I fully understand that Mitt Romney and his lieutenants want to capitalize on any and every political opportunity that comes their way, but in the case of the Benghazi deaths have they gone too far?
Ambassador Chris Stevens’ father has come out and asked that the Romney campaign cease and desist in politicizing his son’s death. To wit Jan Stevens: “It would really be abhorrent to make this into a campaign issue. The security matters are being adequately investigated. We don’t pretend to be experts in security. It has to be objectively examined. That’s where it belongs. It does not belong in the campaign arena.” Just last week the mother of the slain Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, Barbara Doherty, asked Romney to stop using he son’s death as a political prop with the following statement: “I don’t trust Romney. He shouldn’t make my son’s death part of his political agenda. It’s wrong to use these brave young men, who wanted freedom for all, to degrade Obama.” Republican candidates have a long history of using the American military as a political backdrop during campaign season but Romney’s use of the Benghazi tragedy is beyond the pale of politics as usual and that’s why it’s become so controversial. Moreover, with Romney having made some many missteps in the foreign policy arena one would think that he would pick his fights somewhere else.
I think we’ve come to a point of “enough already” especially as the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has taken responsibility for events and in doing so, has pointed out that requests for security aren’t the sort of issues that would go across the president’s desk. That said, it’s more than a bit disingenuous to try to pin failures in day to day embassy operations on the president. Its analogous to trying to tie the price of a gallon of gasoline to Barack Obama when gas and oil prices are set in a worldwide market controlled by hundreds of traders and economic factors and not in the offices of world leaders.
The other great irony in the Republican attack on the issue of diplomatic security is that they themselves voted to cut funding for it. When asked in an interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley about Republican votes that cut funding for embassy security Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), a Romney Surrogate said: “Absolutely. Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have… 15,0000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, a private army there, for President Obama, in Baghdad. And we’re talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces. When you’re in touch economic times, you have to make difficult choices. You have to prioritize things.” What’s even more ironic about Chaffetz’s spin is that he sits on two committees that are directly involved in terrorism and security; Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security and the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations. Chaffetz is Chairman of the latter. Should he have known better than to cut this type of funding, I would say so. If anything a guy who seems to be so in touch with the dangers arising in post-revolutionary Libya should have had the presence of mind to speak up against funding cuts then rather than to serve as a mouthpiece for ill considered criticism by the Romney campaign now. Rather than question Barack Obama’s judgment in commenting on the deaths in Benghazi recently, Congressman Chaffetz ought to look in the mirror and question his own lack of judgment and his current contribution in this crass politicizing of the four unfortunate American deaths in Libya.
No matter how you analyze this issue one thing is for sure, the Congressional Republicans look like the pot calling the kettle black and Romney and Co. look like a bunch of crass political operatives in continuing to use the Benghazi tragedy as a political prop. As I said above, enough is enough.
Steven J. Gulitti
Ambassador’s dad says son’s death in Libya shouldn’t be politicized; http://www.cleveland.com/nation/index.ssf/2012/10/ambassadors_dad_says_sons_deat.html
Fox News, Stephanie Cutter, And The Politicization Of Benghazi; http://mediamatters.org/mobile/blog/2012/10/12/fox-news-stephanie-cutter-and-the-politicizatio/190596
Mother Of Navy SEAL Killed In Libya Demands Romney Stop Talking About Him In Stump Speech; http://thinkprogress.org/security/2012/10/10/986301/romney-navy-seal-mother-libya/
Honoring Slain SEAL’s Mom’s Request, Romney Will Drop Story On Stump; http://www.capradio.org/news/npr/story?storyid=162671671
Hillary Clinton takes responsibility for Libya US deaths; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-19958739
Rep. Chaffetz says he “absolutely” voted to cut funding for embassy security; http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/10/rep-chaffetz-says-he-absolutely-cut-funding-for-embassy-security/
As far as to who knew what and when, this article suggests that what truly happened is, as of yet, not fully known,: Election-Year Stakes Overshadow Nuances of Libya Investigation; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/16/world/africa/election-year-stakes-overshadow-nuances-of-benghazi-investigation.html?pagewanted=1&ref=todayspaper
Not long ago, I argued that the existence of a memo in the summer of 2001, filled with buts, coulds and maybes, wasn’t a warning of the impending 9/11 attacks except in hindsight. Nope: Bush was criminally negligent by failing to heed these warnings and take appropriate security countermeasures.
Now, suddenly, all of the Republicans who couldn’e see how the memos to Bush could be a warning think that the report on benghazi was a clear as a bell, and all of the Democrats who think Bush was criminally negligent are talking about the uncertainty of intellegence reports.
