As the White House released long-sought documents on the Benghazi affair and Republican lawmakers have renewed their criticism of the Obama administration's handling of it, three big Republican groups have all produced videos on the episode that led to the death of an American ambassador. All strike a similar tone and focus on the same target: Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state whose strong polling numbers make her an early favorite in the 2016 presidential election.
One video comes from the Republican National Committee and two from outside spending groups: American Crossroads, a super PAC, and American Future Fund, a 501(c)4 group, the type of nonprofit receiving heavy attention this week in light of the admission by the Internal Revenue Service that it delayed granting tax exempt status to some Tea Party groups.
All of the videos suggest that President Barack Obama and Clinton covered up the truth about the 2012 terrorist attack at the U.S. mission in Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The Crossroads and AFF videos are both produced in the style of spy thrillers and flash across the screen the date of the attack, Sept. 11, 2012, with its reminders of the even more deadly terror attacks that occurred in New York and Washington 11 years earlier.
The Crossroads ad appears to be the only one to have aired on TV so far, running during CBS' Face the Nation last Sunday, according to documents collected in Political Ad Sleuth. Unusually long for a TV ad at 90 seconds, the ad cost $18,000 to air.
All of the videos harken back to an RNC video from the last presidential campaign that never aired. A phone call goes to the White House from Benghazi on the night of the attack. Nobody answers. Then the line dies. It's a thinly veiled attack on Obama's leadership. It also employs the method of flashing the date September 11, while going a step further: It momentarily delays the appearance of the year 2012. The ad never aired because the Romney campaign nixed it, ABC News reported.
While that video criticized Obama's leadership, the new batch of videos pivots to Clinton, a Democratic favorite to succeed Obama, although she has remained coy about her ambitions.
All of the videos flash to testimony before a House committee last week by the former No. 2 U.S. official in Libya. In that testimony, Greg Hicks disagreed with the administration's reluctance, in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, to call the attack terrorism. He also said he was punished by his superiors for talking to a congressman visiting Libya after the attack when he was told not to.
In a separate video, the RNC came out with a new fundraising video Wednesday entitled "Demand Transparency," painting President Obama as a hypocrite who once promised to reverse the secrecy of Washington and now invades Americans' privacy, targets political opponents and misleads the public. The video points to the Justice Department's secret seizure of phone records by Associated Press journalists, the revelation that the IRS heavily scrutinized conservative groups and, of course, Benghazi, claiming the administration "downplayed terrorist involvement" in the attack.
Here are the three ads focused on Benghazi and Clinton:
Republican National Committee
American Future Fund