Highway Benghazi Revisited

I try to keep an open mind, I really do. Contrary to what some may believe, I'm not quite the lefty they make me out to be. I've tangled with my fair share of liberals; on a recent post, I was taken to task by a progressive for "anointing" Hillary Clinton in 2016. Glad to know the George McGovern / Walter Mondale wing of the Democratic Party is still open for business.  Apparently getting humiliated in the '80s wasn't enough of a lesson for them.  Some people never get it. Trust me, they drive me completely up the wall.  When it comes to politics, I take the term pragmatic progressive VERY seriously.

But there are simply some things I cannot keep an open mind on. For starters, the way in which science is shunned and dismissed by many conservatives greatly concerns me. At a time when the United States is lagging behind most of the world in education, these people are obsessed with returning to the 19th century. How do you debate, much less compromise, with people who deny climate change and insist the universe is 6,000 years old?

Then there is the issue of discrimination and racism. For me it is a moral abomination that women and minorities are still - in the 21st century - considered second-class citizens. Women make 77 cents for every dollar men make. For minorities, it is even worse. Blacks make 62 cents for every dollar whites make and fifty years after passage of the Civil Rights Act, are still subjected to overt displays of racism. Between vaginal probes and voter suppression laws, I feel like I'm living in a nightmare.

But there's one nagging issue that gets completely under my skin, and it has to do with the insistence by many conservatives to create mountains out of molehills.  Over the last year and a half, Republicans have been obsessed with two "scandals" they insist are the equivalent of Watergate.

The first involves the IRS. Republicans are determined to prove that the agency went out of its way to target conservative groups. After several exhaustive and often vindictive hearings, all conducted by Darrell Issa, the only thing that has been proven is that, far from targeting conservative groups, the IRS was scrutinizing groups from both ends of the political spectrum to determine whether they qualified for tax exempt status. In other words, it was doing its job. Indeed, the only group that was denied exempt status was liberal. Funny, I haven't heard a peep from progressives about that.

But if you think the Internal Revenue Service was bugging out Republicans, it pales in comparison to Benghazi. The attack on the consulate has been the political equivalent of a crack addict with a pipe. The latest "smoking gun" email that recently surfaced, courtesy of Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, they claim conclusively proves that the Obama Administration knew that the attack was not caused by any video and that it covered up that fact for political gain.

The email is from Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, and is dated September 14; three days after the attack. It is titled, "Prep Call with Susan" (Susan Rice) and it reads as follows:

  • To convey that the United States is doing everything we can to protect our people and facilities abroad;
  • To underscore that these protests are rooted in an internet video, and not a broader failure of policy;
  • To show that we will be resolute in bringing people who harm Americans to justice, and standing steadfast through these protests;
  • To reinforce the President and Administration's strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.
It was the second bullet point that set Republicans off, along with the every conservative media outlet from Fox News to The National Review. Three days after it occurred, the Administration was still trying to "underscore" that the attack was part of the "protests" going on throughout the Muslim world that were "rooted" in an "internet video." Shameful, scandalous and criminal.

Case closed.

Except for one tiny, little detail. Rhodes never mentioned Benghazi anywhere in his email. In fact, it was the CIA who drafted the talking points that Susan Rice would later use on that fateful Sunday morning that laid the blame for the attack on spontaneous protests which began in Cairo earlier that day. All Rhodes was doing was mirroring those talking points.

Should Rhodes have been more "skeptical" of the memo? Maybe. But, as David Weigel of Slate adroitly observed, "ten years after George 'slam dunk' Tenet's advice for a prior administration," we can safely say hindsight is 20/20.

John Dickerson of CBS News may have summed it up best: 

"It may now be laughable for anyone to suggest that the Libyan attack was spontaneous, but that's a question for the CIA, which made spontaneity its first and most durable claim that weekend. An intelligence failure is a different thing than a lie, and it should lead to a different set of questions about the underlying policy and skills of administration officials to accurately understand the world. You could also ask whether it's possible to make good policy when engaged in one-foot-in and one-foot-out operations like the U.S. attack on Libya. But those are policy questions, not cover-up questions."

Of course, none of this will make any difference to Republicans and their cohorts. Like a dog with a bone, they simply will not let go of this obsession. They are convinced that this admitted tragedy is the crime of the century and anyone who begs to differ with them is either part of the conspiracy or simply in denial.

In other words, we're not even remotely done with this.


Anonymous said…
Absolutely true, some people never seem to get it. They just accept things on their face because, well, they just happen to sound correct and, oh heck, they've been stated so often that it must all be true. Baloney!

Let's take Senator McGovern's campaign in '72 and examine (briefly) what might've gone wrong. Two enormous things jump out right away: Nixon was sitting atop a very strong economy and he was credited with ramping down the war in Vietnam, as US casualties (by 1972) were decreasing significantly. Combining all of that with the fact that McGovern wasn't very media savy and had little personality gives you the makings of an electoral defeat.

Where former Vice President Mondale is concerned, where does one begin? Once again, we can point to a vastly improving economy in '84. We can also point to the fact that Mondale, like McGovern, was not very media savy. He also happened to be up against one of the most personable and popular presidents in US history, for all it's worth - not an insignificant factor by any measure. Mondale was also inextricably linked to one of the most ineffective administrations in modern presidential history. Taking all of this into account gives you, once again, the makings of an electoral rout. And even so, he still managed to get about 40% of the popular vote.

Anyway, progressive candidates wouldn't do wrong if they learned to adopt some of the better qualities of HST and LBJ. This is what the general population hungers for in Democratic candidates - plain talk and a backbone. Progressives will win on the "bread and butter" issues every time. They just need to get better delivery systems.

Now, to your point about women earning 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, and blacks earning 62 cents for every dollar whites make. Do you mean to tell me that if you have two people within any organization - either public or private - who are in the same job titles, are performing the same functions, and have equal levels of education and experience, one of them will earn 23% less if the individual is a woman and 38% less if the individual is black? Could you provide any examples where that is happening? Please name some names. This would be very interesting to know.

You see, aggregate statistics are meaningless when making these types of comparisons. They sound oh so correct, though, because they've been stated so many times. But they're specious on their face. Simple fairness (and logic) dictates that comparisons of this nature are made ceteris paribus.

Thanks for the opportunity to respond.