The right eloquence needs no bell to call the people together and no constable to keep them. ~ Emerson

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Benghazi There, Done That



Nonetheless Republicans Are Not Finished

At least five groups have now investigated the attacks against two U.S. compounds in Benghazi Libya, during which Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.  One was a Special Commission, appointed by the Secretary of State and the Director for National Intelligence.  The other four were separate House committees.  All agreed the Obama Administration, particularly the State Department, as well as the U.S. military and intelligence services did a poor job identifying, preparing for, and responding to an obviously dangerous situation.

President Obama, former Secretary of State Clinton, former Secretary of Defense Panetta, the Pentagon, and various intelligence chiefs have chosen to accept the findings and responsibility.  As a result, many Congressional Democrats are calling for an end to the matter.
Charles Krauthammer (left) fears the
long Benghazi nightmare is over.
Rep. Darrell Issa (right) believes the
dream will never die.

Republicans are only getting started, however.  Over one hundred and ninety Republican House members have called for the formation of a new Select Committee.  Speaker of the House John Boehner has so far resisted their demands but contends the probes are far from over.  For their part, Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire are loudly pushing for a Joint Select Committee.

Republican ire persists because conservatives view Benghazi as not only a tragedy but a scandal and cover-up as well.  At a minimum, they insist the Obama Administration knowingly misrepresented the attacks as the result of spontaneous demonstrations rather than terrorism, in order to make Obama look more effective against terrorists during the 2012 Presidential campaign.  However, an extensive investigative report by the New York Times earlier this year confirmed a video as cause of demonstrations.

Worse, Republicans contend both Obama and Clinton purposefully removed protection for the compounds before the attacks and refused help during the attacks for the same reason.  They point to Clinton’s infamous response, “What difference does it make?” before a Senate hearing in January 2013 as proof of the Administration’s apathy over lives lost.

The problem with these accusations, as countless supporters have pointed out, is Clinton was not indifferent to the loss of life or even why it occurred.  Rather, she was annoyed and frustrated with Republican obsession over why the Obama Administration did not seem to know the reason immediately after the attacks occurred.

This is symptomatic of a larger problem for Republicans on Benghazi.  How you choose to view the known facts determines whether you see what unfolded there as misfortune or conspiratorial criminality.  And those facts simply do not contain the smoking gun evidence Republicans insist must be there to convince all beyond a reasonable doubt of the Obama Administration’s culpability.

No one in Congress has been more strident in attempting to “get to the truth” about Benghazi than Republican Representative Darrell Issa of California.  As Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Issa has made a career of investigating alleged Obama scandals, including “Fast and Furious” and IRS audits, in addition to Benghazi.  Unfortunately for the GOP, no one in Congress has been caught lying more by fact check organizations on the matter.

Issa received four Pinocchios from the Washington Post last April for accusing Clinton of personally authorizing security reductions in Libya.  The Post awarded him another four Pinocchios this year when he blamed an order from Clinton to “stand down” during the military response to Benghazi.  Finding V of the House Armed Services Committee’s report on Benghazi had already explicitly stated, “There was no ‘stand down’ order issued to U.S. military personnel in Tripoli who sought to join the fight in Benghazi.”  This confirmed findings in the Special Commission’s report.  “The Board members believe every possible effort was made to rescue and recover Ambassador Stevens and [others] . . . but there simply was not enough time for Armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference.”

All this is causing some leading conservative voices to throw in the towel on Benghazi.  Last week, Republican House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon of California went on record that he was satisfied with U.S. military response to the attack.  “I think I’ve pretty well been satisfied that given where the troops were, how quickly the thing all happened and how quickly it dissipated, we probably couldn’t have done more than we did.”  The reason for McKeon’s willingness to defy Republican orthodoxy on Benghazi may be due to his pending retirement.

Conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer also said he believes it is time for Republicans to give up on Benghazi while appearing on Fox News.  “Politically speaking the Administration has won,” Krauthammer said.  “They ran out the clock . . . I’m as outraged as everybody about this.  I just think that as a political issue the country is now tired of it.”  Krauthammer suggests Republican investigators blew it due to inadequate preparations and insufficiently aggressive questioning.  He seems to suggest Republican ineptitude allowed Democrats to get away with (criminal) ineptitude.  This is not a very pretty outcome but Krauthammer apparently believes it spins better than conceding there was never anything to find in the first place.