Cheney on Benghazi: “I cannot understand why they weren’t ready to go”
posted at 9:21 am on May 8, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
This should provide a kick-start to the hearings today in Washington, as the House Oversight Committee takes testimony from three whistleblowers about the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi and its aftermath. The Daily Mail‘s David Martosko caught up with Dick Cheney at a book party for Donald Rumsfeld, and the former VP (and also Secretary of Defense in the George H. W. Bush administration) didn’t hesitate to question the preparation of his successors. Noting that the attack took place on the anniversary of 9/11 in an area well-known to be in control of al-Qaeda affiliates and allies, Cheney wondered how the White House could have been so unprepared:
‘They should have been ready before anything ever happened,’ Cheney told MailOnline exclusively during a party in Georgetown celebrating the launch of a new book by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
‘I mean, it’s North Africa – Libya, where they’ve already had major problems,’ Cheney said. ‘You know that al-Qaeda is operating there, and you have some of the other al-Qaeda-affiliated groups there like Ansar al-Sharia and others.’ …
‘When we were there, on our watch, we were always ready on 9/11, on the anniversary,’ he recalled. ‘We always anticipated they were coming for us, especially in that part of the world.’
‘I cannot understand why they weren’t ready to go,’ the former two-term vice president said of the Obama administration.
‘You’ve got units in the Defense Department that are superb. They practice for this contingency. And they didn’t have anybody in the area[.]’
I’d expect this to cause some outrage as the hearings open. While most of the pundit class has focused on this as a question of response, Cheney’s actually closer to the mark about it being a question of preparation. We couldn’t respond properly because we weren’t prepared — and given the nature of the location and the control that radical Islamist terror networks had in the absence of any kind of central-government control, we most certainly should have been prepared. That’s doubly true considering the date.
Instead, as The Hill reports, the outrage seems mainly to be in service to the defense of Hillary Clinton:
Democrats say the Oversight committee’s investigation — and the focus on Clinton — are politically motivated. A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday found that Clinton would garner 65 percent of her party’s support if the 2016 presidential primary were held now, far ahead of Vice President Biden’s 13 percent.
“The meta message that they’re trying to get out there is that this is a failure in judgment that goes to character,” Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly, a senior Democrat on the Oversight and Foreign Affairs panels, told The Hill. “It didn’t work with Obama, so [they’re hoping that] maybe it’ll stick to Clinton.
“They’re trying to bring her numbers down. That’s what this is all about.”
Connolly doesn’t like the attorneys chosen by the whistleblowers, either:
Connolly also raised concerns with the whistle-blowers’ attorneys, Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, a Republican couple who battled then-President Bill Clinton’s Justice Department in the 1990s. Democrats on Issa’s committee have complained that the two attorneys have blocked Democrats’ access to the witnesses ahead of Wednesday’s hearing.
“They both worked with and for, in some capacity, Mitt Romney. There’s no law against that, but don’t tell me that I’m supposed to accept with a straight face that they’re just professional lawyers representing their clients,” Connolly said, naming the 2012 GOP presidential nominee. “They are active Republicans who have partisan agendas, as they always have.”
Perhaps they chose Toensing and DiGenova because they wanted to work around the roadblocks erected by Democrats and the media in getting their stories out to the public. Perhaps they understand that Democrats have a lot of incentive to discredit them when they tell these stories — and they want counsel with experience in those kinds of political fights.
But mostly, the selection of attorneys is just a side show, a red herring used by Connolly to argue that accountability for the utter lack of preparation that led to the deaths of four Americans in a terrorist attack that the US still hasn’t answered after seven months is somehow an unfair, partisan expectation. Good luck with that argument this week.