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Trying to Understand Benghazi!

I have not made a secret of the fact that I find almost all of the GOP reaction to the Benghazi attacks to be a combination of mystifying and annoying (e.g., here and here).

Look:  the best argument one can have for the outrage is what John McCain tried on MTP:  point out that four American died in the attack.  This fact has led many, including pedantic commenters on this blog (as well as national commentators), to note that, therefore, Benghazi is more significant than Watergate since, after all, no one died as a result of Watergate!

By this standard (the death of Americans) we are steeped in scandals:  from highway traffic deaths to the Iraq war and anything else that leads to the death of Americans.  As such, it is a lousy standard.

Of the various problems of this view is one of timeline and causation.  The “scandal” of Benghazi, as best I can tell, is that there is an alleged cover-up about the response to the attack, not a cover-up about events leading up to the attack.  McCain, for example, on the aforementioned MTP appearance noted that a key question is “‘What did the president do and who did he talk to the night of the attack on Benghazi?'”

But, of course, the attack did not happen because of anything the President did, or did not, do after the attack started.  He went on to complain about events after the attack:

McCain continued: “Why did the president for two weeks, for two weeks during the heat of the campaign continue to say he didn’t know whether it was a terrorist attack or not? Is it because it interfered with the line ‘Al Qaeda has [been] decimated’? And ‘everything’s fine in that in that part of the world’? Maybe. We don’t know. But we need the answers. Then we’ll reach conclusions. But we have not received the answers. And that’s a fact.”

I could be more excited about the scandalosity of it all if the argument was that there was some definitive error or decision prior to the attack that could be blamed for the outcome that was being covered up.  Yet, this is not the argument.  Yes, there was some discussion of an e-mail requesting more security (in Tripoli, in fact, IIRC) but that is not where Graham and McCain are focusing their claims.

To add another voice to mine in this discussion, the Department of Political Science at Troy University hosted a guest a few weeks ago with specific insight into these events, former Ambassador David Dunford.  Dunford was a career foreign service officer who was, among other things, Ambassador to Oman in the early 1990s and Deputy Ambassador to Saudi Arabia (1988-1992).  As such, he is well-versed in both serving the US government in a diplomatic capacity, and in the Middle East specifically.  In a public talk he gave at the University he noted that he knew Chris Stevens personally and that Stevens was doing what Stevens did:  working hard to make connections in the country where he was representing the US.  Further, he noted that Stevens knew the risks and would have seen Benghazi as a second home and hence it was surprising that he traveled there with the a relatively small entourage.  Dunford saw the attack as tragic, but also as something that was not preventable in any practical way.  He noted that, in fact, it is not in the interest of the US for its ambassadors to live in fortresses utterly safe from all harm, and good diplomacy requires the assumption of some level of risk. (And, of course as we know, this was not the first time a US ambassador was killed on duty, let alone the first time and American consulate or embassy was attacked).

Dunford also confirmed what I assumed to be the case:  requests for more security are fairly are quite common from embassies and that it is impossible, and perhaps not even desirable, to provide as much security as is requested.

(And yes, one former ambassador’s views are just that—but they carry more weight to me than do a lot of bloggers and commenters out there who are certain that they know how these things are supposed to work, but clearly do not).

In truth:  I have yet to see a reasonable assessment of the event in Benghazi that explains why it should be considered a scandal.  I can accept the need to assess the event in the hopes of understanding exactly what happened and to learn how to avoid such events in the future.   This is a long way from it being a scandal.

Via Kevin Drum (via Ed Kilgore)is a theory to explain why this won’t go away from a GOP POV.  A story from Ari Shapiro at NPR observes:

Data from the Pew Research Center suggest not every voter is following this story equally. In November, Pew found that Republicans were twice as likely to follow Benghazi closely as Democrats or independents.

That could be because conservative media hammered the story nonstop. But the discrepancy suggests that this rallying cry could be effective at ginning up the base without driving away people on the other side, who may not be paying attention.

Drum goes on:

If you’re going to make fundraising hay out of a pseudo-scandal, it’s actually better if you focus on something that the rest of the world thinks is too ridiculous to bother following. Not only does this help with the fundraising pitch—the liberal media is part of the cover-up!—but you don’t lose independent votes since non-wingnuts have simply tuned the whole thing out.