The problem is that Democrats cannot easily make their own case now, having attacked Bush on something that is so high in the consciousness of even the lowest information voter. I think that this is hurting Obama, bigtime now. In my view, the Benghazi situation, and the way it was handled by the administration, started the Obama slide that continues still.
That’s clearly not so, since Obama built a large lead in the three weeks AFTER the attack and the race grew tighter immediately after the first debate.
I don’t think it’s an equivalent to the August 2001 memo that Bush was given, but in any event President Obama took responsibility tonight at the debate.
I will say that, if Al Gore or — God forbid — Barack Obama had been President when the World Trade Center was attacked, the Republicans would have gone from sea to shining sea claiming putting Democrats in office will get your kids killed. I have no doubt about that.
Nor do I; but I do not fool myself into believing the Democrats would do otherwise as they have spent the last decade doing the same thing.
I have a different view than each of you.
I think if Bill Clinton had been President, the attack might never have happened — and if it did, I think the response would have been much more restrained and far more effective. The Bush administration had been seeking an excuse to attack Iraq for years, and key administration figures (Mr. Wolfowitz and Mr. Rumsfeld) had advocated “regime change” in Iraq since at least as early as 1998.
I guess I’m hopelessly naive, but in my lifetime the GOP has demonstrated again and again its eagerness to politicize suffering and tragedy and pander to prejudice, fear and ignorance — far more so than the Democratic Party.
A President Obama or Gore would have gone down in flames right away, not seen a rallying rise in approval rating to 90% and re-election. You can’t ignore that the Republicans for years had an advantage on “keeping us safe from terrorists,” completely ignoring that the biggest terrorist attack on American soil in history just went down on their watch.
To Tom’s point, I don’t know if the WTC attack would have happened under Clinton – or Gore or Obama. It’s possible it would have been averted but we can’t know. I agree wholeheartedly the response would have been very different. It’s clear the Bush neocons were itching for a pretext to go into Iraq. Unfortunately they got plenty of Democrats to sign off on it (Hillary, etc.) in the 2002 political climate.
We spent a bunch of time arguing right here, in which I wound up defending the Bush administration for goodness sake, about whether the administration was grossly negligent in missing the clear warning of a memo in summer 2001 and thus failing to prevent the 9/11 attack.
The shoe is now directly on the other foot. But I’m supposed to say these things aren’t equivalent because the Democrats’ bullshit accusation of the Bush administration didn’t work, but the EXACT SAME bullshit attack by Republicans against a Democratic president might?
Come off it.
I have never said Bush should have stopped the attack. I don’t know if he could have. What I’m saying now is this:
1. Bengazi was a tragedy but cannot compare to the September 11 attacks, in which 3,000 civilians were killed on our own soil. It’s not equivalent for that reason.
2. I also don’t think national Democrats attacked Bush on this the way the GOP now is attacking Obama. And there’s no comparison between any criticism of Bush by Democrats and what the GOP would have done if 9/11 happened under a Democratic President. So that’s not equivalent.
3. Even if it were equivalent, if the Democrats are being hypocrites, than the Republicans are to at least an equal extent. They are criticizing the President on this when they said the last President shouldn’t be criticized. I’d like to know, if one side can flip its argument, why the other can’t. What’s good for the goose.
* then the Republicans are to at least an equal extent
1. They are directly comparable in that they were terrorist attacks, and were each preceded by warnings that were vague in real-time, but seem specific with the benefit of hindsight.
2. I think your memory is selective. This has been a big issue for Democrats for years. The memo was released in 2004, and was a hot topic thereafter. Kerry’s national security advisor appeared on CNN to criticize Bush on EXACTLY this issue. No national Democrats? That’s the Kerry campaign!
A few years later, President Clinton– another non-national Democrat– used this when he appeared on Fox New Sunday and got sandbagged with questions about bin Laden, and stuck it right up Chris Wallace’s ass. (I don’t think this was particularly unfair in context, since Wallace accused Clinton of ignoring bin Laden, which was patently BS.)
I do think that this was lined up to be the issue of the week last month. Vanity Fair Guy writes NYTimes Op-Ed on 9/10/12: The Deafness Before The Storm. There isn’t anything in there that hasn’t been around for years. Why publish this on September 10, 2012?
Well, guy gets on talk shows: Rachel Maddow. All over Daily Kos. NPR. Elliot Spitzer’s show. All on Sept 11.
Then, on September 12, Eichenwald seems to have fallen into a very deep hole, and the hot topic of his op-ed was dropped like a hot rock.
