By Nick Ahamed
This is the story of a Republican love affair: a love affair with Benghazi and a love affair with buzzwords. The release of a new poll last week made Republicans fall in love (again): According to Rasmussen Reports, 72 percent of Americans want “the truth” about what happened in Benghazi (what else they would want remains unclear).
Around the same time, a newly released email discussed the Obama administration’s response to the attack. Republicans have co-opted these two developments, calling for a new set of congressional hearings on the matter.
So what exactly happened in Benghazi? A study by the New York Times brings us to Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, in mid-September of 2012. A Californian had released a film titled “The Innocence of Muslims” and Cairo, Egypt was bustling with protest. On the night of September 11, that violence spread to Libya.
Ambassador Chris Stevens was visiting the American compound in Benghazi. When assailants entered, the small American security team escaped to a CIA annex, where two were killed. Mr. Stevens and one other died in the fire started during the initial attack on the compound. While it is clear that the attack was not the result of spontaneous protest, it is also clear that Al-Qaeda was not involved.
With these details relatively clearly delineated by the Times, you may be asking what Republicans are still wondering about.
Well, it has much less to do with the tragic deaths of four American diplomats than it does with President Obama’s response.
The day after the attack, President Obama called the event an act of terror. However, National Security Advisor Susan Rice went on Meet the Press and suggested, not incorrectly and based on the CIA’s intelligence report, that given the most current information available at the time, it seemed like the attack was a protest gone wrong.
Admittedly, the Administration did not come out with a strong, unified statement of what happened for two weeks. For this, Republicans have sentenced President Obama to criticism eternal.
Imagine the Republican counterfactual:
The President, in anger over terrorism resulting in Americans’ deaths, decried the need for retaliation. With limited intelligence to suggest terrorist involvement, the President deployed troops in search of the perpetrators. However, in a war-torn country without the people’s unanimous support, this seemed an impossible task. More and more troops were needed while the mission crept out of control. After nine years, $1 trillion and 4,500 casualties, we leave.
That was the Iraq War; we need not repeat it.
Regardless of how a Republican would have responded, perhaps congressional Republicans are justified in asking if the administration acted responsibly.
Think back to 2012: Susan Rice leaked to the New York Times that it was not a terrorist attack. She then went on Sunday morning talk shows and cited that very Times article to which she had contributed, supporting her point that there was no clear evidence of terrorism. And when a reporter went to Libya to investigate, concluding that the attack was planned, the administration leaked the reporter’s wife’s CIA undercover alias.
Sounds like it merits condemnation, right? Except, it’s all complete fiction. Replace Susan Rice with Dick Cheney and a terrorist attack with nuclear weapons and you have a real event.
Where was the Republican outrage when the Bush administration endangered the life of Valerie Plame, the aforementioned CIA operative?
Of course presidential administrations are going to spin their policy, and of course Americans should no doubt ask whether that policy represents their interests.
But that does not give Republicans the right to make hay – or politics – even when the sun doesn’t shine.
According to analysis from the Sunlight Foundation, “Benghazi” was referenced 66 times in September 2012 – 43 times by Republicans and 23 by Democrats. In October, those numbers were 0 and 3 respectively.
But in September 2013, Republicans referenced it 147 times (and Democrats 9). This month – nearly two years after the event happened – it has garnered 111 mentions from Republicans. In fact, this data demonstrates that Republicans have referenced “Benghazi” more than they have “jobs.”
Benghazi has allowed Republicans to move on from their last buzzword infatuation: “Obamacare.” Once referenced 2317 times in one month, May has seen only 19 mentions so far.
I would encourage Republicans to look back at their past buzzword relationships. Bashing Obamacare didn’t win them 2012. And despite mentioning “impeachment” 536 times – making it the month’s most popular buzzword – in October 1998, Republicans actually lost seats in the 1998 midterm elections. That was the first time since 1934 that the party of the president gained seats in the House in a midterm election.
I suggest that Republicans drop their love affair and get back to the issues to which they are supposed to be wedded. Nine million people are unemployed. Democrats have mentioned “unemployment” 2093 times in 2014. That number for Republicans is only about one-third, or 795.
It’s time to move on. Move on to Americans in need.
Contact Nick Ahamed at [email protected]