How Benghazi will test Republicans

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testify at at a Senate hearing on Benghazi in February 2013. Photo: Office of the Secretary of Defense, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testify at at a Senate hearing on Benghazi in February 2013. Photo: Office of the Secretary of Defense, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Let me outline what we know so far about the attacks on US embassy staff last September that led to the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

First, it’s a big deal. There are strong indications — and the US State Department’s own internal review concludes as much — that security for US personnel in Libya was lax and requests for additional protection were bungled.

“Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department (the “Department”)resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place,” that report concluded.

We also know conclusively that in the hours and days after the attack, the Obama administration worked aggressively to contain political fall-out from the attack, which occurred in the final months of the 2012 presidential campaign.

A former State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, sent an email arguing for changes to official talking points, arguing that the original language would “be abused by members of Congress to beat the State Department for not paying attention to agency warnings so why would we want to seed the Hill.”

It also appears that probes of the Benghazi attacks carried out so far left some significant questions unanswered. There is a strong and reasonable argument to be made for further investigation, despite protestations from some on the left.

We absolutely need to know who was responsible for that lax security and, if the military response following the attacks was less robust and aggressive than it might have been, why that happened.

At the same time, we very much need congressional leaders — who are serving a vital oversight role — to place enormous daylight between themselves and the crazy anti-Obama fringe that exists on the right. So far that hasn’t occurred.

Senior Republican officials and lawmakers have compared what happened in the days following Benghazi to Watergate and to the Iran-Contra Scandal, and suggested that it might be grounds for impeachment of Barack Obama.

They’ve begun fundraising on the issue, launched political advertisements and dialed Fox News’ 24/7 agitprop machine up to 11.

This isn’t just AM talk radio nonsense.

It’s a dangerous distraction from Congress’s constitutional duty to provide a check on and a degree of transparency into the workings of the executive branch.

It may well be that the Obama administration deserves some significant level of condemnation for what happened in Libya. But if this devolves into another Whitewater-style-stained-blue-dress political witch hunt, it will be disastrous.

Fortunately, there are indications that House Speaker John Boehner is taking a personal leadership role in this matter. That’s a good thing.

He should make it clear that this isn’t a fundraising opportunity, or a chance to give Mr. Obama a black eye. It’s not an opening to establish solidarity with far-right tea-partiers, as Politico suggested.

It’s certainly not a way to distract the public’s attention from the GOP’s own struggles and shortcomings.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party entered this moment in history with a major credibility problem. There have been too many crazy conspiracy theories and end-times exaggerations.

Conservatives have shouted fire in our national movie theater so many times since Mr. Obama came to office — and been factually wrong so many times — that they have a serious task ahead establishing their own gravitas.

If the nation hopes to reach any kind of meaningful outcome, the rhetoric needs to be dialed down and a great deal more objective, factual evidence is needed.

Republicans like to claim that where foreign policy is concerned, they’re the grownups in the room. This is an opportunity for them to prove it by providing a clear-eyed, sober assessment of what happened and why.

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86 Comments on “How Benghazi will test Republicans”

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  1. newt says:

    NPR did cover the passage and Obama’s signing of the Insider Trading Sellout Act. Sorry, NPR. But I can find no other Mainstream Media source that did.

  2. JDM says:

    Even if you want to argue that a subordinate did issue that order, if Obama was honest about his intent, he would ream them out publicly and fire the scum.

    But, he did not.

    No, Obama was in agreement with that order.

    His actions confirm that.

    So does Hillary’s.

    That makes them more than liars. They are accomplices.

  3. Paul says:

    Peter, thanks for the news.

    Not to worry the president did not know anything about the IRS thing he learned it “from the news” according to him. Not to worry the president did not know anything about the justice departments “wire” tapping of AP reporters, according to his press secretary he learned about that “from the news”. I don’t doubt that he didn’t know anything.

    This the same president that has done this according to ABC:

    “The Justice Department has brought more prosecutions against current or former government officials for providing classified information to the media than every previous administration combined and has convicted six government officials for leaking information.”

    So they have a tight ship which is good (“loose lips sink ships”). Yet their main source of internal information appears to be Google?

    In these days of organizational management software it is pretty easy to know what is going on. The administration should have the best system and administrators in the world. You would hope that you would be briefed about issues like this given the negative fallout. Heads should roll so the president doesn’t have to keep dealing with incompetent underlings that are at best just a big embarrassment.

