page on which the story ultimately concludes, A9, that the reader might stumble across the story on the State Department emails. But have no fear, Obama backers, Anne Gearan is on the job, and she was determined to keep the damage minimal.
Gearan failed to directly quote any critics of the Obama/Clinton State Department in her 24 paragraph story, although she was certain to quote Secretary of State Clinton twice, once in the middle of the story and once again to close out the story (emphasis mine):
About a half-hour after militants overran the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last month, the State Department notified officials at the White House and elsewhere that the compound was “under attack” by about 20 armed assailants, e-mails obtained by The Washington Post on Wednesday show.
Two hours later, the State Department reported that the Libyan militia group Ansar al-Sharia had asserted responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and had also called for an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.
“Posting something on Facebook is not in and of itself evidence” of terrorist involvement, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said when asked about the e-mails Wednesday. “I think it just underscores how fluid the reporting was at the time and continued for some time to be.”
Stevens apparently died of smoke inhalation inside the villa. Information officer Sean Smith also died in the villa. Two security employees died when a second U.S. government compound was attacked a short distance away.
Clinton suggested Wednesday that the e-mails do not tell the whole story. An independent investigation “is already hard at work looking at everything — not cherry-picking one story here or one document there,” she said.