This makes as much sense as anything else:  that the whole thing is cynical politics.  And no, this is hardly a revelation.  The interesting thing, really, is the empirical confirmation in the Shapiro piece that the story is predominantly a GOP-centric media-wise that is being ignored far more by others (given the lack of new news about the story).  Really, the only “news” about Benghazi of late is that many in the GOP are still complaining about Benghazi.

This does lend yet more additional evidence to the notion that one’s worldview is shaped by the media one consumes.  Of course, as Drum notes, the true believers will agree with this statement because they will see it as an indictment of the dreaded MSM.  However, this ignores that the main usefulness of this story is that it is a means of criticizing the Obama administration, not actually addressing a concrete set of questions.  Further:  while I understand that cover-ups, by definition, exist in the context of insufficient information because it is, well, being covered-up.  However, at some point the lack of information may be the direct result of that information not existing—especially if there is no evidence of some sort of cover up.

To borrow from, and build on something Shapiro notes in the story (but is not quote above), Benghazi has the feel of catchphrases that are supposed to capture some clear, obvious, and all-encompassing description of the Obama administration.  Shapiro notes Solyndra (and Obamacare) and I would add Fast and Furious.  Now, the administration was actually able to appropriate Obamacare for its own uses, but the others, while failures or problematic in some way, are simply insufficient to be comprehensive critiques.  And yet, they become almost folk legends that are, at one time or another, supposedly going to result in impeachment (or something—they certainly did not prevent re-election).

The problem is this for the GOP:  such rantings are all well and good when they are ratings-grabbers for primetime chat shows.  However, they are driving the behavior of leaders of the party and interfering with rather important issues, such as who should lead the Department of Defense and the CIA.  Would not McCain, Graham, etc. be more efficacious legislators if they focused on real problems (or which we have many?).  To me this is all about an ongoing lack of seriousness about governing within the GOP in recent years.

This is not good for the country.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Mark Ivey says:

    “To me this is all about an ongoing lack of seriousness about governing within the GOP in recent years.”
    ———————————————-

    Grifters don´t really care about governing, only grifting.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 35 Thumb down 1

  2. gVOR08 says:

    When I saw the headline, I hoped it was occasioned by the Kevin Drum piece. Thank you.

    This is just one more crisis manufactured by Republicans out of little or nothing. And if Drum and Shapiro’s theory is correct, that this is to fund raise on the right but under the radar of everyone else, it’s proof once again that much of the conservative movement is just grifting. This is no way to run a country.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  3. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Perhaps the ghastliest irony of this fiasco is that the left-wing demographics in this country are so loopy they really can’t connect the obvious dots. It’s beyond that of mere partisan blinders. It’s actual cognitive impairment.

    Fatal terrorist attack occurs on the anniversary of 9/11 in a Muslim country and in a long-term antagonist region in which only months beforehand the West engaged in a bombing campaign. Right in the middle of Obama’s reelection campaign. Of course three blind mice instantly could have figured out it was a terrorist attack. Yet the administration’s initial cover up reaction was to blame it on a YouTube video.

    YouTube. A video. Mmm, hhhmmm.

    Now right here one could make a quip about insulting the intelligence of the electorate, but the scary part is that from the standpoint of pure Machiavellian politics you really can’t blame Team Obama. The public at large is that dumb.

    Then of course it turns out that for months beforehand the ambassador who died a grisly death in said attack, along with his staff and various others, were begging for additional security. Oh, well, whatever, dude.

    And the left not only remains insouciant they’re incredulous why it’s even an issue. And they’re serious. It’s not merely posturing. They actually can’t figure out what the hubbub is all about. That’s DSM-level dissonance. Seriously.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 42

  4. There are legitimate questions raised by what happened in Benghazi. For example, are we doing enough to secure our embassies and diplomatic personnel in nations like Libya where central authorities quite obviously don’t have full control. Additionally, the events raise serious questions about the wisdom of our actions in Libya in 2011 and the extent to which that has helped to empower militias and terrorist groups. The recent events in Mali and the hostage situation in Algeria both have links to groups that have taken refuge in the vast Libyan deserts in the southern and western parts of the country.

    Unfortunately, though, Republicans have largely ignored these issues in an effort to play “gotcha” with the Obama White House.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  5. Rafer Janders says:

    Is it because it interfered with the line ‘Al Qaeda has [been] decimated’? And ‘everything’s fine in that in that part of the world’?

