This time it was President Obama who blew the dog whistle.
It happened during his Nov. 14 post-reelection press conference at the White House. Instead of merely reveling in his victory and extending a gracious hand to the vanquished Republicans, the president chose to escalate his growing rift with John McCain and Lindsey Graham over the future of Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
The backstory was the anticipated departure of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the White House’s floating of Rice’s name as a possible successor. If this was a trial balloon, it didn’t get far off the ground: McCain and Graham — two of the more cooperative Republicans in the Senate — expressed reservations about confirming a secretary of state who had provided the American public with misleading explanations of the Sept. 11 burning and sacking of the U.S. consulate in Libya, and the murders of four Americans there.
In Susan Rice’s telling, the killings were an unanticipated — and unpreventable — tragedy sparked by a demonstration at the Benghazi consulate, similar to one that happened earlier in the day in Cairo. Although careful to issue the caveat that all the facts weren’t in yet, in five appearances on the Sunday talk shows on Sept. 16, Rice dutifully repeated administration talking points consisting of the following assertions: