Benghazi: The Scandal That Never Was

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton comments on the just-released Benghazi report as she speaks at Galvani
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton comments on the just-released Benghazi report as she speaks at Galvanize, a learning community for technology, in Denver, U.S. June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

I just finished watching the wretched hour-long "news" conference by the GOP Political Witch-Hunt Committee, aka the House Benghazi Committee. I've read every classified and declassified memo, cable, e-mail, note and message from the night of the Benghazi attacks. My reaction to the GOP's $7 million exercise in Monday-morning quarterbacking is this:

What a load of dung.

Having all of the facts in hand, I have listened with growing indignation for years now as the Vast Right Wing Noise Machine has attacked Secretary Clinton incessantly regarding Benghazi. She ordered the Ambassador to his death, they insinuated. She refused to protect him, they implied. And when he was attacked, she refused to rescue him, they presupposed. Even today, my November Senate opponent Marco Rubio tweeted out that this showed that Secretary Clinton was "unfit" to be Commander-in-Chief.

All slanderous nonsense.

When Secretary Clinton and her colleagues came to testify before my House Foreign Affairs Committee, I labeled this GOP hatchet-job "the scandal that never was." Because it never was.

I was so incensed by this crucifixion attempt that when Rep. Kevin McCarthy came out with the real reason for forming the Benghazi Committee - "her numbers are dropping" - I filed an ethics complaint against both him and Trey Gowdy, because they were wasting taxpayer funds for crass political purposes. With significant effect: note how Rep. Gowdy twisted himself like a pretzel to avoid even mentioning Secretary Clinton's name at the news conference today.

Instead, in today's news conference, the Benghazi hit men (and women) retreated to safer ground, engaging for the most part in the merely misleading, rather than the outright wrong. If you know the truth, as I do, and you parse out what they said, it sounded over and over again like how Abraham Lincoln described the statements of his opponent Sen. Stephen Douglas in the First Lincoln-Douglas Debate: "a fantastic arrangement of words, by which a man can prove a horse-chestnut to be a chestnut horse."

At the news conference today, the GOP pushed two lines, both fantasy:

(1) They argued the Fox News talking point that the Administration had wrongly referred to the motivation for the attack as a reaction to the anti-Muslim movie "the Innocence of Muslims" rather than terrorism, thus trying to perpetuate that false dichotomy. Here are some inconvenient facts:

(a) Less than five hours before the Benghazi attacks, there was an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo that clearly was perpetrated in reaction to the movie, as were numerous other attacks around the Middle East.
(b) The New York Times reported that an eyewitness to the Benghazi attacks attributed the attacks to the movie.
(c) Contemporaneous news reports like the one by the Associated Press linked the movie to both attacks.
(d) The local faction leader who has been captured and indicted for staging the Benghazi attacks reportedly has said that they were done in reaction to the movie.
(e) The GOP Benghazi report complains that five out of the ten items listed in informal notes about a State Department meeting following the attacks refer to the movie, but that is certainly understandable given the spreading and metastasizing turmoil that the State Department was dealing with at that time.
(f) In any event, as the President famously pointed out in his debate with Mitt Romney, the President described the Benghazi attacks as an act of terror from the start.

(2) The Benghazi GOP Members also tried to foist on the public the argument that the Administration did not send any troops "from outside the country" to try to rescue the victims of the attack. Actually, there were two Benghazi attacks: one on the diplomatic compound at 9:40 p.m. , and the second on the CIA compound on the next day, at 4 a.m., a mile away. It would have been physically impossible to fly in U.S. troops from outside the country before the first attack was over. Regarding the second attack, relief already was on its way from Tripoli, inside the country, and the survivors at the CIA depot were evacuated at 5 a.m.

I wish that I could call this pitiful conclusory (in both senses) report "much ado about nothing," but I can't. This was a deliberate attempt by the GOP to smear a leading Democratic candidate for President, with a former prosecutor playing the role of Grand Inquisitor. And this woe-begotten partisan effort has ended in a self-indulgent and deceptive orgy of 20/20 hindsight and sleight-of-hand.

In a fair world, the GOP Members of the Benghazi Committee would have issued a public apology, and left it at that.