After four years of unprecedented personal attacks and hateful rhetoric, it was a given that the homestretch of President Obama's re-election campaign would be clouded by right-wing media ugliness, and that wild, odious allegations would be their calling card.
The Benghazi story, or specifically the one the GOP Noise Machine is committed to tell about the September 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, perfectly captures the fevered Obama hatred that conservatives have carried throughout his first term. And it's a story they seem desperate to broadcast during the final weeks of the campaign.
The upsetting national security news from Libya, the kind that has been spared this level of politicization in the past, is now being used as a vehicle for conservatives to spin their ugliest fantasies about the president and to depict him as heartless traitor who chose to let Americans die at the hands of Islamic terrorists.
This is the natural culmination of four years worth of Obama Derangement Syndrome.
Benghazi has entered the realm of churning, right-wing myth making. (Think Waco and Vince Foster). The story has become completely detached from reality, and the twisted narrative feeds off itself with constant misinformation that's repeatedly presented as 'fact.' This process is powered by Fox News and the burning desire within the GOP Noise Machine to portray Obama as a monster who is at war with the United States.
A recent column in the conservative Boston Herald almost perfectly captured the important role the Benghazi story plays within the Obama-hating community. Benghazi allegedly proves Obama is "cowardly" and "dishonest" and that he lacks "integrity" as well as "competence," and has a "reflexive impulse to blame, rather than defend, America."
Keep in mind that while there is a government investigation underway to determine what mistakes were made guarding the consulate, there's no evidence that Obama himself did anything wrong in connection to the Benghazi attack.
But the desire is so strong among his critics to paint the president in the most dastardly way possible (so close to the election), that Obama's role has been super-sized, fictionalized, and pushed to the forefront, so that he stars as the villain in a right-wing production about a treasonous president.
Remember that the right-wing press has, alternately, spent the last four years depicting the President of the United States as a socialist and a communist and a racist and a fascist. Obama's the Manchurian candidate sent to destroy the United States from within. He's the president who wants to drive up unemployment and push millions more onto food stamps and welfare.
Obama, in short, wants to end the American way of life as we know it.
And now with Benghazi, those same Obama-hating critics have taken the structure of the story and built it into something much more dramatic and compelling. It's the vessel that contains their darkest Obama fears.
Salon's Joan Walsh bemoaned the right-wing Benghazi frenzy, noting it had "reached the realm of lurid conservative conspiracy porn." That was on October 15. Since then, the Benghazi reels have only become more explicit.
The allegations have blossomed into something even more graphic and disturbing. Now on Fox News, viewers are told Obama may have "sacrificed Americans" at the Libyan consulate as part of a "political calculation" to win re-election. It's reported as fact that Obama made "no decision to do anything to rescue" Americans In Benghazi, "which allowed" them to be killed.
Worse, Obama watched video "in real-time" while the terrorists snuffed out Americans lives. He heard their cries for help, and yet he and his team refused to send orders to help. "Support wasn't given," in the words of Karl Rove.
Of course, none of the claims are accurate. How could they be? Why would Obama, why would any president, watch Americans be killed and order that nobody help them? It's pure fantasy. (See here, here and here for details.)
The fantasy is the whole point, though. Obama's supposedly shameful role in the Benghazi story only confirms everything right-wing voices have hated, and warned followers, about Obama for the last four years: He's foreign. He's an other. He's not like the rest of us.
He's un-American and impeachment is now too good for him [emphasis added]:
If Obama wins reelection you can bet on it. The cries of treason will be unstoppable. Not even if the mainstream media will be able to deny them.
But the bottomless anger doesn't match reality. Pressed about why Benghazi has become such a momentous touchstone, conservatives insist it's because Americans lives were lost and taken at the hands of terrorists. And they claim Obama reacted callously to the news. (The fact that he flew to a campaign fundraiser in Las Vegas the day after the attack has become a major Benghazi talking point.)
But as No More Mister Nice Blog noted, presidents -- even Republican ones -- have continued campaign in the aftermath of terror attacks:
On September 20, 1984, there was a truck-bomb explosion at the U.S. embassy annex in Aukar, Lebanon, just outside Beirut. Twenty-four people were killed. It was third terrorist bombing aimed at U.S. interests in Lebanon in a year and a half.
What did Ronald Reagan do on September 21, 1984? He made three campaign appearances in Iowa.
The Associated Press report linked to above notes that Reagan was asked if he had considered canceling the campaign swing. Reagan replied: "We talked about that but realized that whether I'm there or here you're president wherever you are, and as fast as communication is on these matters, wherever I am."
The Benghazi freak-out has stemmed, in part, from the claim that the Obama administration failed to protect the American embassy in Libya and that it's not combating Islamic terrorism in the region.
*April 18, 1983: Bombing of U.S. Embassy in Beirut. Sixty-three people were killed, including 17 Americans.
*Oct. 23, 1983: Bombing of Marine barracks in Beirut. A suicide bomber blew detonated a truck full of explosives at a U.S. Marine barracks; Two hundred and forty-one U.S. Marines were killed.
* Sept. 20, 1984: Bombing of U.S. Embassy annex. In Aukar, northeast of Beirut, a truck bomb exploded outside the U.S. Embassy annex killing 24 people, two of whom were U.S. military personnel.
In less than 18 months under Reagan, more than 320 people were killed by terrorist attacks on the U.S. Embassy in and around Beirut. And after the third attack, which killed two Americans, Reagan refused to curtail his campaign for re-election (which he won in a rout) even for one day.
But today, the deaths of four Americans killed during the assault on the Libyan consulate has some conservatives demanding Obama be tried for treason.
There's nothing sane or rational about the right-wing's Benghazi fantasy and the role they have assigned for the president. But it does allow the conservative press to project their deepest fears up against the passions of the campaign season's final push.
Cross-posted at County Fair, a Media Matters for America blog.