The story was dead on arrival; while the opposition beat the bushes, unturned every stone, and twisted the intent of everyone involved, the truth just kept creeping back in: there was no intent to mislead or cover-up events in Benghazi.
The question is: why is it so important to Republicans that it look to be so? Why are they so hell-bent on spinning the story to make it appear as though some nefarious deed was being perpetrated by the Obama Administration toward…what end? Given the considerable time being allocated and the taxpayers’ money being spent to pursue this line of logic, you would think there was some grand reasoning behind the crusade, some hint of true scandal. Instead, it sputters towards its factual but far less grand conclusion: that a change in verbiage in the initial CIA reports (as reported by General David Petraeus) is responsible for the inaccurate early assessment of cause reported to the White House, then repeated by the now GOP-persecuted Ambassador Susan Rice. Is it possible, like a political game of “telephone,” that bungled verbiage is at the root of all this?
British magazine, The Economist, which, as a colleague of mine commented, is “not a liberal rag by ANY stretch of the imagination,” came out with a story this past week that took America, and its pugilistic pack of Republicans, to task for their absurdist thinking regarding Benghazi-gate and Ambassador Rice’s “hand” in it. In a piece aptly titled, Benghazi-gate gets even more ludicrous, a few salient points are made:
At the most fundamental level, the reason it is absurd to suspect the existence of a “cover-up” over the Benghazi attack is that such a cover-up could not have had any conceivable goal. Back to the beginning: the underlying accusation about Benghazi is that the Obama administration deliberately mischaracterized the terrorist attack there as having grown out of a spontaneous demonstration because that would be less politically damaging. Such a cover-up would have made no sense because the attack would not have been less politically damaging had it grown out of a spontaneous demonstration. The attack on the Benghazi compound would not have been any less politically difficult for the administration if it had grown out of a riot, nor would any normal voter have expected it to be less politically damaging, nor would any normal campaign strategist have expected any normal voter to have expected it to be less politically damaging. Had Susan Rice gone on the talk shows on September 15th and inaccurately stated that the attackers had been wearing green pants, when in fact their pants had been red, there would be no reason to suspect this to be part of a political “cover-up”, because no American voters could conceivably have cared either way.
The Republicans, particularly dog-with-a-bone duo John McCain and Lindsey Graham, insist their attacks on Susan Rice have no equivalency to their continued embrace of Condoleezza Rice even after her mischaracterizations about WMD in the ramp-up to the Iraq War. Nor does McCain accept any equivalency regarding Watergate (“Nobody died in Watergate.”). And yet, to take up the logic of The Economist, both those events, unlike Benghazi, had reasons for their ultimately discovered cover-ups: the WMD lie conveniently gave purpose to a war against a country that was not behind 9/11, and the Watergate cover-up was meant to hide the illegal activities of a corrupt GOP Administration hell-bent on destroying its opposition.
In the case of Benghazi, however, there is no similar rationale or logic to justify a “cover up”…because there is none. In the “fog of war,” or likely with an intent to not incite immediate and further danger until more was known, the CIA changed the word “terrorist” to “extremist.” And Ambassador Rice took that information, the only information the White House had in those early moments, and reiterated it. As The Economist points out, neither her iteration – nor the later-discovered more correct one – offered evidence of any malfeasance on the part of the Obama Administration, had any impact one way or the other on the election, or indicated any reason or logic for a cover-up of any kind.
It did, however, show evidence of the power of a word. Like the infamous “Telephone Game,” the CIA’s replacement of “terrorist” with “extremist” incited hysteria and suspicion on the part of the GOP opposition and set an entire investigation into motion, one that has put a respected ambassador under attack, led to the implication of wrong-doing on the part of the Obama administration, and involved a four-star general who is also fighting a scandal in his personal life (which some are even suggesting is a “blackmail” attempt in service of the administration’s “cover-up”…know that the writer of this linked article also considers global warming a “hoax”).
After losing the election in a manner that was surprising only to them, the GOP appears to be looking for a body to flog in their attempt to recover their footing. Benghazi-gate offers convenient timing and a suitably tragic event to manipulate. What it doesn’t offer is logic for, or evidence of, the cover-up they are attempting to breath into life. With so many more factual and immediate needs in a country, and world, struggling with economic and political woes, it seems time for the wounded warriors of the Right to turn their formidable energies toward a more productive goal than attempting to create scandal where none exists. Particularly when real scandal is never too hard to find.