Just how many misstatements did the administration make on Osama bin Laden's assassination?
The official White House account of Osama bin Laden's demise has seen more slapdash cosmetic surgery over the past week than your average "Real Housewives" reality-show star. President Obama's allies attribute the bungled "narrative" (their word, not mine) to the "Fog of War." But each passing day — and each new set of hapless revisions — shows that what really ails the administration is the Fog of Fog.
Errors happen. Miscommunications happen. Confusing the name of which of bin Laden's myriad sons died (Hamza, not Khalid), for example, is no biggie.
But the hourly revamping of key details of Sunday's raid suggests something far beyond the usual realm of situational uncertainty that accompanies any military operation. The Navy SEALs did their job spectacularly. The civilians tasked with letting the world know about the mission, however, have performed like amateur dinner theater actors in a tragi-comic production of "Rashomon-meets-The Blind Men and the Elephant-meets-Keystone Kops."
Incapable of straightforward answers, Team Obama's clarity-challenged civilians have led nauseated news-watchers through more twists and turns than San Francisco's Lombard Street.
Take your Dramamine, and let's review.
Take One: Bin Laden died in a bloody firefight.
On Sunday night, Obama dramatically told the world that "after a firefight," our brave men in uniform "killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body."
Embellishing the story the next morning, White House deputy national security adviser John Brennan said at his briefing that bin Laden "was engaged in a firefight with those that entered the area of the house he was in. ... And whether or not he got off any rounds, I quite frankly don't know. ... It was a firefight. He, therefore, was killed in that firefight."
Take Two: Bin Laden did not engage in a firefight.
The day after Brennan disclosed such vivid details, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney walked them back Michael Jackson-style. Bin Laden, he said in version 2.0, "was not armed." Brennan had clearly implied that bin Laden "resisted" with arms. Carney amended the narrative by insisting that "resistance does not require a firearm." How exactly bin Laden resisted, Carney would not say.
It's been all downhill, uphill, K-turns and 180s ever since. Fasten your seatbelts:
Take Three: Bin Laden's wife died after her feckless husband used her as a human shield.
Take Four: Bin Laden's wife did not die, wasn't used as a human shield and was only shot in the leg. Someone else's wife was killed, somewhere else in the house.
Take Five: A transport helicopter experienced "mechanical failure" and was forced to make a hard landing during the mission.
Take Six: A top-secret helicopter clipped the bin Laden compound wall, crashed and was purposely exploded after the mission to prevent our enemies from learning more about it.
Take Seven: The bin Laden photos would be released to the world as proof positive of his death.
Take Eight: The bin Laden photos would not be released to the world because no one needs proof and it's more important to avoid offending peaceful Muslims who supposedly don't embrace bin Laden as a "true" Muslim in the first place.
Take Nine: Bin Laden's compound was a lavish mansion.
Take Ten: Bin Laden's compound was a glorified pigsty.
Take Eleven: Bin Laden's compound had absolutely no television, phone or computer access.
Take Twelve: Bin Laden's compound was stocked with hard drives, thumb drives, DVDs and computers galore.
Take Thirteen: Er, remember that statement about bin Laden being armed? And then not armed? Well, the new version is that he had an AK-47 "nearby."
Take Fourteen: A gung-ho Obama spearheaded the "gutsy" mission.
Take Fifteen: A reluctant Obama dithered for 16 hours before being persuaded by CIA Director Leon Panetta.
Take Sixteen: Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and close advisers watched the raid unfold in real time — "minute by minute," according to Carney — and a gripping insider photo was posted immediately by the White House on the Flickr picture-sharing website for all to see.
Take Seventeen: Er, they weren't really watching real-time video "minute by minute" because there was at least nearly a half-hour that they "didn't know just exactly what was going on," Panetta clarified. Or rather, un-clarified.
Take Eighteen: Stalwart Obama's order was to kill, not capture, bin Laden.
Take Nineteen: Sensitive Obama's order was to kill or capture — and that's why the SEAL team gave him a chance to surrender, upon which he resisted with arms, or actually didn't resist with arms, but sort of resisted without arms, except there was an AK-47 nearby, sort of, or maybe not, thus making it possible to assert that while Decisive Obama did tell the SEALs to kill bin Laden and should claim all credit for doing so, Progressive Obama can also be absolved by bleeding hearts because of the painstakingly concocted post facto possibility that bin Laden somehow threatened our military — telepathically or something — before being taken out.
Take Twenty: "We've been as forthcoming with facts as we can be," said an irritated Carney on Wednesday.
And they wonder why Americans of all political stripes think they're blowing smoke.