Benghazi: A Desperate GOP Attack

If my Republican colleagues are serious about conducting real oversight on the tragedy in Benghazi, they should start by looking in the mirror.

Their first order of business should be examining the abhorrent cuts that House Republicans made to our State Department's embassy security budget -- cuts that put American lives at risk.

The truth is -- between fiscal years 2011 and 2012, the Republican-led House of Representatives sought to cut more than $450 million from President Obama's budget request for embassy security funding. Although the Senate was able to restore some of this critical funding, it was not enough.

Rather than taking responsibility for the budget cuts that they championed -- cuts that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned would be "detrimental to America's national security" -- Republicans are desperately trying to create a political scandal in an effort to hurt the Administration and Hillary Clinton in particular, for obvious reasons.

The facts are clear: The day after the attack, President Obama appeared in the White House Rose Garden and called the events in Benghazi an "act of terror." And within eight days of the attack, Matthew Olsen -- the director of the National Counterterrorism Center -- appeared before the Senate Homeland Security Committee and said that the "attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi" is "proof" that "acts of terror and violence continue to threaten our citizens and our interests around the world."

The administration sought to relay the best information it had at the time. When Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on Face the Nation -- sharing information that was prepared and signed off on by multiple government agencies -- she made clear that the information was preliminary and warned that "we'll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions."

But Republicans choose to ignore these facts and are instead running negative ads and raising campaign dollars off the tragic events in Benghazi. Republicans tried and failed during the 2012 presidential election to use this tragedy for political gain and now appear eager to recycle these failed attacks.

Their efforts are clearly aimed at the 2016 presidential race. One only needs to look at the ad released by the Karl Rove-backed "American Crossroads" this weekend unfairly attacking Secretary Clinton.

As a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I well remember Secretary Clinton's testimony following the Benghazi attack. She took responsibility and pledged to do everything in her power to put corrective measures in place. And she didn't gloss over the profound pain and suffering this tragedy caused for the families of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

Republicans are shamelessly seeking to turn this tragedy into "Benghazi-gate" -- comparing it to the Watergate scandal. Let's remember: Watergate involved Republicans paying campaign money to break in and bug the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Benghazi involves Republicans cutting money for embassy security -- funding that was clearly desperately needed.

It is time to end this witch-hunt and focus on how we can secure our diplomatic posts and protect American interests in the future. That is why we must work to pass the critical increases for embassy security included in President Obama's 2014 budget request.

There is no argument that Congress has a duty to conduct proper oversight of federal agencies, and I enthusiastically support bipartisan efforts to address the real issues brought to light by the Benghazi attack.

But Republican efforts to manufacture a controversy surrounding this tragedy are not only disingenuous, they are dangerous because they take our eye off the ball and divert attention from where it should be: protecting the American people and those who bravely serve our country overseas.

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