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May 12, 2014

LYONS: The great Benghazi scandal gets sillier

You like potato and I like potahto

You like tomato and I like tomahto

Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto.

Let’s call the whole thing off.

— George and Ira Gershwin

Here’s how unreal the Great Benghazi Scandal had already grown last year. Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler devoted an entire May 2013 column to the scholastic question of whether President Obama’s calling the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on a U.S. Consulate in Libya an “act of terror” was the same as calling it an “act of terrorism,” as he’d recently claimed.

Kessler pondered the deep semantic differences between the two phrases before awarding Obama a full four “Pinnochios,” signifying a “whopper.” Seriously. That’s the big cover-up House Republicans pretend they’re outraged about.

Obama’s exact words, from the White House Rose Garden on the day after the attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his security team:

“No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.”

So who was Obama trying to deceive? People who hadn’t seen the smoking ruins on TV? And about what? Kessler doesn’t say. Only that the two phrases don’t signify precisely the same thing — a distinction without a difference in any realistic political context.

It will be recalled that GOP nominee Mitt Romney executed one of the clumsiest pratfalls in presidential debate history for mistakenly challenging Obama on this exact point. Had the president, or had he not, described the Benghazi disaster as an “act of terror?”

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