Maybe Gowdy can help me understand the ‘why’ on Benghazi

Alternate headline: “Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!”

You’ve no doubt seen the news by now that 4th District Congressman Trey Gowdy (you know him — he’s the guy who defeated Bob Inglis because Inglis, of all people, wasn’t “conservative” enough in the Tea Party year) will pitch for the GOP in the big game — that is, he’ll chair the select committee to investigate Benghazi, which a former White House staffer characterized recently with the immortal words, “Dude, this was like two years ago.”

As this was all breaking, I happened to watch the third season episode of “The West Wing,” “Ways and Means,” in which C.J. said:

Leo, we need to be investigated by someone who wants to kill us just to watch us die. We need someone perceived by the American people to be irresponsible, untrustworthy, partisan, ambitious, and thirsty for the limelight. Am I crazy, or is this not a job for the U.S. House of Representatives?

I don’t know what about this situation made me mention that. Unless the White House deliberately manipulated the House into doing this by releasing those emails.

Anyway, now that this is back before us, we ask the eternal question: Why?

Rep. Gowdy puts it this way:

“Twenty months after the Benghazi attacks, there remain unresolved questions about why the security was inadequate, our response during the siege itself, and our government’s interaction with the public after the attack. All of those lines of inquiry are legitimate and should be apolitical. Facts are neither red nor blue.

“While people are free to draw different conclusions from the facts, there should be no debate over whether the American public is entitled to have all of the facts. In a courtroom, juries are free to believe one witness over a hundred witnesses. But you cannot make that or any other credibility determination if you do not have access to all relevant witnesses, documents and other tangible evidence.

“Four of our fellow citizens were murdered, and a facility emblematic and representative of our country was attacked and burned on the anniversary of 9-11. Our fellow citizens are full well capable of processing the truth about the attacks and aftermath, and most assuredly entitled to hear it.”…

OK. If the hearings are going to focus on “why the security was inadequate” and “our response during the siege itself,” so that we might avoid such tragedies in the future, and make our embassies and consulates secure, let’s get started.

But where Republicans lose me is on the third thing, the thing they go on and on and on about: “our government’s interaction with the public after the attack.”

Frankly, I decided a long time ago that Susan Rice wasn’t the sharpest knife in the Obama administration’s cutlery drawer (although she looks awesome next to the kid who made the “Dude” crack). I was relieved when she didn’t become secretary of state, and disappointed when she became National Security Advisor. (As Sonny Corleone would say, “Nixon had Kissinger; look what I got.“)

I decided even longer ago than that that I had no interest in watching the Sunday morning political talk shows, and not just because I was busy going to Mass then. I figured out that if they made news, it would be on the wires (the Sunday shift has to write about something).

So what Susan Rice said on Sunday political talk shows doesn’t exactly rock my world.

Earlier in the week, I had seen reports that the administration had amended its initial assessment that the attacks were just about that horrendous anti-Muslim video. (Scout, I lost my link to that story, and you helped me find it, but I lost it again, so help!) I heard that within 24 hours of learning of the attack in Benghazi itself. I was satisfied.

If Susan Rice said something else, I’m not terribly surprised. But I’m not up in arms.

I find myself asking, “so what?” So Susan Rice tried to make the administration look good (if what Republicans keep saying is true). That seems to be pretty much in character for her.

I also find myself wondering why Republicans get so offended at the idea that the Muslim video triggered these attacks. It was causing demonstrations elsewhere. It just wasn’t crazy to think at first, however erroneously, it might have had something to do with Benghazi.

We know that expressions of disrespect toward the prophet on the part of private parties in the West had triggered violence in the Muslim world before. Why not now?

There’s some kind of dog whistle this issue blows on the right that is just inaudible to me.

But anyway, let’s collect those facts that are neither red nor blue, and figure out how to avoid this kind of deadly debacle in the future. But let’s not go on and on about irrelevancies that happen to scratch the itch of one end or the other of the partisan spectrum.

