A GOP-led probe into last fall’s deadly attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, produced testimony last week from diplomats who said that a request for Special Forces assistance in repelling the attack had been denied twice.
Republicans have suggested President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should’ve done a better job providing security at the consulate, and may have even covered up elements of the attack in the aftermath. Radio host Mike Huckabee this week even predicted the president would soon face impeachment over the matter.
What happened in Benghazi? Why does it matter? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.
MATHIS: Try as I might, I’m really having a hard time trying to stay worked up about Benghazi months and months after the attack took place.
Forgive the insensitivity. The deaths of the diplomats and security personnel who died serving America are surely a tragedy, both for their families and the broader diplomatic community. The attack itself was an act of terrorism; the perpetrators should be hunted down, captured, tried, and dealt with accordingly. Were mistakes made? As in all human endeavors, the answer is almost certainly yes. We should figure out what they were and fix them.
But is this is a scandal with a capital “S”? The way Republicans really, really want it to be? Based on the evidence so far: no.
Instead, it appears to these liberal eyes that Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain — Republicans who never met a war they couldn’t support — greatly desire to make Obama appear to be a wimpy, ineffective commander-in-chief. They’ve been the prime drivers, in public at least, to keep the Benghazi “scandal” alive.
Remember: These are the guys who want the president to take us to war in Syria. They’re the guys who want the president to take us to war in Iran. And they disdained President Obama’s policy in Libya as being insufficient — even though it produced the outcome, Qaddafi’s ouster, that they desired.
“It’s, I think, a foreign policy gone wrong here,” Graham said on TV this week. “Syria, Libya, Egypt, I think the greater story is that the light footprint approach to the Mideast in a time of turmoil is not working.”
So, really, for many Republicans, the underlying scandal is that Obama isn’t sending hundreds of thousands of American troops to dictate American preferences in a region far from our own. That’s probably a scandal that most Americans can live with.
BOYCHUK: Here is why Benghazi matters: For the first time since 1979, an American ambassador was murdered on the job. Yet six months on, all White House spokesman Jay Carney can say is that “happened a long time ago.”
It took days for the Obama administration to get its story straight last September. And when White House officials finally settled on a narrative, they first blamed an obscure Internet video for inciting the violence that took the lives of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, and information officer Sean Smith.
It matters because the administration thought it more important to save the president’s political hide in a tight re-election contest than to tell the truth and expose his weakness. So former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice went on all five Sunday TV talk shows to not only peddle the lame video story, but to downplay the terrorism angle.
It matters because one of the key decision makers is a frontrunner to succeed Obama in 2017. Greg Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya, told the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday he briefed Clinton on the attacks as they were under way.
When Clinton testified on Benghazi in January, she said: “Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they’d go kill some Americans. What difference — at this point, what difference does it make?”
At this point, it matters all the more because Hicks also told the House committee that the State Department has been discouraging whistleblowers from telling their stories. If there is really nothing to see here, why is the administration impeding witnesses and withholding information? When the Obama administration decided to aid Libyan rebels and depose Moammar Gadhafi two years ago, they called it “leading from behind.”
With all of their spin and dissembling over the Benghazi attacks, it’s hard to see any leadership at all.
Reach Ben Boychuk at firstname.lastname@example.org; Joel Mathis at email@example.com.