Chuck Todd: Hey, all the Benghazi questions have been answered … on the talking points
posted at 12:01 pm on May 15, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
Via Guy Benson, who must have leapt out of his skin when he first saw this clip on Morning Joe yesterday. Asked about allegations that the select committee on Benghazi is nothing more than a partisan witch hunt, Chuck Todd argued that it looks that way because all of the questions about Benghazi have been answered. However, listen to which questions Todd refers, and what he says afterward:
I’m going to dissent, but only in part. Here’s the case against Todd from Guy, paragraph breaks my own:
Yes, there have been a number of investigations into the deadly raid, including revelatory House hearings, a Senate report, and a State Department-mandated review. The House proceedings answered some questions, but raised others. The Senate Intelligence panel’s report concluded that the attacks were preventable, and rebuked the Obama administration for “unnecessarily hamper[ing] the committee’s review.” The State Department’s “Accountability Review Board”declined to interview key players, including Secretary Clinton. None of the Benghazi survivors have testified publicly.
Furthermore, new information and perspectives have come to light within the last few weeks. A court-ordered document release turned up a relevant, previously-withheld email that further undermines the White House’s official version of events regarding their post-attack talking points, and an Air Force General who was on duty at AFRICOM that night said the military never received a request for help from the State Department during the eight-hour ordeal. He went on to suggest that the US government should have attempted a rescue mission, which other military officers have testified wouldn’t have been logistically feasible. A majority of the House of Representatives — including a handful of Democrats — clearly believes that unanswered questions remain. A large majority of the American public is skeptical of the White House’s veracity and supports keeping the investigation open and ongoing. Two former top CIA officials have endorsed the proceedings.
Most Beltway Democrats, and apparently Chuck Todd, dissent. Todd is a journalist. It’s therefore a bit jarring to hear him declare that “all” questions pertaining to a controversial matter have been answered, thus intimating that the issue is settled — particularly after previously-unseen evidence has just recently emerged.
Be sure to read Guy’s post to see at least ten questions about Benghazi that have gone unanswered. However, the list itself tends to validate Todd’s larger point that the select committee has to focus on more than just the talking points. Only two of Guy’s questions deal with the false narrative used by the White House in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. The rest of it has to do with the larger policy and competency issues that Todd explicitly says are legitimate areas of inquiry — and he’s right.
The bigger question about Benghazi is not about the cover-up, but the incompetence that led to the attack on the anniversary of 9/11 and the lack of response during it. That starts with the decision to decapitate the dictatorship of Moammar Gadhafi without planning for the predictable power vacuum that resulted, in a region already known for its Islamist terror activities.
Last week, retired Air Force Gen. Robert Lovell testified before Congress that the U.S. military should have responded immediately to the attack. As the commander of intelligence services for the U.S. Africa Command at the time of the attack, Lovell testified that no one seriously thought that it was anything other than a deliberate, planned offensive on the diplomatic post left vulnerable despite ever-increasing warnings about terrorist activity in and around Benghazi, especially with al Qaeda affiliates. The testimony raises the question — again — as to why the U.S. military was not prepared to respond to a terrorist attack in the AFRICOM area of responsibility on the anniversary of 9/11, especially in an area known to have rapidly escalating enemy activity.
That question becomes more acute as the situation in Libya continues to deteriorate. Daily Beastnational security correspondent Eli Lake reports that the region has now been flooded with radical Islamist terrorists from around the world, eager to operate within the failed state of Libya that the NATO intervention created. One counterterrorism contractor calls it “Scumbag Woodstock,” while another intelligence official calls eastern Libya “a jihadist melting pot.” The situation presents a threat to the region and to the U.S. far beyond what existed three years ago, before Obama intervened on behalf of the rebels.
The select committee should focus on that larger context of Benghazi, the editorial board of The Washington Posturged this week, asking Republicans to eschew the cover-up for the “actual failings in Libya” from Obama and his administration.
“The Obama administration and its NATO allies bear responsibility for this mess because, having intervened to help rebels overthrow Gadhafi, they then swiftly exited without making a serious effort to help Libyans establish security and build a new political order,” they wrote. “Congress might usefully probe why the administration allowed a country in which it initiated military operations to slide into chaos.”
We haven’t actually heard all of the answers about what happened during the attack or in the hours afterward that produced a deceptive narrative that oh-so-coincidentally provided cover on these larger questions. But even Todd knows that these are the larger questions, and focusing exclusively on the talking points — which Gowdy pledges not to do, by the way — ends up serving the same White House purposes.