Bernstein: Benghazi Not Watergate, But It Is a Story

Sunday, 04 May 2014 05:04 PM

By Greg Richter

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Legendary Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein says the recently released Benghazi email doesn't rise to the level of Watergate as some on the right claim, but neither is it a non-story, as some on the left say.

"Watergate was a massive criminal conspiracy led by a criminal president of the United States for almost the whole of his administration," Bernstein said on CNN's "Reliable Sources" Sunday."We're talking total apples and oranges here."

Still, Bernstein said, "That does not obviate the fact that this particular memo should have been turned over by the State Department to those who called for it."

Urgent: Do You Think There is a Cover-up on Benghazi? Vote Now in Urgent Poll

Story continues below video.

The memo in question is an email from White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes instructing then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to focus on an anti-Muslim YouTube video as the cause of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility that left four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, dead.

The email was not turned over to Congress when it requested communications involving the Benghazi attack and aftermath. Republicans say it was withheld because it would have hurt President Barack Obama's re-election chances because it would have shown the attack was terrorist-related.

Democrats, on the other hand, have called Republican and right-leaning media efforts to find a cover-up on Benghazi a political witch hunt.

But Bernstein said Benghazi is about an "ideological scorched-earth politics" that prevails in Washington by the media, and goes beyond Fox News.

"It goes to the web. It goes to MSNBC. To some extent it also goes to general coverage," Bernstein said. "Benghazi is a story that ought to be examined in a fact-based way. Lower the temperature. It's not about criminal presidencies or anything of the kind. It's about finding out about what happened. And it's not that difficult to do in a sane atmosphere. We don't have a sane atmosphere."

Hillary Clinton was secretary of state at the time, and Bernstein admitted that the story is also partly about her.

Fox News, the GOP, and others want to derail Clinton's presidential hopes in 2016, he said. But while there may be hatred for Clinton at right-leaning news organizations, Bernstein said, that doesn't mean there is no story there.

He said it would be great if there were a bipartisan effort that could establish all the facts once and for all, but, he added, that will never happen in the current political climate.

Bernstein, who along with fellow Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, tied the Watergate break-in to President Richard Nixon, eventually leading to Nixon's resignation, said he doesn't believe Rice was trying to deliberately mislead with her appearances on the Sunday morning shows after the fatal attack.

But, he added, all documents should have been turned over to Congress, which has a right to see them, when they were first requested.

"And the White House ought to have a much better explanation than [White House spokesman] Jay Carney's double talk has shown so far," he said.

Urgent: Do You Think There is a Cover-up on Benghazi? Vote Now in Urgent Poll

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