  4. JDM says:

    Me thinks this will get worse for the Obama administration before it gets any better.

  5. Walker says:

    Regarding the evil deeds of the IRS, consider this: The Tea Party groups were seeking approval to operate under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. This would require them to be “social welfare,” not political, operations. Does your typical Tea Party group strike anyone here as an apolitical social welfare-type organization?

    More at The New Yorker: The Real IRS Scandal.

  6. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Paul to me: “The IRS and the AP thing are an opportunity for us all to be outraged. Doesn’t sound like you really are.”

    Actually, Paul, I am fairly certain that my phone was tapped beginning at least as early as July of 2002, with some reason – not just because I got a moonbat idea that the gummint was after me. I called the FBI about about it and the FBI agent in Albany told me that if my phone was tapped, by law there would have had to have been a warrant issued, and presumably, because a warrant was issued I was a justifiable threat to the nation that needed some skulkifying. Later I found out, along with everyone else, that there were lots of people who had their phones tapped without a warrant. Who knows, they may have looked into what books I took out at the library and maybe they infiltrated some organizations I belong to.

    So in answer to your statement, no, I am not really outraged. I can only maintain outrage for just so long on any particular topic and at somewhere around a decade I time-out.

  7. mervel says:

    I just downloaded a Koran and deleted it, am I now under investigation?

  8. mervel says:

    You can really see the weakness of the Left in particular but many parts of the conservatives as well when it comes to really sacrificing and standing up for what makes America truly unique and that is our freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom from control, when it matters when it is uncomfortable and when it is dangerous.

  9. mervel says:

    The war on terror is so dangerous and so undermining of our basic basic principles that it makes us realize how different we are even from our allies.

    We can say Muslims suck and it is fine we can say Christians suck and it is fine, we can burn a Koran we can burn a bible or a flag and it is fine and protected (until now) we can make a video that shows Mohammad as a false prophet and a pedophile, we can make art that covers Jesus in urine, any sort of sick thing in the world is protected speech for good reason. But now maybe not, now if we make a video or a movie or burn something, we might get investigated we might get arrested or we might get stabbed like the Danish film maker.

    We have to stand up for what makes us unique and this country great.

  10. Marlo Stanfield says:

    Why should political groups get tax exemptions that are supposed to be for charitable and religious organizations? I think it’s obvious that a group with “tea party” in its name is less likely to be a true social welfare organization than one with, say, “food pantry” in its name. Maybe it makes sense for the IRS to look at tax-exemption applications from the former a bit more closely.

    I’m not necessarily saying the IRS acted right or that Obama shouldn’t be scrutinized over this. I know all kinds of political groups get non-profit exemption, and as messed up as the laws may be, they should be enforced equally. But does anyone think it makes sense that most of us are probably paying 40 percent or more of our income in taxes while groups like Crossroads GPS, which can afford multi-million dollar ad buys, aren’t paying anything?

  11. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Yes, Mervel, being jerks is what made us great!

  12. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    And you’re correct about the Left, they NEVER stand up for the basic freedoms that make us unique and great, especially if it comes to defending unpopular issues. Why just look at the ACLU, always caving to peer pressure.

  13. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    From a story in today’s PS:

    “The IRS is the largest, most feared terrorist organization in the Western Hemisphere,” Schulz said Tuesday.

    Now, I know Bob Schulz. I’ve been involved in some issues with Bob in the past. He’s a nice guy and I like him personally, but he is also whacko on some issues, as the quote illustrates.

    Let’s get real about this. TEA party groups were attempting to game the system largely through the use of money from secret donors and the legal expertise provided through a network funded by those same types of donors. They wanted to swamp the political system so that it couldn’t function fairly because their numbers were too small to prevail in the longe term at the polls. If the IRS didn’t investigate groups that wanted tax exempt status those same Taxed Enough Already people would be angry that some groups were gaming the system. The IRS claims that they didn’t have enough staff to check the huge increase in 501c4 groups. Now we have TEA party types saying the IRS should have hired more staff to get the job done!!!!!

    Give me a break.

  14. JDM says:

    Walker: “Does your typical Tea Party group strike anyone here as an apolitical social welfare-type organization?”

