This nation has a long list of serious problems that it must deal with following the election of a new Congress. The last thing it needs is a protracted political fight over who knew what when surrounding the murders of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three U.S. government employees in Benghazi, Libya.
Some critics of the Obama administration, including Republicans in Congress, are determined to inflate the Benghazi attack into a full-blown scandal. President Barack Obama's administration seems determined to follow the standard script for Washington by sticking to the original story line, apparently in the hope it eventually will go away.
But this story is not going away.
So the first thing that should happen is the administration should lay out the events in detail and let the chips fall where they may. If someone along the line shaded or changed the facts, as they were known, to protect the administration, let that be known. If that means someone has to take the fall, so be it.
Members of Congress in both parties are asking questions about why the administration's public statements about the origins of the attack contradicted early intelligence information that it was planned by terrorist groups, with the aid of al-Qaida, and timed for the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Contrary to that intelligence information, administration officials initially said the attack was an outgrowth of spontaneous demonstrations in the Middle East spawned by an anti-Muslim video. The theory is that evidence of a premeditated terrorist attack would have undermined the administration's assertion that it had crippled al-Qaida by taking out Osama bin Laden and other leaders of the terrorist organization behind the 9/11 attacks.
It's a serious charge. Ginning up intelligence information to explain foreign policy is wrong, whether it's to protect a president seeking re-election or whether it's used by an earlier president to justify going to war.
If that's what happened, the public should have all the facts. The sooner relevant information is put out, the better. Rather than hunkering down, the Obama administration should make all key State Department and CIA officials available to Congress with instructions to answer every question and turn over every document.
This could be embarrassing. It could force some officials to say they were wrong. It may cause problems for United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice's chances at winning a nomination as secretary of state. But that is far better than the alternative.
As President Richard Nixon discovered during Watergate, a "two-bit burglary" resulted in the downfall of a president as a result of an elaborate effort to conceal of the facts. That is the lesson the Obama administration should keep in mind as it lays out the complete story of the Benghazi attack.
The nation needs to get this controversy behind us so we can focus on the pressing matter of the federal government's financial problems.