    Except, of course, that Obama never claimed that al Qaeda has been decimated (else why would we still be launching multiple drone strikes against Qaeda leadership every week) or that everything was fine in North Africa. So the claim that Obama ever said either of these things is purely imaginary.

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  6. @Tsar Nicholas: Shockingly, none of that explains what the scandal is supposed to be.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 39 Thumb down 0

  7. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Additionally, the events raise serious questions about the wisdom of our actions in Libya in 2011 and the extent to which that has helped to empower militias and terrorist groups.

    What are those questions?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  8. @Steven L. Taylor:

    I would imagine that the claimed scandal would be an alleged post-attack cover-up in the middle of the election to conceal the fact that, allegedly, the ball on been dropped on security at the consulate in Benghazi.

    Not saying I agree that this rises to the level of a “scandal,” just speculating.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  9. @Doug Mataconis: I can see an initial line of inquiry into such an allegation. However, in the absence of evidence to support the allegation, this should have gone from question to nothing. Instead, it is treated as a major scandal and a reason to hold up the business of government.

    As such, I understand your point, but I think you are giving more credit than is due.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  10. @Rafer Janders:

    In many ways the same questions that were raised after the War in Iraq. By overthrowing a strong central government, while at the same time allying with rebels that included groups sympathetic to al Qaeda, we set in motion a chain of events the end of which we still don’t know. The new Libyan government is nowhere near as strong as its predecessor, and the foothold that these terrorist-aligned groups have made in the ungoverned/ungovernable areas of the country have already had serious consequences for Libya’s neighbors.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  11. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “However, in the absence of evidence to support the allegation, this should have gone from question to nothing. Instead, it is treated as a major scandal and a reason to hold up the business of government.”

    And yet, like Solyndra, Fast and Furious and Obama’s birth certificate, and to go back to the prior Democratic Administration, things like Vince Foster’s suicide, Whitewater, the list of persons whom Clinton had killed, and all of the other made-up scandals, the absence of evidence, in spite of being repeatedly investigated and nothing found, only makes the parties claiming there is a scandal even more certain.

    And on the other hand, things proven beyond any doubt against Republican administrations, from the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to the politicization of the firing of US attorneys, and even going back as far as Iran-Contra, are routinely dismissed by those same parties. This combination makes taking Republicans seriously whenever they screech about the scandal du jour difficult.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 0

  12. al-Ameda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    There are legitimate questions raised by what happened in Benghazi. For example, are we doing enough to secure our embassies and diplomatic personnel in nations like Libya where central authorities quite obviously don’t have full control.

    I agree, however, Republicans do not care about those questions at all.

    At first, they were hopeful that something about Benghazi would gain traction with the public and lead to the defeat of Obama in November. Now, they hold on to the hope that Benghazi will give them something that leads to possible impeachment proceedings in the House.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  13. gVOR08 says:

    @Doug Mataconis: @Steven L. Taylor: I can see the GOPs making a thing of this shortly before the election, After all, thin as it is, it’s the closest they’ve come to a scandal in the “Chicago thug, most corrupt ever” Obama administration. But why are they still pushing it? It’s certain Obama won’t be reelected again; I haven’t heard anyone even hint at a “high crime or misdemeanor”; and they can’t possibly keep it up for three years until Hillary runs; so what’s the point? Except that as noted above, it supports the grifters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  14. @gVOR08:

    It’s certain Obama won’t be reelected again

    But is it?

    (cue dramatic, sinister music)

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 0

  15. bill says:

    didn’t hillary tell us to just get over it or something? true leadership there, and nobody seems to question her snippy attitude when asked about it. the mainstream wonks moved on quickly, the whole “9/11″ date was just a coincidence or something. and they even found a patsy to put in jail for it……….. nope, nothing to see here folks- move along!

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 23

  16. @Doug Mataconis:

    “Unfortunately, though, Republicans have largely ignored these issues in an effort to play “gotcha” with the Obama White House.”

    Yes, it is unfortunate….but not entirely unexpected.

    None of these Republicans are concerned “about the wisdom of our actions in Libya in 2011.” John McCain was a huge supporter of the Libyan intervention.

