If you've been casually paying attention to politics for the past few months, you're probably aware that the White House is dealing with a scandal of some sort involving last September's attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. You might also know that it has something to do with some talking points and some emails and who made some edits and when those edits were approved and by whom. And therein lies the reason why, despite enthusiastic efforts by Fox News and other axe-grinders on the right have to turn the editing of a sheet of talking points into a full-bore, front-page scandal for the Obama administration, it just hasn't taken off. Trying to coherently and accessibly explain why the average person who isn't a reflexive partisan should consider this a “scandal” is all but impossible.
President Obama's selection of Susan Rice to be the next National Security Adviser has given new life to the controversy, given that she was an unfortunate recipient of the much-discussed talking points. This morning, Karl Rove went on Fox News to try and explain why those talking points make Rice an unacceptable choice for the position. He threw out a bunch of already debunked lies and misdirections in doing so, which you can read about here, but watch this segment to see just how deep into the weeds Rove has to go in order to arrive at a muddled and uncertain conclusion.
Karl Rove is perhaps the nation's most prominent political communications strategist. He has spent nearly his entire professional life condensing complex issues into accessible narratives. And that was the best he could do. It's like trying to explain an inside joke to someone not on the inside. You have to go through the backstory and the details and mood-setting and digressions until you finally arrive at the joke, and invariably the listener will not find it as humorous as you do.
That's not to say that this is just a communications problem. The Benghazi emails and talking points reveal less a conspiracy to cover up information about the attack than they do interagency turf wars and bureaucratic squabbling. In some ways, getting lost in the Benghazi details helps to obscure the fact that right-wing critics don't really have anything to talk about -- they've spent nine months obsessing over a set of talking points at a time when the American people are far more interested in the economy.
But Rove et al keep plugging away at it because Benghazi was supposed to be the thing that took Obama down (Obama's Watergate). Or rather, the latest thing that was supposed to take Obama down (the latest in a long line of Obama's Watergates). Obviously it didn't, and the continued obsessive focus on Benghazi hasn't done much to erode the president's standing. But they'll just keep retelling the joke hoping that eventually someone will find it funny.