    Totally misses the point.

    Whether any group, ACORN, or Isalmabad-Brotherhood, or anyone misfiles an application, we want that to be properly assessed.

    The fact that “Tea Party” and conservative groups were targeted by word searches above all others, that is political.

    That is abuse of power.

    That is Obama thug tactics.

    That is tyranny.

    That is wrong.

  15. Paul says:

    Knuck, that is fine. But the point is that you should then give any group the same scrutiny. It isn’t that complicated. I am surprised you like this idea of singling out certain groups?

    “TEA party groups were attempting to game the system largely through the use of money from secret donors and the legal expertise provided through a network funded by those same types of donors. ”

    Same as some liberal groups who were apparently not singled out.

  16. Two Cents says:

    all a side show to avoid the ever increasing list of things to do….
    note to Government : shut up and get back to work or your all fired.

  17. PNElba says:

    Looks like the promised land of impeachment is finally here!

  18. Mervel says:

    I used to support the ACLU Knuck for those very reasons, unfortunate that they now have become politicized toward only supporting the Left (which is fine the Left needs free speech, but so does the far Right).

    I know what you mean about being jerks, I think all of those things I mentioned are wrong morally to do, but we only know who we are based on the boundaries of what we will accept. If speech and expression is free it must really be free and yes it must be free for total jerks and even beyond jerks, Nazi’s are more than just jerks, but they have a right to express themselves in this country. I have to say that goes for Islamic extremists also, they have a right to speech and expression. Hopefully our society will not embrace that sort of jerkiness, but that is a different topic.

    Now as PNE brings up, if these guys go down the land of impeachment they will do themselves in even more, they will waste whatever political capital they have on an endless void that will in the end only hurt the conservatives. The Democrats should subtly encourage them to go for impeachment just for political reasons if nothing else.

  19. Paul says:

    “all a side show to avoid the ever increasing list of things to do….
    note to Government : shut up and get back to work or your all fired.”

    Agreed. And that should include the parts of the government here that are farting around here and are now on the hot seat.

    There is no reason for impeachment. Apparently the executive office is pretty clueless about what is going on in the rest of the administration. They get all their info from the evening news.

  20. JDM says:

    Paul: Good one!

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if President Obama learned Osama Bin Laden had been killed when he saw himself announcing it on television.”

    Obama is clearly hoping the low information voters are out there taking notes.

  21. Paul says:

    Jon is funny here but I am serious. They seem out of touch. That isn’t a good thing. I hope they are paying attention to other things.

    This press statement the president gave saying that “if these things I have heard in the news reports turns out to be true”. This was after the IRS had admitted it and apologized? Just zany!

  22. JDM says:


    I hope they pay the price for thinking they are above the law.

    This phoney baloney “I didn’t know” is for the low information voters.



    Didn’t know.

    Low information voters will eat that line up.

  23. Mervel says:

    That kind of thing is pretty scary in all reality.

    The ability to use the IRS to harass people…. people who are “enemies” wait that has been done before. If Woodard wasn’t so busy trying to get invited to White House cocktail parties he might have actually found some of this out.

  24. Mervel says:

    This IRS thing could go much much deeper, this could get really interesting. Justice on one side monitoring AP phone calls, IRS on the other going after Obama enemies, and a President that says golly gee I had no idea this was going on until I saw the news. We have heard this before from other Presidents, one resigned over it.

  25. Paul says:

    That is an interesting question. Who broke the IRS story?

    Mervel, to his credit (or not depending on your take) Bob Woodward said that the White House handling of the Benghazi thing shows the “passivity” of the president. When you look at some of these other things maybe that is accurate?

  26. The Original Larry says:

    As is usually the case with Obama, he either grossly abused his power or he was asleep at the wheel. There’s no other possibility and it astounds me that people don’t understand that. Either way, not what we want from a President.

  27. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Paul, I didn’t say anything about liking the IRS singling out particular groups. What I said some time ago was:

    “The IRS is charged with making sure all tax exempt organizations are doing legitimate tax exempt work. In a perfect world every single group would be investigated…”

    That is my position; every single group that applies for tax exempt status should have their paperwork checked to be sure they paying any taxes that are owed and allowed exemptions for those they are not required to pay.

  28. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Oh, look! Liberal groups were investigated by the IRS too!

