First Reactions

Revealed: The Benghazi attack wasn't preceded by protests

Ahead of a House hearing on the attack that killed a U.S. ambassador, the State Department contradicts accounts given by others in the Obama administration

As the Republican-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee prepared to hold a hearing Wednesday on a a deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the State Department conceded that it had never concluded that the Sept. 11 assault that killed Libya Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans began with a protest against the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims. In fact, State now says there was no demonstration outside the consulate in Benghazi like the one at the U.S. embassy in Cairo. The first sign of trouble, according to the latest account, came with an explosion on the edge of the consulate compound, just before a mob of armed men stormed in. Here, initial reactions to this "extraordinary break with other administration offices," which had claimed for days that a relatively peaceful protest in Benghazi had been hijacked by terrorists:

Finally, we hear the truthIt's about time somebody in the administration decided to "come clean," says John Hinderaker at Power Line. At least now we know: "It was a terrorist attack, pure and simple, well-planned and well-executed. It had nothing to do with a YouTube video."

The Libya fiasco could taint Hillary Clinton's legacyThe aftermath of the Benghazi attack "has become a test of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's leadership," says Anne Gearan at The Washington Post. Every new revelation suggesting the State Department could have been better prepared or quicker to identify exactly what happened is "a threat to her much-admired legacy as America's top diplomat just a few months before she plans to step down."

There may be more revelations still to comeThis latest admission contradicts the administration's claim that the attack was "a peaceful protest that was 'hijacked by extremists,'" says Tim Cavanaugh at Reason. Clinton isn't the one who peddled that version of events — that was mostly U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. Still, Clinton remains on the hot seat, because a former embassy security officer is saying State had rebuffed requests from officials in Libya for more protection. It looks like the Obama administration's "unraveling story" on the Libya disaster "has not finished unraveling."

Obama will be grilled at the next debateThere's a "stark discrepancy" between the State Department's new timeline and earlier versions of the tragic events, says Maggie Haberman at Politico. The details about security at the compound and everything leading up to "the Obama administration's ultimate declaration nine days after the attack that it was a 'self-evident' terror act" will get an extensive airing at this hearing. Obama had a miserable week after last week's debate, but the fact that he didn't get grilled on Libya "actually was a reprieve." He won't be so lucky in next week's debate.

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