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GOP’s demented obsession with Benghazi vs. Dems’ demented obsession with Obama

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Forgive me here, but for brevity’s sake I am conflating two articles by liberal writers that make essentially the same argument. (If I had broadened the portion of the title following the quoted phrase to include “Obamacare failure,” I could have killed about a dozen birds with a single stone.)

The two writers in question are Brian Beutler of the New Republic and Heather Digby Parton of Salon. It is Digby (as she seems to prefer to be called) who contributes the word adjective demented, while obsession is Beutler’s. Taking their arguments in that order, Digby’s hinges on the assumption that “Benghazi!™ is about portraying the Obama administration as being wimpy on terrorism.” That is erroneous. If conservatives wanted to portray Obama as wimpy on terrorism, they would opt for his handling of two current headline terrorists — Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad. Both are leaders who Obama threatened with red lines, which, when it came time to make good on his threats, prompted him to take refuge under the big oak desk in the Oval Office.

Benghazi is decidedly not about wimping out. It’s about the Obama administration’s failure to heed repeated demands for enhanced security and then lying about went down on Sept. 11, 2012 because the presidential election was less than two months off, and Obama was concerned about coming as incompetent.

Beutler’s argument that Benghazi is an obsession among Republicans is slightly more skilful than Digby’s (although it would be tough to find an argument less skillful). But his premise — which is that Benghazi is a twofer, intended not only to harm the Obama presidency but to forestall a Hillary Clinton presidency — also falls flat:

The reason Benghazi has remained an explosive issue among conservatives is that many of them believe the administration essentially disengaged and allowed people to die to avoid having to acknowledge that Obama had presided over a terrorist attack. Republicans have fed that suspicion.

It's total nonsense. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon effectively acknowledged as much last month when he said, at a roundtable discussion with reporters, "I think I've pretty well been satisfied that given where the troops were, how quickly the thing all happened and how quickly it dissipated, we probably couldn't have done more than we did." He reiterated the same point more forcefully just yesterday.

The first paragraph garbles two ideas by confusing their chronology. The administration’s disengagement did predate the deaths of four Americans and the lie that the attacks were incited by a “hateful anti-Muslim video.” But the disengagement was either indolence or inattention. It wasn’t meant to cover up anything. In fact, the opposite is true. The cover-up, which came in the form of equipping Susan Rice with talking points about a “video,” was in response to the administration’s failure to secure the consulate in Benghazi. Some analysts more recently have begun to ask why there still was a U.S. consulate in Libya after the 2011 NATO military intervention, led (from behind) by the U.S., which served only to embolden Al Qaeda affiliates, but that’s another column.

Beutler’s presumption that Buck McKeon’s comments support his view are based on a misreading of them. In the quote, McKeon is talking exclusively about whether military support could have been deployed once the firefight at the American compound began and whether that would have helped stave off the attack, which was well-planned. That speaks to a third question about the Obama administration’s conduct with respect to Benghazi.

The questions, in order, are: (1) Did the administration do enough to shore up security when Ambassador Chris Stevens sent multiple memos asking for it? The answer is a clear no. (2) Did the administration attempt to persuade the American public that the attack was a spontaneous mob action, to help Obama save face? The answer seems at this juncture to be yes. (3) Could sending in air support have saved the lives of Stevens and three other Americans who died in the raid? McKeon says no, but it Beutler’s partisan wishful thinking that prevents him from soliciting other opinions.

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