26 thoughts on “Maybe Gowdy can help me understand the ‘why’ on Benghazi

  1. Doug Ross

    If Lindsey Graham thinks it’s important, it must be important. He wouldn’t use this for his own political purposes like other politicians would. He even said so…

    “I would say to anybody who believes that this is just about politics, ‘Go tell that to the family members. Go explain to the family members how it’s okay for the White House to withhold information from the Congress and the American people,'” he said. “Anybody who plays politics with Benghazi is going to get burned. So if we’re playing politics with Benghazi, then we’ll get burned. If our Democratic friends are shielding the administration and trying to protect them and the administration tried to protect themselves, their re-election because they couldn’t stand the truth about Benghazi, then they’ll get burned,” Graham added.

    Graham maintains they are damning evidence.

    “What was the purpose of this email? To protect the White House politically from the damage that could’ve been done from the truth coming out about Benghazi, six, seven weeks before the election,” Graham said. “They were trying to create an impression to the American people that this wasn’t a broader foreign policy failure and it was totally disconnected from reality on the ground. They were trying to protect the President’s re-election. They saw Benghazi, I think, Bob, as a threat to his re-election. It wasn’t a fog of war problem they had. They created a political smoke screen.”

  2. Leon

    The attack on our Benghazi consulate occurred on 9/11 and was carried out in battle mode. RPG’s, whatever. This was not the result of that stupid video but the administration decided to go with that tale since it had proclaimed during the campaign that Osama bin Laden is dead and al Qaeda is on the run. A well-coordinated terrorist attack in Benghazi did not fit that narrative. Here we were in the tail end of a presidential campaign and the Obama campaign had to do something to soften the blow to their narrative. Hence, the video. Even when it was clear that the video did not cause this violence the narrative by Rice, Hillary Clinton, and Obama continued. The American public was lied to and this is the “why” of the Benghazi controversy. We deserve to know all of the details of this attack and any coverup by the administration afterward. Let the chips fall where they may.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      This is basically it.

      For me, the amusing thing is that for months, the spin from the left has been: “This inquiry is absurd! We haven’t misled anyone at all. Y’all are crazy conspiracy theorists for thinking the White House would make up a politically expedient cover story”.

      It’s now gone to: “Well, OF COURSE the White House political advisers spun the Benghazi attacks. Duh! That’s what political people do. Everyone does that! How dare you Republicans play politics with our playing politics!”

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        Why not investigate the 1983 Beirut embassy bombing, never investigated, in which 241 Americans died?

        1. Leon

          Indeed, why wasn’t it investigated? Heads should have rolled after this happened. I don’t remember if anybody lost their job over this but they should have.

          1. Leon

            Actually, wasn’t the Beirut Barracks bombing where the 241 Americans were killed due to lax security?

        2. Barry

          The 1983 bombing was investigated. Don’t rely on MSNBC for information (they’ve said it wasn’t investigated).

          The Inman Report is the name of the investigative report that reviewed the bombing.

          In addition, President Reagan also – in a press conference after the bombings – asked the American people to blame him for the bombing- not the military officers involved.

          “If there is to be blame, it rests here in this office, with this President” – Ronald Reagan.

  3. Kathryn Fenner

    Andy Borowitz quips that Fox is showing CNN how it’s done. Personally, I am more interested in the Malaysian Airlines flight, but….

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    Want to know more about the kid who said, “Dude, this was like two years ago”?

    Here’s a piece in the LAT about his departure from the administration last year, the last of the original Obama campaign’s children’s crusade to leave. He was 32.

    Interestingly, just before I read that, I had read a piece by Jennifer Rubin bemoaning the fact that the GROWNUPS had also left the administration in its second term:

    There are certainly serious people who have served in this presidency. Former Defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta served honorably and continue to warn the public of the administration’s follies. But they are the exception to the rule. They were and are respected by both sides of the aisle, have had a long career in government service, speak and write like adults, do not engage is partisan swipes and understand that their responsibility was to the country, not to a political party or the reelection campaign of their boss. It is noteworthy that these sort of adults have vanished from the administration in the second term. There is plainly no place for them.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      So basically, she was saying the Leo McGarrys had left the administration.