    Here’s McCain in 2011:

    “They are my heroes,” McCain said of the rebels as he walked out of a local hotel in Benghazi.

    Mitt Romney was prepared to use the incident in an attempt to portray Barack “Babykilling Drone Deployer” Obama as weak on terror.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  17. MM says:

    @bill: Man, straw-Clinton is a terrible person.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  18. James,

    I’m well aware of that, although there were and are Republicans who questioned the wisdom of the Libya operation at the time, as well as the President’s decision to send American forces without consulting with, or seeking the permission of, Congress.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. Ron Beasley says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Very well said Doug.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. @Doug Mataconis:

    I would imagine that the claimed scandal would be an alleged post-attack cover-up in the middle of the election…..

    Probably right….but that’s just the latest iteration.

    Remember when it was about free speech?

    Remember when it was about refusing to call it a terrorist attack?

    Remember when it was about Susan Rice lying on TV talk shows about it being spontaneous?

    I’m sure you do. You yourself was really pushing the “free speech” angle until it totally collapsed. I also remember several days of “the narrative is changing!” posts, which was true, only not in the way you were describing.

    Only after all of these fell apart did it become a “post attack cover-up.” (And it’s never been about the Libyan intervention….sorry.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  21. @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb):

    I still think the Administration’s decision to attack this movie so explicitly was mistaken. Regardless of how a bunch of illiterates deluded into rioting by their Imam’s might feel, our President ought to stand up for freedom of expression, a fundamental American value.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 7

  22. @Doug Mataconis:

    “there were and are Republicans who questioned the wisdom of the Libya operation at the time”

    Certainly. When I was in AZ last summer, I saw a white buffalo.

    Both are rare beasts and should not be confused with what you’ll see in the wild.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  23. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I think we have to a lot of stretching and reaching to make “legitimate questions” out of the Benghazi incident.

    You’ve tried though, I’ll give you that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  24. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Good Lord, and then you top it with your call for enhanced conflict in the region.

    Priceless.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  25. GoBlue77 says:

    @Doug Mataconis: @Doug Mataconis:

    I still think the Administration’s decision to attack this movie so explicitly was mistaken. Regardless of how a bunch of illiterates deluded into rioting by their Imam’s might feel, our President ought to stand up for freedom of expression, a fundamental American value.

    That comment is just unreal.
    Obama:

    “True democracy demands that citizens cannot be thrown in jail because of what they believe, and that businesses can be open without paying a bribe. It depends on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without fear… I know there are some who ask why don’t we just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws. Our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech…Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views — even views that we profoundly disagree with. We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views and practice their own faith may be threatened. ”

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

  26. @Doug Mataconis:

    “our President ought to stand up for freedom of expression”

    I agree. I’m pretty sure that neither the President, nor his Sec of State, were or are against free speech.

    Clinton’s statement on the 12th:

    Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our Embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear — there is no justification for this, none.

    Same day, Obama says this:

    “Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None.”

    Both of them are standing up for American values, and for an explicit attack on a video…..it’s pretty weak, isn’t it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  27. Nick says:

    Mitt Romney explained how Benghazigate started in the 47% video. Romney said that he would look for any foreign policy misstep close to the election and Carterize Obama as weak on foreign policy. True to his words, Romney pounced, and Drudge, Fox et al hyped the scandal for the Romney campaign. It’s not surprising that Republican audiences ate it up, while centrist types remain uninterested in this tedious bit of political gamesmanship.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  28. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    In many ways the same questions that were raised after the War in Iraq.

    Apples and oranges. Iraq was entirely instigated by the US, out of whole cloth, for no good reason. There was no war, there was no regime change, until we attacked, invaded and occupied that country.

    In Libya, by contrast, the revolution against Qaddafi was not instigated by us. We only got involved partway through to support a revolt that was well underway.

    By overthrowing a strong central government, while at the same time allying with rebels that included groups sympathetic to al Qaeda, we set in motion a chain of events the end of which we still don’t know.