Why do you suppose that is?
3. Sure. But “they started it” isn’t a particularly effective argument, in my view. The Libya event should have been (may still be) a huge gimme for Romney, if not because of a security lapse, then because the initial response from the White House was fumbled. It was quite fortunate that Romney has botched his criticism on it now, twice– once with his premature ejaculation, and again at the debate.
And Obama certainly won the exchange at the debate rhetorically. But, substantively, the “I’m offended at your playing politics” thing is taken from the Bush/Cheney/Rove playbook. And having a political discussion about, “hey, why are American civilian employees of the US government being attacked by armed mobs in Benghazi, Libya anyway?” would not necessarily be a bad thing.
So, this is another in my series of calling “BS” when Democrats say “who, us?” when the growing dysfunction of the US government is prominently displayed.
Following up on #3, what a stinging indictment our our entire national media it is that coverage and discussion by real “journalists” in the national media about the attack in Benghazi is about whether saying “act of terror” is the same as saying “terrorist act” and the discussion of what the administration is trying to accomplish in Libya, what the function of an embassy is, whether embassies that are fortresses can accomplish their function, and what the risks and rewards of the policy in Libya happen in an interview on The Daily Show.
The Clinton administration was far more aggressive than the incoming Bush administration about terror. The Clinton team gave very explicit warnings about AQ to the Bush administration — and were ignored. The complaints that the Bush administration ignored the warnings about 9/11 weren’t coming from out of the blue in response to just 9/11 — in my view, they must be evaluated in the context of an administration that steadfastly ignored ALL SUCH WARNINGS from its inception. The Bush administration wanted to invade Iraq, the neocons like Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Wolfowitz wanted to exploit what they saw as a unique opportunity for the US to dominate the globe after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It appears to me that, while they (like the rest of us) were horrified at the scale of 9/11, they were only to happy to have a pretext to rationalize the aggressive actions they had been promoting for a long time.
I see no evidence of a similar attitude from the Obama administration, and that’s why in my view the two situations are fundamentally different.
If you re-read my comment, I think I forgive Clinton’s use of this particular line of accusation in the defensive context he used it, for precisely the reason you state. In include it in order to demonstrate that the criticism has been around, and has been used by Democrats, for years.
At the same time, while Clinton cannot be accused of doing nothing, he cannot claim that he did anything successful– his administration was essentially bookended by successful al-Quaida terrorist attacks, despite a whole lot of missiles launched and people who were not necessarily terrorists killed. Why wouldn’t there be some skepticism about continuing that policy? There should have been; it was not a successful policy. (This is not unlike present GOP criticism of Obama for “failing to fix the economy” by discontinuing GOP economic policies.)
To extend that to “steadfastly ignoring all warnings” is “Obama is a Muslim from Kenya” level dishonest conspiracy-mongering. No intelligence analyst wants to be caught out saying “all clear here!” if something goes wrong, so they load up their threat assessment with coulds and mights and possiblies and maybes and other CYA hedges. Afterward, someone pulls these out and says “See? I predicted this!” Another way of saying hindsight is 20/20 is that the signal to noise ratio is not a factor in retrospect. To adhere to this line of attack, one must either (i) not understand the signal/noise problem; or (ii) choose to ignore it for political reasons.
In the event, bullshit “what did he know and when did he know it” questions came to dominate the 9/11 Commission report and the impact thereof in 2004, and overshadowed the careful assessment of structural deficiencies in our security services that was called for. Government action on those deficiencies has thus been largely left to the hasty provisions of the Patriot Act– to our general cost.
The present administration seems to have a similar trail over the last year– the Libyan government warning about the possibility of attacks, and the embassy itself requesting more security. Doubtless these requests came couched in terms of mights coulds possiblies and maybes as well.
If the Bush administration “did absolutely nothing” on counter-terrorism, then he deserved to be removed in 2004 (even setting aside his entire administration from and after 9/12, and disregarding all normal partisan/ideological differences on domestic policy); but so also would Obama deserve to be ousted next month, notwithstanding anything else good that he has done.
I do not think either of these things are true. Rather, I think that these are pure products of the “We are always 100% right and you are always 100% wrong” nature of our ever more polarized political parties. And yes: here, I mean BOTH of them.
How many National Security Daily Briefing memos on Benghazi were there that went ignored? None, to our knowledge. Besides, we are in the thick of it over there; this isn’t the assasination of the Grand Duke triggering events in the same way that 9/11 did.
Besides, somehow Reagan is seen as “heroic” even though241 american servicemen, of which 220 were Marines, were killed in Beirut in 1983.