      As for the kids, Tommy Vietor and Jon Favreau (NOT the movie director), I’m having trouble coming up with any West Wing comparisons. The most callow youth on the show was Sam Seaborn, and he was maybe 35 when the show started.

      The next most youthful, Josh Lyman, was 40. I’m going by the actors’ ages, here, you understand…

  5. Mike F.

    “Facts are neither red nor blue.” — Trey Gowdy

    That wasn’t exactly his stance on climate change, back when he ousted the very smart Bob Inglis.

  6. Mark Stewart

    Boehner had the opportunity to choose a standard-bearer. He did. Clearly, that was calculated. He must figure he will either vanquish a foe on the left or the right – and would be happy either way to sit this one out.

  7. Phillip

    Somebody should gently tap Jennifer Rubin on the shoulder and remind her of a couple of Vietnam vets occupying the two most important Cabinet posts in the US government.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, if you’re talking Chuck Hagel, I don’t think that’s going to make her feel any better. I don’t think she would think Hagel for Gates would be a very good trade. And I’d agree with her on that.

      And I think a lot of Leon Panetta, too. He’s a very Leo kind of guy.

      Who’s the other person you were thinking of?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Just realized you were talking about Kerry.

        You know, I try to give him every opportunity — I want whoever is our SecState to succeed — but I’ve never been much of a Kerry fan.

        It’s funny, or sad, or something… When some of my liberal friends say “Vietnam veterans,” they’re picturing people who were involved in Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and went to rallies wearing old fatigue shirts (always in an untucked and particularly disheveled condition) and thought it was cool to be photographed with Jane Fonda. Me, I tend to picture guys like my Dad, and John McCain. Different perspective. It’s kinda like a Rorschach test.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          By the way, I don’t mean to pigeonhole Phillip or anyone else with a phrase like “my liberal friends.” I just mean that they are my friends, and I was trying to think of a modifier that indicated which of my friends I meant. I would have said “antiwar” friends, to indicate folks who were antiwar during Vietnam, and were again over Iraq, but Phillip has objected to that one in the past.

          Frankly, I hate categorizing people as “liberal” or “conservative” because of the gross inadequacy of those terms, but I guess I’m just having a less-than-eloquent day today.

          Also, in saying “It’s funny, or sad, or something” — I don’t mean the folks who see things differently are funny or sad. I mean the fact that we have this cognitive divide continues to be a sad situation…

  8. bud

    Two facts about Benghazi. 1. The Video really did play a roll in the attack according to the NY Times and David Corn. 2. Al-Qaeda DID NOT play a roll in the attack. This has been thoroughly investigated already. The Obama administration does bear some of the blame for the security lapses. Of course congress cut the security budget for these places so the GOP has a bit of responsibility also. This a tragedy for sure and we should take steps to prevent another attack like this one along with the 18 such attacks that occurred under the Bush Administration. But just because it was a tragedy that doesn’t make it a scandal.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Role. It took me a while to realize that’s what you meant. I was thinking roll of tape or film….

  9. Phillip

    I don’t think Hagel was part of Veterans Against the War, was he? Anyway, the distinctions between veterans are ones you are making, not me. And you (or Ms. Rubin) don’t have to like Kerry and Hagel to at least acknowledge that they invalidate her “no grownups” point.

  10. Harry Harris

    This is the latest chapter in the noise machine. The succession of shrill charges has gone on from birth certificates, health care, “failed stimulus” (it didn’t fail), not pledging allegiance correctly, health care roll-out. As each loses traction, the next spagetti throw is brought out – usually with talking points all prepared. Yesterday, Dana Perino of Fox commented on the upcoming statement Obama was making on climate change by saying she hoped someone would ask him about Bengazi. Outside of maybe Issa, they couldn’t choose a more partisan, aggressive, and disrespectful front man than Trey Gowdy. If this fails to stick or gets again discredited, the next piece will be thrown and be heavily promoted by Fox News. Believe me, it’s ostensibly about whatever issue is pushed; it’s really about getting the same folks who used George W back in charge of tax, energy, environmental, and military/industrial policy.

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