Dan Pfeiffer’s job title is “senior advisor to the president for strategy and communications.” And on five television shows Sunday, he all too clearly communicated the White House’s strategy of remaining unclear on pertinent details about scandals now dogging President Barack Obama.
“Fox News” host Chris Wallace pressed Mr. Pfeiffer on “one lingering question” about last Sept. 11’s terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya: “What did the president do that night?”
After Mr. Pfeiffer tried a few end runs, Mr. Wallace asked: “Was he in the Situation Room?”
After more deflections, Mr. Wallace asked: “Do you not know whether he was in the Situation Room?”
Mr. Pfeiffer: “I don’t remember what room the president was in on that night. And that’s a largely irrelevant fact.”
Mr. Wallace, pushing past that “irrelevant” assessment’s absurdity: “The ambassador goes missing, ends up the first ambassador in more than 30 years is killed. Four Americans, including the ambassador, are killed. Dozens of Americans are in jeopardy. The president at 4 o’clock in the afternoon says to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to deploy forces. No forces are deployed. Where is he while all this is going on?”
OK, so the left has long — and at times with justification — accused Fox News of right-wing bias.
But Mr. Pfeiffer also struggled on the other networks Sunday. When ABC’s “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos (an ex-adviser to President Bill Clinton) asked if President Obama believed the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups was illegal, Mr. Pfeiffer answered:
“I can’t speak the law, the law here, but the law is irrelevant. The activity was outrageous and inexcusable, and it was stopped and needs to be — we need it to be fixed, so we can ensure it never happens again.”
Mr. Stephanopoulos: “You don’t really mean the law is irrelevant, do you?”
Mr. Pfeiffer, who should give the word “irrelevant” a rest: “What — what I mean is that whether it’s legal, or illegal is — is not important to the fact that it, that, the conduct as a matter.”
Mr. Pfeiffer even drew a lecture from CBS’ “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer, who has long been accused by the right — at times with justification — of left-wing bias.
After Mr. Pfeiffer kept dodging questions, Mr. Schieffer told him: “When the executive branch does things right, there doesn’t seem to be any hesitancy of the White House to take credit for that.”
Yet when something goes wrong, Mr. Schieffer continued, “you seem to send out officials many times who don’t even seem to know what has happened. And I use as an example of that [U.N. Ambassador] Susan Rice, who had no connection whatsoever to the events that took place in Benghazi, and yet she was sent out, appeared on this broadcast and other Sunday broadcasts, five days after it happens ...”
After more evasive spinning from his guest, Mr. Schieffer elaborated on Amb. Rice’s dubious task last September:
“That was just a PR plan to send out somebody who didn’t know anything about what had happened. Why did you do that? Why didn’t the Secretary of State come and tell us what they knew, and if you knew nothing, say we don’t know yet? Why didn’t White House chief of staff come out?
“I mean I would, and I mean this is no disrespect to you, why are you here today? Why isn’t the White House chief of staff here to tell us what happened?”
Those are relevant questions.
So are far too many questions that the White House refuses to answer about its scandals.