Desperately Seeking Scandal

Here’s Paul Waldman on what the Republican obsession with Benghazi is about:

If you’re looking at the Republican harumphing over Benghazi and asking yourself, “Why are we supposed to be so mad about this again?” you’re not alone. Let’s review: There was an attack on our consulate that killed four Americans, including our ambassador. Amid confusing and contradictory reports from the ground, President Obama waited too long to utter the magic incantation, “Terrorism, terrorists, terror!” that would have … well, it would have done something, but it turns out that he did say “terror,” so never mind that. But that’s not the real scandal! The real scandal is that Susan Rice went on television soon after and amid all kinds of “based on the best information we have”s and “we’ll have to see”s, said one thing that turned out not to be the case: that after the protests in Cairo, there was some kind of copycat protest in Benghazi, which was then “hijacked” by extremist elements using heavy weapons to stage an attack.

A sane person might say, OK, she was obviously given some incorrect information at that time, but it’s not a particularly meaningful deception. As people have been pointing out for weeks now, it’s not as though not using the word “terror” or saying there was a protest before the attack gave the White House some enormous political advantage. If you’re going to have a cover-up, there has to be something you’re covering up.

But now, some Republicans, particularly John McCain and Lindsay Graham, are essentially saying that this horrifying cover-up was quite possibly the greatest crime in the history of the United States government, and if we’re going to get to the bottom of it nothing short of a select committee—a “Watergate-style committee,” as it is being referred to by reporters—will do. …

So what’s going on here? I can sum it up in two words: scandal envy. Republicans are indescribably frustrated by the fact that Barack Obama, whom they regard as both illegitimate and corrupt, went through an entire term without a major scandal. They tried with “Fast and Furious,” but that turned out to be small potatoes. They tried with Solyndra, but that didn’t produce the criminality they hoped for either. Obama even managed to dole out three-quarters of a trillion dollars in stimulus money without any graft or double-dealing to be found. Nixon had Watergate, Reagan had Iran-Contra, Clinton had Lewinsky, and Barack Obama has gotten off scott-free. This is making them absolutely livid, and they’re going to keep trying to gin up a scandal, even if there’s no there there. Benghazi may not be an actual scandal, but it’s all they have handy.

Jon Perr takes us back to another September 11, and a real scandal — the one about the Bush administration’s failure to heed credible warnings that an attack was coming:

As the chorus grew in early 2002 to create a commission to investigate the 9/11 attacksthat killed 3,000 people, President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their allies said no. While Cheney warned “the people and agencies responsible for helping us learn about and defeat such an attack are the very ones most likely to be distracted from their critical duties if Congress fails to carry out their obligations in a responsible fashion,” House Majority Leader Tom Delay declared:

“A public commission investigating American intelligence in a time of war is ill conceived and, frankly, irresponsible. We need to address America’s challenges in intelligence gathering and terrorist prevention. But we don’t need to hand the terrorists an after-action report.”

Delay’s Senate counterpart Trent Lott went a step further, arguing that “there’s nothing more despicable … for someone to insinuate that the president of the United States knew there was an attack on our country that was imminent and didn’t do anything about it.” His GOP colleague from Texas Kay Bailey Hutchison concurred, protesting “I don’t think that anyone should start pointing fingers in a personal way or suggest that people are trying to cover their political backsides.”

Here’s how John McCain — who along with Lindsay Graham is now leading the charge against Susan Rice and vowing to oppose her nomination for Secretary of State if she turns out to be Pres. Obama’s choice — responded to critics of then-Pres. Bush’s nomination of Condoleezza Rice to the same post (emphasis is in the original):

McCain defended the nomination, despite Rice’s central role in spreading the false intelligence that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction. The Democrats held hours of hearing and ultimately confirmed Rice, but not before McCain accused the opposition of using politics to delay her confirmation and challenging her “integrity”:

McCAIN: Condoleezza Rice is a great American success story. This is what America is all about. A young woman who grew up in a segregated part of America where Americans were not treated equally, to rise to the position of secretary of state. We should have been celebrating, I believe, this remarkable American success story.