    Well, we wouldn’t know the end of events if we hadn’t intervened and Qaddafi had remained in power, or if the war had dragged on for years as in Syria, now would we? Once the war began, our choices were basically limited to (a) do nothing and hope Qaddafi wins and restores an autocratic dictatorship, (b) do nothing so the war grinds on for years, destabilizing the region even more than it is now, or (c) intervene and hope a semi-democratic government takes over. I fail to see how (a) or (b) were superior choices.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  29. Jc says:

    More Benghazi? Wow. Imagine if the innerwebs was around during Reagan’s years….how many US soldiers have died in Afghanistan since Benghazi? Talk about Americans being attacked and ignored by politicians and media outlets…sheesh. But there were false talking points!! Requests were ignored!! How does such confusion happen!! OMG!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  30. BG says:

    All these questions about Benghazi might be cleared up if the media (both left and right) could intertview the many survivors. Oh, that’s right, nobody knows who they are are WHERE they are!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  31. Scott O says:

    @BG: What questions do you have that might be cleared up? There have been house and senate investigations into the Benghazi attacks. Don’t you think they could have interviewed the survivors? Maybe they already did. Hard to find accurate information doing a Google search, so much BS comes up first. Here’s a CNN story from 11/15 about a closed door hearing where lawmakers saw video and heard testimony about the attack. It doesn’t say who testified.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. Jeremy R says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Trying to Understand Benghazi!

    I have not made a secret of the fact that I find almost all of the GOP reaction to the Benghazi attacks to be a combination of mystifying …

    Blame Romney. He was so eager (and desperate) to turn the attack to his partisan advantage that he jettisoned his promise to not campaign on 9/11 by putting this statement out, within hours of the deaths:

    I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

    And the RNC chair picked up the signal and joined in:

    https://twitter.com/Reince/status/245733811747422208

    Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.

    With partisan passions inflamed in the midst of the presidential election, the entire GOP apparatus was forced to try and buttress Romney’s flailing, so they joined the frey as well. The base was radicalized on the issue after being exposed to that level of over-the-top, inflammatory rhetoric. They’ve been told it’s worse than Watergate by a host of their national Representatives, some have even cast the administration as essentially treasonous — watching from on high and doing nothing because of their foreign sympathies. After all this, I wouldn’t be surprised if GOP politicians weren’t still invoking ‘Benghazi’, as red meat for the base, decades from now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  33. ralphb says:

    @Doug Mataconis: You would have answers to most, if not all, of your salient quesions if you read the State Dept Report but I haven’t found a republican yet who seems to have done that.,

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Look: the best argument one can have for the outrage is what John McCain tried on MTP: point out that four American died in the attack.

    Ahh yes. The outrage of 4 Americans being killed. Just terrible. And what did Obama do about it? WHAT DID HE DO ABOUT IT?????

    Hey, Senator McCain? I have question for you….

    26…. count them… T.W.E,N.T.Y. – S.I.X….. Americans died at Newtown. Just exactly what are you doing about it???? WHAT IN THE H.E.L.L ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT????

    Nothing. Zip. Nada. Why? Is it because Americans killed by other Americans don’t really matter? You know, their deaths aren’t as meaningful?

    Or is this all just politics?

    Or are you just a gutless gas bag who has long ago become nothing but worm food delayed?

    I think we all know the answer to those questions. I would like to see a reporter actually ask McCain those questions today as he makes the inevitable rounds of the talking heads shows today but I won’t hold my breath.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  35. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    Well, that certainly puts all that Benghazi bother to perpetual rest.

    Forward !!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. Jen says:

    April 18th of this year will be the 30th anniversary of the embassy bombing in Beirut, where 17 Americans died. I remember that day and the aftermath quite clearly, but I don’t remember people calling for hearings on President Reagan’s handling of the situation. Many of the circumstances were similar: unstable region, and calls from embassy personnel asking for increased security for the embassy, and so on.

    Senators McCain, Graham, Ayotte, etc., are grandstanding on this issue, and frankly it’s appalling.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  37. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Mr. Taylor, I’ll grant you sincerity in your question, and spell out why I still think Benghazi! (your punctuation mark) is important. It comes down to three elements. Presented in chronological order:

    1) Incompetence. Obama practically did a victory dance over “getting” Bin Laden, talking as if he’d finally won the war and Al Qaeda was finished. Then, on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 (Islamists are heavily into symbolism), they struck and scored one hell of a coup.

