Is Tom Donilon the key to Benghazigate?
Tom Donilon, President Obama’s National Security Advisor, is likely to be sitting on a hot seat very soon, as the Benghazi investigation moves forward. Ben Rhodes and Tommy Vietor have a boss, and it is Donilon. Two experienced White House hands, both fiercely intelligent and honest, have explained why. Writing in The American Spectator, Jeffrey Lord, a veteran of the Reagan administration, cites Pat Caddell, a veteran of the Carter Administration, in outlining who Donilon is and why he is likely to be a key figure.
The whole article should be read, but here is Lord on who Donilon is:
According to Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner (Morgenson a New York Timesreporter) in their bestselling book on the 2008 financial crisis, Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon, Donilon was a key player at Fannie Mae. The government agency at the center of the crisis. Donilon, note Morgenson and Rosner, was, in his role as “Fannie’s longtime head of government affairs and a key political operative,” a key part in the “cast of characters that helped create the mess” and continued, in the Obama-era, “to hold high positions or are holding jobs of even greater power.” When Donilon was announced as President Obama’s NSC aide, Morgenson and Rosner note, his connection to Fannie Mae was unmentioned. Nor was his tendency, as reported by Morgenson and Rosner, to “regularly telephone” the executive director of a “coalition set up to monitor Fannie…” and say, “you are killing the value of my stock options.” Donilon, say the two journalists, “was not joking.”
So with all of this going for him — and against him — Donilon had a problem. He was a valuable Democratic insider — but the Fannie Mae business made him “toxic.” The latter term comes from none other than Bob Woodward in yet another of his inside Washington blockbusters, this one Obama’s War.But if Donilon was “toxic” in terms of a Senate confirmation, he still had friends. Incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel made it clear: Donilon was to be in the White House. And so it came to be: one of the most political players in Washington would be the Deputy Obama NSC advisor. Writes Woodward, General Jim Jones, the Obama pick for the top spot at the NSC, “could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from Obama’s political and transition teams.” Later, too late, Woodward adds that Jones realized the Obama White House was in fact a political “clique” — and that Emanuel’s tight relationship with Donilon would not be extended to the man who in fact was Donilon’s boss — General Jones.
And who was on that Obama “political and transition” team? That almost certainly would have included a young Obama speechwriter named… Ben Rhodes. The very writer of the now celebrated Benghazi e-mail that has launched the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
Why Donilon matters so much on Benghazi:
No one who has worked for a president and emerged reputation intact is naïve enough to believe that young staffers like Ben Rhodes and Tommy “The Dude” Vietor just woke up one fine morning and decided to do whatever they did in the memo writing department out of the blue. These guys would instruct a UN Ambassador on Benghazi? Or for that matter on anything else? Dudes! Somebody is hallucinating!
Rhodes and Vietor had a boss. A senior. Somebody who was perceived inside the White House as a political heavyweight. Precisely the kind of person who could talk directly with the president — or say he did and make it up as he went along. (snip)
Pat Caddell’s well-experienced and savvy point is that the next domino in the Obama White House Benghazi scandal is Tom Donilon. Caddell makes his case for a reason. And yes, while the two may have crossed swords in the Biden days, Caddell is surely not putting himself out there on something like this without a serious understanding of Donilon. Donilon is a man Bob Woodward describes as a “political junkie,” a “detail man and extremely close to Vice President Biden.” Donilon’s relationship with Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel “went back decades.” A man who served as chief of staff to Clinton Secretary of State Warren Christopher and wanted to be Obama’s deputy secretary of state — but was too “toxic” because of his time at Fannie Mae to get the job.
So he was brought inside the White House to be Number 2 at the NSC, and finally Number 1 — the national security advisor to the President. The job Donilon held the night of September 12, 2012 — the night of Benghazi. A job he secured when his friend of decades, Rahm Emanuel, was still the White House chief of staff before Emanuel’s own departure to run for Mayor of Chicago. When a foreign policy failure of disastrous proportions — resulting in the killing an American Ambassador and three others — blew up in the stretch of a highly competitive presidential campaign — who ya gonna call if you’re in the Obama White House and the Hillary Clinton State Department? The combination of events — a foreign policy disaster in the middle of a presidential campaign — were precisely the two areas in which Donilon had expertise and sway.
So Donilon can expect to be deposed, his complete communications record subpoenaed, and his role revealed. The real question Obama must be wondering is: is he a stand-up guy? Joe Biden may be wondering the same thing, too, perhaps with slightly different hopes.