Republicans chasing their own tails on Benghazi
At this writing, a U.S. House committee hearing on the Benghazi tragedy has yet to live up to the breathless hype with which it was promoted in advance by Republicans.
Joe Klein’s PERSPECTIVE on the matter seems as valid as any:
The Republicans, apparently with nothing better to do, are still chasing their tails over the tragic events in Benghazi on September 11.
Actually, no. That’s not true. They’re chasing their tails over what happened after the tragic events of September 11. They’re mostly concerned that the Obama Administration tried to cover up the fact that this was a terrorist attack by a local militia (translation: local street gang) which aspired toward bad-butt Al Qaeda status. This is a pretty hard sell since, the day after the attack, the President called it an “act of terror.”
It does seem that the Administration’s talking points were massaged a bit after the President’s candor. This may have been attributable to the presidential campaign and the Administration’s desire to low-ball the Al Qaeda threat. If so, this was a venial, not a mortal, sin. It affected not one life. More likely, though, the wording was scrubbed as a result of the nature of the investigation going on at the time–it may have been deemed premature to announce that it was a pre-meditated act of terror. Perhaps the local militia lucked into a situation where they showed up at the consulate and found very little security protection. Hard to say. There were protests all over the middle east that night, ginned up by jihadis using the excuse of a near-unseen anti-Muslim You Tube video.
But let’s say the street gang had been casing the joint in advance. Who’s to blame for the lax security? This is the real substance of the case. Could it have been the Secretary of State? Undoubtedly, no. This sort of question is well below her pay grade. Could it have been the person in charge of embassy security issues? More likely, and that person resigned after the subsequent investigations…and even that might have been unfair for two reasons. Security was up to the Ambassador and Chris Stevens was well known for erring on the side of greater public access to U.S. facilities. Or, more plausibly, reason number two…
Could it have been the Republicans who consistently voted against funds for increased embassy security? Hmmm…that makes their current carping seem awfully political, doesn’t it? Again, sins of politics are not mortal. But one does wonder why the Republicans tend to fix on issues like this, which are defined by their absence of substance. (I haven’t noticed the Republicans clamoring to spend more on embassy security–which would be a matter of substance, happily embraced by the Administration.But that would require a budget deal, which would give the President a win.)
And then there’s THIS:
The GOP’s star witness at today’s hearings is the former Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya, Gregory Hicks, who the right-wing has labeled the main Benghazi “whistle-blower.” Hicks is expected to give testimony before the panel detailing what he believes could have done above and beyond the efforts the administration expended the night of the attack, actions he claims could have saved lives…
Republicans are latching onto Hicks’ testimony about the lack of military response during the attack as evidence of the administration’s negligence in protecting diplomats overseas and a resulting cover-up to avoid scrutiny. “We were certainly misled at every step of the way,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), one of the loudest voices on Benghazi, said on Monday to a surprisingly skeptical panel on Fox News.
The military has repeatedly said, however, that there were simply no air assets close enough to Benghazi that would have arrived in time to make a difference. Hicks himself admitted during his pre-hearing testimony that the nearest fighter jets were at Aviano Air Base in southern Italy, hours away from Libya with no tanker assets available for refueling purposes.
And while Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) during the Senate’s last hearing on the military’s response to Benghazi scolded the Pentagon for not having assets available at the Souda Bay naval base in Crete, Greece, the fact remains that even the hour and a half from the island to Benghazi would have been too late to save Ambassador J. Christopher Stephens and communications specialist Sean Smith. Both died during the first wave of the attack, less than an hour after the Pentagon was first notified.
Likewise, despite what Fox News reports have said, U.S. forces based in Europe as part of U.S. Africa Command would not have arrived until after the second wave of attacks, which took place at the CIA annex in Benghazi hours after the first, had finished.