    “One of those groups, Emerge America, saw its tax-exempt status denied, forcing it to disclose its donors and pay some taxes. None of the Republican groups have said their applications were rejected.”

  29. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Good job IRS. Thank you for collecting taxes and helping to reduce our national debt!

  30. myown says:

    I am much more concerned about the Dept of Justice going after phone records of AP employees in the name of “national security.” This is all part of a pattern started by Bush and Cheney after 9/11 where the end justifies the means. Forget about the Constitution, international treaties, foreign sovereignty, habeas corpus, etc. National security is the end and justifies torture, indefinite detention, warrantless wiretaps and surveillance, email scanning, drone bombing in foreign countries, assassinating American citizens upon authorization of President, prosecuting government whistleblowers rather than the wrongdoers, etc.

    Obama picked up right where Bush left off full speed ahead trampling over people’s rights all in the name of the state and national security and controlling information. I don’t see most Republicans calling for investigations on these matters. And neither are most Democrats. The NSA and “state secrets” prevent us from even knowing the level of spying on American citizens that is taking place. With surveillance cameras on every corner, drones in the sky, all emails being filtered by the NSA, government control of the internet, cell phones being recorded and the militarization of every local police dept we are one crisis away from becoming a police state that would be the envy of the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and Communist China.

  31. mervel says:

    Yeah both issues are of concern.

    I don’t see either side really believing in our constitution. We have so much defense and war technology that is now coming on line and looking for a use, its too bad that we are using it in this massive attempt to defend ourselves from small bands of idiots with homemade bombs and suicide vests. At least with the Soviet Union we had some true competition for our spy craft. NSA monitoring every singe email in the US, which myown points out; IS happening, it is not an exageration. If we were searching for Soviet Spies who were building weapons that could destroy the whole US it would still be unconstitutional, but at least at some level understandable; but that fact that we have this massive machine monitoring us all in the name of protecting us from little random bands of terrorists who are not a serious threat to our national security, shows that either we have become a very weak scared people or there is something else going on.

  32. mervel says:

    The IRS is one more tool of control and when it becomes political we are in deep danger, I mean this is straight out of the Nixon playbook, this is exactly what he did, I am relatively astounded that anyone, liberals or conservatives would want to defend this as understandable or that the tea party groups “deserved it”.

  33. mervel says:

    Of course Obama is going to deny it, so did Nixon, these guys all lie, all of them, you have to follow the evidence. Maybe Woodward can get back on the case again, maybe there is a reason he didn’t get along with obama, he could smell the old days the old nixon days in this White House?

  34. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I am withholding judgement on the AP phone records thing for now. I think there are many questions to be answered. First, where is the intimidation of the press? I don’t see it. The government says there was a justification in this one case and it was done in the open as far as I can tell. The AP lawyers say it is unprecedented so this kind of thing must not be happening all the time.

    On the other hand, warrantless wiretaps happened many times. Secretly. Nobody knows or can tell the extent. If your phone was tapped you wont know and as it stands now you never have a right to know. I think it is a mistake to mix up the two – they are inherently different.

    The Press is claiming that their rights are somehow more important than the rights of individual citizens because they couldn’t do their job without shield laws and all. But why are their 1st Amendment Rights greater than my 1st Amendment Rights?

    Nor am I convinced this is the same as the actions under Bush/Cheney. Under Bush the wiretaps seemed to be based on profiling rather than targeting. The FBI set people up in stings actively trying to get them to do things they probably never would have done if it weren’t for active FBI coercion. The AP case seems to be an attempt to get at a specific target in a specific situation that actually happened.

  35. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    On a personal level, believing that I was wiretapped on and off for some time and I may well be a victim of surveillance in the future, I understand the AP outrage, but I think they are being treated much more fairly than many, many others. The were subpoenaed. They have the advantage that they KNOW.

    I am not annoyed that the government would look at me and want to ask me some questions because I fit a very small group of people who it would seem obvious to investigate. It is the skulking around that pisses me off; the needless skulking around. Secrecy is the real problem. There is too much government secrecy.

  36. myown says:

    KHL. I agree secrecy is a real problem. And that is exactly why the AP story is important. It is a message meant to intimidate reporters to defer to the government what we are told. Just look at how the administration is treating whistleblowers. The Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined.

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