Yet the administration adopted and perpetuated that explanation.
We now know from ABC News and The Weekly Standard, that the State Department extensively edited the talking points from the CIA to take out any references to the al- Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia.
When "the-video-caused-it" explanation crumbled, the administration blamed the CIA. When questioned during the vice presidential debate, Joe Biden said the administration attributed Stevens' death to the video because "that was exactly what we were told by the intelligence community."
As Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post, "In some cases, the fog of war is initially thick, then it dissipates . . . (in the Benghazi attacks) the fog was a later addition."
But why? Was the administration worried that a resumption of terrorism would damage President Obama's chances of being re-elected in two months? Gerson suggests it was "an effort to obscure negligence and incompetence, not criminality."
One of the great mistakes people in power often make is that they become too clever by half; they allow perceptions of their own importance to beguile them into thinking the truth can be managed.
Now Americans must sort out the controversy, and that task is made even harder by the hyper-partisan atmosphere in Washington that is fanned by talk shows and cable channels.
Deception, obfuscation and ineptitude undermine the institution of government and breed mistrust. The truth in the beginning would have been simpler for all.
Americans can handle it, and they deserve it.
Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.