Partisan politics loomed over a House hearing Wednesday on the deadly September 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, as Republicans and Democrats clashed over the meaning of testimony from three witnesses who had little new to add to the story…
The three State Department officials, one of whom had testified before, offered a few new pieces of information, but did not shed much light on the key allegations put forth by critics, some of whom have called Benghazi “worse than Watergate.”
REP. MATT CARTWRIGHT (D-PA): “I expected a real bombshell to come out today. And I literally sat on the edge of my seat, listening for the bombshells to come out and Tamron, they didn’t happen. There was no news today. There was nothing today that we didn’t already know about. Now I want to tell you, I honor all of us on the panel, we honor the sacrifices made by these witnesses, their commitment to our country, and the truthfulness of their testimony as well. But really there wasn’t anything new that we hadn’t already seen before and that hadn’t already been rehashed again and again. So there isn’t much news today.”
All this will no doubt come back to haunt Hillary Clinton should she decide to run for president; in some cases, she appeared to have been too removed from the events in Benghazi. Hicks at one point testified that that he personally spoke to Clinton at 2 a.m. on the night of the attacks, which makes the administration’s vague description in subsequent days even more suspicious.
But that hardly adds up to a cover-up. In the end, Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the chairman of the committee, may find himself digging yet another dry well, as he has done so many times. Even before he took over the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, with zero evidence in hand, Issa called Obama “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.” In his relentless search for evidence (and headlines) since, he has found nothing to back up that statement, including his highly publicized and largely fruitless hearings last June into the the Justice Department’s botched “Fast and Furious” gun-tracking program.
Benghazi was a tragedy. It will, almost certainly, remain a political issue. What it is not – by a long shot — is a scandal yet.
It does seem that the Administration’s talking points were massaged a bit after the President’s candor. This may have been attributable to the presidential campaign and the Administration’s desire to low-ball the Al Qaeda threat. If so, this was a venial, not a mortal, sin. It affected not one life. More likely, though, the wording was scrubbed as a result of the nature of the investigation going on at the time–it may have been deemed premature to announce that it was a pre-meditated act of terror. Perhaps the local militia lucked into a situation where they showed up at the consulate and found very little security protection. Hard to say. There were protests all over the middle east that night, ginned up by jihadis using the excuse of a near-unseen anti-Muslim You Tube video.
But let’s say the street gang had been casing the joint in advance. Who’s to blame for the lax security? This is the real substance of the case. Could it have been the Secretary of State? Undoubtedly, no. This sort of question is well below her pay grade. Could it have been the person in charge of embassy security issues? More likely, and that person resigned after the subsequent investigations…and even that might have been unfair for two reasons. Security was up to the Ambassador and Chris Stevens was well known for erring on the side of greater public access to U.S. facilities. Or, more plausibly, reason number two…
Usually, during big news events like today’s Libya testimony, the media swarms Twitter with live updates, observations, and open coordination on Narratives. We saw this last night when South Carolina sent Mark Sanford back to Congress, when the Senate voted on gun control, etc. Political happenings always bring the media to Twitter like moths to a flame.
But today the media has been hiding — at least as soon as the Libya hearings started. Almost all of the Libya Twitter-traffic is coming from those who are not part of a mainstream media that wants to pretend none of this is happening. In other words, they are hiding in shame.
But they are also busy conspiring on how to handle and cover the hearings — with one another and with the White House.
The Narrative to protect the president must be a united one.
During Congressional hearings on Wednesday regarding the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) became emotional while reading from what he described as an erroneous Accountability Review Board report which largely clears the federal government of culpability for the deaths of four American service personnel. Through tears, Chaffetz plead with his fellow committeemen and women to not allow the historical record of what happened in Benghazi to be whitewashed.