It has now been over 26 months since our consulate in Libya was attacked and four Americans died, including US Ambassador Chris Stevens. The Obama Administration’s initial view was that the hostility was provoked by an anti-Islam video that had found its way onto the Internet and then sparked a prior demonstration in Cairo, Egypt. However, as more intelligence was gathered and analyzed, it became clear that the Libyan assault on our installation was a terrorist attack and the president then properly labelled it publicly as an “act of terrorism”
Sensing an opportunity to score partisan political points, conservatives in and out of government jumped out of their skivvies so eager were they to assign blame. Every conspiracy theory, no matter how lacking in supportive evidence, was too crazy and farfetched to be discredited and dismissed out of hand . (1) A right-wing blogger pushed an accusation, it got picked up by Fox News, and then, late to the “party”, the mainstream media gave it some credence as well. Before long, and far in advance of a single hearing, grassroots conservatives believed, as an article of faith, that the president and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were guilty of dereliction of duty and therefore directly responsible for the loss of four American lives.
Of course, hearings did eventually take place; both in the House and Senate. But just as predictably, with the just-cited narrative already in place, Republican committee chairs and members were compelled to find evidence that supported it. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the House where Darrell Issa (R-CA) engaged in his well-documented history of cherry-picking intel and selectively leaking it along with unjustified conclusions, all to Fox News. Indeed, Fox became conservatives’ outlet of choice for finding reinforcement for the narrative that they were now “mainlining” like industrial strength heroin.
The problem with this sort of zealous commitment is that once you have wrapped your skin around it, you know that the only face-saving option is to defend it, and object like Hell when more and more contradictory facts continue to emerge. (2) And surface they did. The last and most damning came in the form of this month’s report from the House Intelligence Committee. That document knocked down the various conspiracy theories, concluded that there was no “stand down” order, the US military and the CIA had responded properly and that the Obama Administration did not engage in a sustained conscious attempt to mislead the public.
With so much “skin in the game” conservative sources could not let the matter end there. Two examples make this point: First, on November 24th, Speaker Boehner announced that a more recently constituted House Select Committee to investigate Benghazi would be reconvened to renew its probe and eventually provide the American people with the “definitive” account of what had happened. Then, on November 28th, Catherine Herridge, reporting for Fox Politics, sought to bat down the previous committee’s report by claiming that it “failed to address key facts” and also “…added nuance….” that was missing from the House document. But, read her article with a critical eye and you discover that those “key facts” and the “nuance” were peripheral to the “dereliction of duty” charge (see above), and were of insufficient substance to support the claim that the Administration had deliberately engaged in a public misinformation campaign. If you put these two events together, so closely linked in time, it is not hard to see how the second supports the need for the first. You don’t have to be a cynic to conjecture that Fox is “carrying water” for House Republicans and Boehner in particular.
The upshot of all this, especially the most recent events, is that we are far from hearing the last on Benghazi. This proverbial “dead horse” will be beaten continuously through the 2016 election. At the least, this will be done to keep grassroots conservatives amped up and straining on their rabid dog leashes to get to the polls. Any other political points scored in the process will be a bonus. Whatever the case, it is now time to start referring to what happened in Benghazi with the proper term – a tragedy. There was no scandal and calling it that is worse than misleading; it is a perpetuation of a provably false characterization.
1. Some of the more “exotic” conspiracy theories included the idea that either Obama or Clinton had ordered our military to “stand down” rather than go to the aid of the consulate personnel when they were under attack. Another was that Obama stood aside and purposely allowed the terrorist attack to happen to distract the public from other emerging scandals.
2. Talk about staking out a position and defending it at all costs: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), perhaps the most vocal of all elected prejudicial Benghazi critics, referred to the House Intelligence Committee’s report as “full of crap”. Wow – nothing like throwing members of your own party under the bus in an effort to cover your own ass.