Also, I thought that some of the remarks — and I’m not going to mention my colleagues’ names — some of the remarks aimed at her during the hearings challenged her integrity. We can disagree on policy and we disagree on a lot of things, but I think it is very clear that Condoleezza Rice is a person of integrity. And yes, I see this, some lingering bitterness over a very tough campaign. I hope it dissipates soon.

“I can only conclude we’re doing this for no other reason than because of lingering bitterness at the outcome of the elections,” McCain told CBS Morning News on January 27, 2005.

So what is Sen. McCain saying? Is he saying that Susan Rice is not a person of integrity? Or that she knew beforehand that terrorists were planning to strike the U.S. consular compound in Benghazi, the way Condi Rice knew beforehand that Al Qaeda was planning a terrorist attack inside the United States? And if it was not appropriate to question Condi Rice’s qualifications to be Secretary of State back then, when her job entailed actual direct responsibility for advising the POTUS on national security threats, why is it appropriate to question Susan Rice’s qualifications to be Secretary of State now because of information she had been given by the C.I.A. and was passing on to reporters, when she is the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., and isn’t even in a position to know, except through others, what was going on in Benghazi or Libya or in that region at all before September 11, 2012?

Oh, and one more question: If Sen. McCain is so anxious for the Obama administration to inform him about what they knew about Benghazi and when they knew it and what they know now and why they haven’t told him, then why is he giving press conferences to accuse the Obama administration of not so informing him at the very same time that Obama administration officials are providing that information in closed-door intelligence briefings? And why is he screaming at reporters who dare to ask him why he’s skipping out on said briefings to hold press conferences at which he demands information and screams at reporters who ask him why he’s there and not in the room where the information is being given?

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Kathy Kattenburg

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • All my life the Republicans have owned the “strong on defense” space. They were the ones who were going to protect America. They were more patriotic than the Democrats. They had closer ties to the military. The Democrats were consistently portrayed as weak on defense. This goes back to the Kennedy-Nixon campaign and the missile gap with the Russians that Nixon exploited, but you could extend it further back to Joe McCarthy who represented the rabid anti-Communist wing of the party.

    The 2003 Iraq invasion began to change all that. The target was completely wrong and had nothing to do with 9/11. The pretext of WMD was bogus and it turned out made up by the administration itself. Bush-Cheney had staffed the DOD with incompetents, like it staffed all the other federal departments, because Republicans don’t really believe in government and would prefer to shrink it and drown it in a bathtub. Bush said he gave up looking for Bin Laden, and Romney said he wouldn’t spend a penny of taxpayer money trying to find Bin Laden (but a trillion dollar tax cut for his billionaire friends was well worth it).

    Obama comes into office and makes it a priority to track down Bin Laden and bring him to justice. He does just that – efficiently, quietly, and with ultimate effectiveness. In that one stroke he undid 50 years of Republican posturing about how only they could defend America. Why Obama didn’t trumpet this throughout the campaign I don’t know – false modesty is not respected by the Republicans, and they did try to denigrate Obama’s role in the Bin Laden capture/death but gave up on that.

    Benghazi is just the Republicans grabbing at any straw they can find to weaken the claim Obama can make that Democrats are now the party best able to protect America. A second claim can be made, consistent with the Hurricane Sandy response, that Democrats are more competent at government because they believe in good government and providing value for the taxes that are paid.

    I wish Obama would come right out and call this Benghazi “scandal” for what it is – Republican Swift Boating using lies and FOX News propaganda. A somewhat weaker argument Obama can use is that the Benghazi operation was a CIA outpost and therefore the administration is legally and for other reasons unable to describe in public what exactly happened there. Hence the closed-door meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday. Since Republicans like Graham and McCain would much rather make political attacks about Benghazi, I still think Obama would be better off exposing the real reasons why they are so desperate to find some scandal in this situation.

    • I don’t recall Nixon using the missile “gap” against Kennedy, but I sure recall reading of Kennedy using it against Eisenhower.

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