    2) The Patsy. Immediately after the attacks, the Obama administration moved to punish this dip in California who put together a video for YouTube, finding a reason to toss him in jail (where he still is, I believe). This is once again punishing people for provoking the crazies into acting crazy. It’s a tenet of faith that Islamists tend to take the slightest slight as provocation for violence (recall the Mohammed cartoons and the “Koran in the toilet” incidents), and going after the provocateurs for exercising their rights is a form of the “heckler’s veto.”

    3) The shill. Even though the Obama administration knew the “Muslim riots” story was bogus, they still sent UN Ambassador Susan Rice (a cabinet officer de facto if not de jure out to peddle the story – making sure not to tell her that her talking points were bogus. This was to protect her from lying, as “lying” requires intent to deceive and knowledge that one is not speaking the truth. Rice had no reason to believe she was passing along false information when she went on her grand tour of all five Sunday talking head shows, so she was quite convincing.

    There’s an old rule in politics that “it’s not the crime that gets you, it’s the coverup.” The actions of the Obama administration were classic coverup conduct. When pols act that guilty, it is more than natural to wonder just what the hell they are covering up. The most innocent explanation I can see is that the Obama administration is so sensitive about being seen as inept or making mistakes, they instinctively went into CYA mode to make it look like they knew what was going on and were on top of things. And once they got the (wrong) ball rolling, they figured they were committed to their story and tried to brazen it out.

    So there’s one take. Presented sincerely, as I presume your initial posting was.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  38. @Jenos Idanian #13: A major problem with your response: those aren’t questions, they are statements (as well as conclusions).

    I would further note that in re: #2, it wasn’t the Obama administration that put the guy in jail.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  39. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: The underlying question for all three points is “why?”

    And the dip in question, Mr. Nakoula, was interviewed by federal law enforcement officials, then arrested by federal law enforcement officials for false statements made during that interview. So I’d say that yes, it was the Obama administration (through the DoJ) that did put the dip in jail. The distinction I’m drawing is that he was lugged on federal charges, not state or local.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  40. @Jenos Idanian #13: He was interviewed by federal law enforcement officials because he violated the terms of his probation.

    You can find the discussion on this very site if you want to search for it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  41. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: OK, let’s get pedantic. He was interviewed because of possible violations of his parole, then charged with lying during those interviews and plea-bargained over that. He was never charged with violating his parole.

    Which still doesn’t address why a national spotlight was shone on him starting 9/12/12 by the Obama administration, and kept on him for days after they knew beyond a reasonable doubt that his stupid little video had little to nothing to do with Benghazi.

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  42. @Jenos Idanian #13: Because the film, wholly independent from Libya, sparked dozens of riots worldwide, many of which resulted in death.

    Is it really that hard to understand why Nakoula became an international target of interest?

    If you are going to bring up the video, you cannot ignore the broader context.

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  43. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    The underlying question for all three points is “why?”

    BTW: this is not an especially sophisticated, or even especially specific, question.

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  44. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I’m trying to understand why, after I gave you three reasons why Benghazi! is important to some people, you fixate on a trivial aspect of one to the exclusion of all other aspects. I have a couple of possible explanations, but I can’t reconcile them with my pledge to take your sincerity for granted.

    But the Obama administration’s fixation on that particular dip is entirely consistent with their fixation on that Florida dip who threatened to burn a Koran — in both cases they did what they could to keep people from doing perfectly legal things that might provoke crazed Islamists around the world from acting like crazed Islamists.

    And let me head off your next round of pedantism — yes, the dip in California did apparently break his parole in posting that YouTube video, but the illegal nature of his act was particular to him — if someone else not subject to the particulars of his parole agreement had posted the video, that would have been perfectly legal. Likewise the Florida dip’s threat to burn a Koran did not violate any laws.

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  45. mantis says:

    @Jay Tea’s puppet Jenos Idanian #13:

    Which still doesn’t address why a national spotlight was shone on him starting 9/12/12 by the Obama administration, and kept on him for days after they knew beyond a reasonable doubt that his stupid little video had little to nothing to do with Benghazi.

    The video led to protests in Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, Tunisia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Greece, and other countries the same week as the Benghazi attacks. Here’s an interactive map of protests of the movie. Quite a few people died and protests carried on in subsequent weeks.

