Sunday, November 25, 2012

Benghazi: No Magic Bullet

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You know, there are a lot of legitimate concerns that could be raised about what happened on Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya, when our popular ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans were killed by a group that attacked and sacked the U.S. consulate there.
Was it a mistake to have so much of the consulate's security provided by local forces and a nearby group of CIA employees, rather than, say, the U.S. Marines? Should we have had a military response force located close enough to get there more quickly?
Republicans, however, seem to be determined to ignore these very real questions. This may be because "since gaining the majority in 2011, House Republicans have voted to reduce embassy security funding by approximately half a billion dollars below the amounts requested by the Obama administration."
That language comes from a report issued by the very committee investigating the attacks and the U.S. response to them. "You have to prioritize things," shrugged Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, one of the lawmakers who voted to cut funds for embassy security - and who's now helping to lead the committee.
Well, that's true, and it's become crystal clear what the Republican priorities are: not getting at the truth, but desperately trying to find their "magic bullet," the scandal that will bring down the man they love to hate.
All of their previous attempts - Fast and Furious, Solyndra, the DOJ's settlement of a Bush-era civil action against the New Black Panther Party - none of these have managed to gain any traction. But this! This, they thought, was going to be the one.
Mitt Romney got the ball rolling. Before the bodies were cold, he was releasing critical statements in the mendacious and fact-free style that characterized the entire campaign. He accused Obama of expressing "sympathy" for the attackers and for responding to the attacks by "apologizing for our values." The fact that the president had done no such thing didn't matter to Lord Romney, whose disdain for the President was only exceeded by his disdain for the truth.
In the days leading up to the election, Benghazi became the right-wing obsession. Mention anything, anything at all, and they'd start yelling at the top of their lungs that "Obama lied about Benghazi."
"Obama is leading in the swing states ..."
"The heads of the car companies say Romney's lying about moving auto jobs to China ..."
"Would you like another piece of toast?"
And so on.
But as hearings ramped up and people who actually knew things began to speak, it became more and more obvious that there really was no scandal there. No one, as the conspiracy theorists claimed at first, had told U.S. forces to "stand down" rather than help the beleaguered ambassador. President Obama had immediately referred to the attacks as an act of terror, despite Romney's brazen attempt to lie about it at the second debate.
Then things just got silly. Sen. John McCain skipped a closed-door briefing about Benghazi to hold a press conference demanding more information about Benghazi. He threatened to hold up a hypothetical nomination for U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, because, he said, Rice "lied" about the motives behind the attack.
As it turns out, however, the "lies" Ambassador Rice were supposedly telling were actually information given to her by the CIA and vetted by "seven, eight, nine different agencies" before being approved in final form, again by the CIA. At least that's what Rep. Peter King described as the testimony from scandal-plagued former CIA director Gen. David Petraeus.
This led to some rumblings that Petraeus' recent sex scandal arose out of some attempt by the administration to blackmail him. That line of attack went nowhere, probably because it made no sense. Then there was a claim that the White House had changed the ambassador's "talking points" to take out references to al-Qaida and make themselves look better.
This was immediately shot down by the office of the director of national intelligence in an interview with CNN, leaving poor Honorable John nothing left to gripe about but the fact that he had to see his hoped-for scandal shot to pieces on CNN.
As this scandal-that-isn't fades away, to become just another one of the Zombie Lies the right trots out again and again no matter how many times it's debunked, what's next?
Will President Obama be blamed for the death of the Twinkie? Will some small detail of the White House Christmas tree lead to outraged calls for his impeachment?
Stay tuned.