When President Obama challenged U.S. senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham at last week's press conference to pick a fight with him instead of going after U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice over the Benghazi terrorist attack, it added more fuel to this boiling cauldron.

Bottom line is, Americans deserve to know the truth on who did what in this administration.

Criticism of secretary Rice, who has been mentioned as a possible nomination as the next Secretary of State, was based on statements she gave about Benghazi on news shows five days after the attack.

In each of those Sunday appearances, Rice delivered a yarn concocted by someone high in the ranks of this administration that the attack resulted from a spontaneous mob action created by anti-Muslim YouTube video.

Fox News was the one major news outlets to show journalistic initiative and not fall for that lie.

One important piece of information the president did confirm in last week's news conference, which was his first in eight months, was that the White House had given Rice her talking points for the Sunday news shows.

Then on Friday, former CIA chief David Petraeus, testifying behind closed-doors before the congressional intelligence committees, reportedly said that his department regarded Benghazi as a terrorist attack. But Petraeus added that this reference was removed by other federal agencies that made changes to the CIA's draft.

This action smells of an attempt in high government to deceive the American people just before a presidential election.

Last week's revelations lead us to several huge questions, including who it was that fabricated the phony story about the YouTube video and who sent Rice out on the Sunday news show circuit to peddle the lie to the American people.

Sen. McCain is among a growing group of congressmen who put the blame squarely with this administration, pointing to Obama's policy of diplomatic "disengagement" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He feels the Muslim extremists in the volatile Middle East now see America as weak, and that they executed "an act of terror" in Benghazi to probe that weakness.

Which ever direction this administration moves, it seems to dig itself a deeper hole, reminiscent of the lies perpetrated by the Nixon administration in the Watergate scandal 40 years ago. If it is found that this president, who portrayed himself as such a strong leader when U.S. special forces took out Osama bin Laden, ignored intelligence and failed to call in reinforcements when American lives were in danger at the U.S. consulate, then he must answer for it.

The idea that the leader of the free world being so far detached from his top advisers in the CIA and state department and being oblivious to attacks against a U.S. facility occurring in real time is unfathomable. Either the president was totally out of touch with reality or he used flawed judgment in failing to protect American lives that were in danger. Whichever is true, the result is that four Americans died.

The Benghazi debacle begs for answers and it may take a special commission, such as what was we saw with Watergate, to answer the key questions on why the administration stonewalled and tried so hard to keep it from the public on the eve of a presidential election.

At last week's news conference, the president angrily warned his opponents about picking on Ambassador Rice. We wish he would have showed the same kind of anger and emotion in talking about those terrorists who carried out the Libyan attacks and murdered four Americans.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com