Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The GOP's Benghazi Witch Hunt: A Solution in Search of a Problem

The Republican feeding frenzy masquerading as an investigation into the Benghazi, Libya terror attack is nothing more than a shameless witch hunt manufactured to derail Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Prominent right-wingers are rapaciously devouring this alleged scandal in the hope that it not only tarnishes President Obama's counter-terrorism record but keeps his former Secretary of State out of the Oval Office in four years. The cries of "cover-up" is partisan politics at its worst.

"I think this is, Sean, one of the worst cover-ups, probably in the history of the republic," said Liz Cheney to Fox's Sean Hannity. Let's not ignore the irony in that it is Cheney's father, former vice president Dick Cheney, who prosecuted one of the most ill-conceived, ill-advised, unjust wars in American history. "We are not talking about a policy that went awry here, we are talking about an ambassador and three other Americans who were killed. We are talking about a nation under attack."   

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote an op-ed in The Washington Times last Friday that said Clinton should “never hold high office again.”
Karl Rove's American Crossroads has an incendiary television spot charging that the attack occurred "on Hillary Clinton's Watch." 

The over-the-top rhetoric is targeted to Obama as well, with Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) suggesting that the president could be impeached over what he alleged was the “greatest cover-up in American history. People may be starting to use the I-word before too long. Of all the great cover-ups in history — the Pentagon papers, Iran-Contra, Watergate, all the rest of them — this ... is going to go down as most egregious cover-up in American history.” 

And former GOP presidential candidate and talk-show host Mike Huckabee said last week that Obama "will not fill out his full term."

The truth is, the average American likely knows more about Ben Affleck than it does Benghazi. And three years is an awful lot of time in politics. House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who's heading the probe into the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy, is delusional if he thinks voters will ultimately hold Clinton personally liable for the death of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. For this narrative to play out, and given the tightness of recent elections, it would require a critical amount of Democrats, not just Fox-friendly conservatives, to move the needle from her. Not very likely.   

Leading the charge with Issa is Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who's accused Clinton of putting politics before the nation's security needs...saying the country was "misled at every step." Putting politics before security is something Chaffetz knows a lot about. If he really wants to talk about what is misleading, he can start with the fact that it was he and his fellow House Republicans who've critically cut funding for U.S. embassy security since 2010.
As the Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote last fall: "For fiscal 2013, the GOP-controlled House proposed spending $1.934 billion for the State Department's Worldwide Security Protection program -- well below the $2.15 billion requested by the Obama administration. House Republicans cut the administration's request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012. ...Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans' proposed cuts to her department would be "detrimental to America's national security" -- a charge Republicans rejected."

When pressed by former CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien about whether he pushed for these cuts Chaffetz replied: "Absolutely. Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have…15,000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, a private army there, for President Obama, in Baghdad. And we’re talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces. When you’re in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices. You have to prioritize things.”

Which makes Chaffetz's role in the current "investigation" mind-numbingly hypocritical and contemptible. It's an insult to the intelligence of every American and an unconscionable abuse of the political process. 

Not political theater you say? From 2002-2008, when George W. Bush occupied the White House, there were at least ten other terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies, consulates and compounds abroad in which sixty Americans were killed. I don't recall the righteous indignation and outrage from Republicans then.

Most reprehensible is how conservatives since last September have relentlessly attacked Obama during this time of national crisis. This runs counter to how the entire nation, including Democrats, rallied around Bush after the 9-11 attacks. Republicans used Benghazi before the last election for political purposes and are now setting the stage for the next one.

If only the GOP would've conducted such an aggressive investigation into the Bush administration's manufacturing of WMD evidence to justify its craven rush to war in Iraq. If they had, perhaps Bush, Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the war's chief architects, would be in jail. Some perspective is important here: a terrible tragedy, for sure, but four people died in Benghazi. In the Iraq war 4500 American soldiers died, not to mention the tens of thousands of others, including Iraqis, killed or maimed. Yet Washington never witnessed such outrage and a quest for the truth from Republicans, whose disingenuous motives on Benghazi are now utterly transparent.

There's no question that Obama believed the Benghazi attack was the work of terrorists. In a Rose Garden speech the day after the violence, alongside Clinton, he very pointedly referred to it as "an act of terror."  (For the record, during a visit to Washington Hospital Center on September 13, 2001, just two days after the World Trade Center attacks, Bush described the incident as an "unbelievable act of terror."). 

And in her now infamous, State Department career-ending interview on Meet the Press September 16, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice stated it was the administration's early belief that the Benghazi attack was a "spontaneous reaction" and the the result of a "hateful and offensive video that was widely disseminated throughout the Arab and Muslim world." 
But when pressed further by host David Gregory, she added: "First of all, there’s an FBI investigation which is ongoing.  And we look to that investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired...What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding.  They came with heavy weapons which unfortunately are readily available in post revolutionary Libya.  And it escalated into a much more violent episode.  Obviously, that’s-- that’s our best judgment now.  We’ll await the results of the investigation."

Excuse my righteous indignation, but what the fuck is wrong with waiting a couple of weeks for an investigation to more fully flush out the details before a rush to judgement? Especially after the country was  lied into a devastatingly costly 8-year war by Republicans who were so quick to judge and place blame (wrongly, I might add), even in the absence of evidence? Between Obama, Rice, the State Department, the CIA, the FBI and others, no one was denying the role that terrorists played in the Benghazi attack. Rather, the Obama team responsibly chose to reserve drawing conclusions as to the specific who, what, where, when and how of it all until the facts could be determined.   

On September 19, three days after Rice's Sunday morning television appearances, Obama dispatched the head of the National Counterterrorism Center, Matt Olsen, "up to Capitol Hill and specifically said it was an act of terrorism and that extremist elements inside of Libya had been involved in it....Who executes some sort of cover-up or effort to tamp things down for three days? So the whole thing defies logic.” 

Exactly. It defies logic. But what it doesn't defy is reality....which is that Republicans remain angry and frustrated after two bruising elections and a loss of power, and are rabid in their quest to undermine and take down this president and Hillary Clinton at any and all cost, regardless of the toll it takes on America.

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