October 29, 2012

Benghazi worse than Watergate? GOP would know.

A terrible series of events transpired last month in Benghazi, Libya. As we all know, the U.S. Ambassador and three other U.S. personnel were killed in an organized, deliberate attack on the Consulate there.

In the days following the attack,  many questions and allegations were launched against the White House, largely by the increasingly right-wing Republican House of Representatives back in Washington and its media ally, Fox News. Why didn't President Obama immediately label the incident as a terrorist attack? Why did the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations initially suggest the Benghazi attack was connected to an anti-U.S. protest march when -- as we eventually learned -- there was no protest, only the stand-alone attack? Why did the State Department not supply more security forces as had been requested by post? And so on.

While it took days for the GOP's political and media establishment to fully gear up in this very timely cause, Governor Mitt Romney was framing Benghazi as an indictment against the entire foreign policy of President Barack Obama, even as recovery operations were still underway. He was definitely ahead of the curve on using this as a political weapon.

Ironically, the Benghazi attack -- which cost us the lives of four brave Americans -- pales in comparison to unspeakably catastrophic tragedies like the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington (2,800+ dead); the 2005 Hurricane Katrina (1,800+ dead); Operation Iraqi Freedom (nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers dead). Each of these death tolls can be in large or small part attributed to incompetent and/or ideologically forced decision-making by President George W. Bush and his advisers. And, by the way, banging the war drums and beating an apologetic retreat whenever necessary has been none other than Fox News. Yet in the years that have followed, almost no one has faced any official or political consequences for any of these failures (unless receiving a Presidential Medal of Freedom counts).

And now, Fox News' own Brit Hume is feeling righteous enough to point out that "it has fallen to this news organization, Fox News, and a couple of others to do all the heaving lifting" on exposing the as yet unproven allegations of Benghazi wrongdoing and cover-up by the Obama administration.

There are definitely important lessons to be learned and applied going forward, and possibly careers to be ended. And it is never too late to start holding our government leaders accountable on national security. But if Republican politicians and journalists are going to lead the way on this, it would be nice of them to at least acknowledge the novelty, rather than acting like turning four deaths into Obama's Watergate -- or even WORSE than Watergate (and maybe Vietnam, too?) -- is not transparently political and contrived.

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