    You and the other Benghazi Truthers keep claiming that the administration addressing the film that sparked so many protests is actually a coverup of Benghazi, but you never explain why you think the administration should not have talked about the worldwide protests that week at their embassies and consulates, events that were obviously capitalized on by the attackers in Benghazi. So tell us now, if you want anyone to believe you have an ounce of honesty or credibility, why do you think the administration should have ignored worldwide protests at US embassies and consulates sparked by a video produced by an Egyptian-American ex-con? How could that have been a good idea?

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  46. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @mantis: Your streak of contributing no real value to the discussion continues unabated.

    Unless, of course, your intent was to prove that there are a lot of Muslims who see any “insult” to their faith as rationale for violence. If that was your point, you made it quite well.

    I spot-checked several of that map’s reports. For time reference, 9/11/12 was on a Tuesday.

    Tripoli, Libya
    Last Updated by John on Sep 14, 2012
    “The US dispatched an elite group of Marines to Tripoli on Wednesday after the mob attack that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans,” reports the AP. “Officials were investigating whether the rampage was a backlash to an anti-Islamic video with ties to Coptic Christians or a plot to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11.”

    Khartoum, Sudan
    Last Updated by John on Sep 14, 2012
    “Britain’s Foreign Office says police in Sudan are confronting a protest outside the British embassy in Khartoum,” reports the AP. Additionally, Reuters reports “Protesters pull down emblem at German embassy in Sudan, raise Islamic flag.” The Guardian is showing photographs of the German embassy on fire.

    The ones I’ve checked all happened after 9/11/12.

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  47. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @mantis: So tell us now, if you want anyone to believe you have an ounce of honesty or credibility, why do you think the administration should have ignored worldwide protests at US embassies and consulates sparked by a video produced by an Egyptian-American ex-con? How could that have been a good idea?

    Good lord, you’re such a drama queen. Take a moment to get the sand out of your knickers before you blow an embolism.

    I noted that the Obama administration’s actions — tying the Benghazi! attack to the protests after they knew that was false — has the hallmarks of a coverup. I even offered an explanation that doesn’t require some grand conspiracy, just people in power who think they’re a hell of a lot smarter than they are trying to preserve their delusion.

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  48. Scott O says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    3) The shill.

    According to this report Susan Rice was basing her statements on a CIA report given to her on 9/15.

    The CIA’s talking points read as follows:

    “The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US diplomatic post in Benghazi and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.

    This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and as currently available information continues to be evaluated.

    The investigation is on-going, and the US Government is working with Libyan authorities to bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of US citizens.”

    Your theory is that the CIA report was dictated by Obama?

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  49. David M says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Incompetence….Obama…victory dance…Bin Laden…9/11….YouTube video…Susan Rice

    It is impressive that you could type all that and not actually write anything useful. None of what you wrote up matters at all, as the security concerns for diplomats at embassies and other locations is the real issue. You represent everything that is wrong with today’s GOP, caring only about making Obama look bad instead of important issues that actually matter.

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  50. bill says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: i think the admin may have “coerced” someone to throw that guy in jail to appease the sheetheads- looks pretty obvious to anyone with a moderate view?! i mean really, the guys a loon to begin with and now he’s doing time for making a horrible “movie”. sure, he’s got a sketchy history- but thrown in jail for this?

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  51. Scott O says:

    @bill: He’s not doing time for making a horrible movie, he’s doing time for violating parole. Part of his parole conditions were that he would not use aliases and he would not access the internet. He quite publicly violated those conditions. You don’t think he should have been sent back to jail?

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  52. @bill: I fear that the phrase ” i think the admin may have “coerced” someone to throw that guy in jail to appease the sheetheads” doesn’t go along with “moderate view.”

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  53. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Scott O: We’ve seen recent cases of politics interfering with justice. David Gregory broke DC’s gun laws, and was not prosecuted.

    And if the nut was just tossed in jail, that would be one thing. But the Obama administration made him the poster boy for Islamic rage and made sure the entire world knew his name and that he was being tossed in jail. The reasons were not hyped as much (note that Mr. Taylor himself got the exact cause wrong), leaving it easy to assume he was being punished for insulting Islam. I don’t recall any stirring defenses of the First Amendment during the incident, nor any officials stressing that the dip was NOT being punished for his video.

    And if you’re honest, you’ll admit that if the Obama administration could have found an excuse to lock up that dippy preacher in Florida who was threatening to burn a Koran, they would have done that, too. Hell, I seem to recall some calling for his arrest “for his own protection.”

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  54. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Scott O: Let’s see. That memo was dated 9/15. On 9/13, CNN quoted a senior White House official as saying “It was not an innocent mob. The video or 9/11 made a handy excuse and could be fortuitous from their perspective but this was a clearly planned military-type attack.”

    Plus, the reports of the attack clearly spelled out that it was a planned attack, complete with mortars, RPG, heavy machine guns, IEDs, and truck-mounted artillery. Not even in the Third World are such things common at protests and riots, especially when used so proficiently.

    Benghazi! was a carefully-planned and professionally carried out attack. That was clear to the Obama administration very quickly. However, the “protest” story was still being pushed for almost two weeks.

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  55. Barry says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “There are legitimate questions raised by what happened in Benghazi. ”

    Yes, and which ones have not been answered?

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  56. Barry says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Adding on to this – Steven, almost all right-wing propaganda is freudian projection, pure and simple. It’s the Rove game of accusing others of what you are most guilty of.

    There were many attacks on US embassies after 9/11, and the Bush administration didn’t display any give-a-sh*t. The whole Iraq War was a case of fighting the war which was pleasing to the administration, instead of doing their job.

    To cover for that, the right accuses the Obama administration of doing what the right did.

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  57. Scott O says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: I notice you didn’t answer my question. I’ll acknowledge that the CIA and the White House most likely knew that the Benghazi attack was more than just a protest that got out of hand at the time. So, information was withheld from the public. Or, if you prefer, we were lied to. Why? According to a Wall Street Journal report which I can’t read because I don’t have an account but is quoted here,

    According to the Journal:

    “The officials said the first draft of the talking points had a reference to al Qaeda but it was removed by the Central Intelligence Agency, to protect sources and protect investigations, before the talking points were shared with the White House. No evidence has so far emerged that the White House interfered to tone down the public intelligence assessment, despite the attention the charge has received.”

    A bit more here.

    “There appears to be a concerted effort to mislead the American people,” says Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah. “At this point the Obama administration has been elusive at best and misleading at worse.”

    Chaffetz was responding to a report in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal that CIA “officials” wanted the terrorist origins of the attack kept from the public because the spy agency did not want certain al-Qaeda operatives to know it was monitoring its communications.

    Is it OK for the CIA and the White House to withhold information, or if you prefer, lie to us, to protect sources?

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  58. @Scott O: Indeed, it is clear that part of the reason the initial story was vague was because there was a CIA operation relevant to the location.

    Of course: if the Obama administration were to go into details about CIA counter-terrorism activities, I suspect the the rightward attacks would be just a vicious, but in that alternative universe it would be for saying too much.

    At the end of the day, it is wholly unclear to me what central, fundamental questions about the events in question have not been asked and answered.

    Note: “why?” is far too vague.

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  59. mantis says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Note: “why?” is far too vague.

    By design. Every time you explain the “why?” to one of their questions, the question just changes in response. There will never be any satisfactory answer, because the people complaining aren’t looking for one. They are looking for a cudgel, and if they find themselves holding only a Nerf bat, they’ll hit the president with that.

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  60. mantis says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I noted that the Obama administration’s actions — tying the Benghazi! attack to the protests after they knew that was false — has the hallmarks of a coverup.

    No it doesn’t, because the Benghazi attacks were tied to the protests. Or do you think the attackers just happened, totally coincidentally, to pick the day that protests were erupting around the region? If you do, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

    However, your desire to see national security endangered by insisting that the CIA reveal classified intelligence they have about ongoing terrorist attacks and al Qaeda is noted.

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  61. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “And if you’re honest, you’ll admit that if the Obama administration could have found an excuse to lock up that dippy preacher in Florida who was threatening to burn a Koran, they would have done that, too.”

    Yes, because the definition of honesty is repeating moronic, paranoid counter-factuals dreamed up by drooling idiots.

    Nice dictionary you’ve got there.

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  62. mantis says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    And if you’re honest, you’ll admit that if the Obama administration could have found an excuse to lock up that dippy preacher in Florida who was threatening to burn a Koran, they would have done that, too. Hell, I seem to recall some calling for his arrest “for his own protection.”

    Indeed, the world has seen no greater tyrant than the one who can’t even figure out a way to lock up some random nutball Florida pastor.

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