With little political capital to work with, conservative's slim hope for finding an issue with traction seems to rest on the slender thread of...Benghazi
As we lurch into the lurid details of the tragedy in Benghazi, one has to ask “why are we drilling so deeply into this event. Republicans would give a simple answer: “to get the facts”. While that seems reasonable, as well as useful, in reality, it is an exercise with little meaningful return for the American public. Was it a terrorist attack, or merely a demonstration that got out of hand? Take you choice. As a matter of fact, during the Bush years (2002-2008) there were 13 such attacks on Consulates and Embassies resulting in 66 staff deaths.
But making matters worse is the politicizing and character if the investigation. It is a metaphor for virtually all the things wrong with our current Congress; and the American people are getting very tired and increasingly angry about the way Congress conducts itself. . No wonder the public approval rating for this Congress is often less than 10 percent.
To start with, the hearings have no interest in determining the most crucial outcome that could be achieved: how to prevent this in the future. Instead the questioning is clearly a witch-hunt hoping to find some malfeasance by the administration that would go beyond poor judgment, or even tactical errors. The hoped for goal by the GOP representatives is to find some sort of cover-up, perhaps criminal action, and even (by one comment) an impeachable offense. Having lived through the incredibly dangerous and disgusting McCarthy era, recent hearings have the faint odor of that period.
Representative Darrell Issa (R. California) who is leading the hearings seemed eager to lead his star witness Gregory Hicks, into saying some critical statement that would indict key State Department staffers. Hicks, a 22 year veteran of the State Department could be a valued witness for the nation if asked the one most crucial question: “what can we do as a Congress and a nation to prevent this from happening again?” No such question was asked.
Bringing us to one of the things that could be done, and again displaying the incompetence and hypocrisy of a Congress which is exasperating the American people – better funding for Embassy security. Since the Republicans have gained control of the House, they have drastically reduced funding to protect State Department personnel around the world. In fiscal year 2011, lawmakers shaved $128 million off of the administration's request for embassy security funding. House Republicans drained off even more funds in fiscal year 2012 -- cutting back on the department's request by $331 million. As with the blow back regarding air travel delays from the recent sequester, there is value in being careful what you ask for; especially critical services. But it is the hypocrisy (from both parties,) which most galls the public.
Next, what the public is not ready for is starting the 2016 campaign. The recent presidential election is barely over; our campaigns are interminably long, the public is deadened to them by the time to vote – yet Carl Rove’s American Crossroads Super PAC released a video this week clearly attempting to damage Hilary Clinton through the Benghazi affair. Clinton is not even in government anymore, why blemish her? The only reason is as a precursor to the 2016 election, in which the Republicans know she is the most formidable candidate. So, for the GOP, election 2016 is now on the table…let the games began.
Another fallout from this event is the old chestnut about the “liberal media”. Conservatives are concerned that Benghazi is not getting enough attention – at least the kind of attention they would hope for. The other day Megyn Kelly, a major player on Fox News complained, "If you look at, sort of, across the mainstream media, it (Benghazi) was a collective yawn," The Washington Post's Erik Wemple noted that the hearings indeed had been given top billing on the front pages of the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. As an aside, one morning during the Benghazi news hiatus, I turned on Fox News: Benghazi. When I turned off the TV that evening and checked Fox News: Benghazi. Fox has been blowing on the Benghazi ember 24/7 for months now. Obviously, it is the Republican’s hope that somehow Benghazi will be their political savior, and they are desperately trying to keep it alive.
Which brings us to the genesis of “why Benghazi” -- why is this story is being nurtured, fed, fertilized and developed? It is really an indictment of the paucity of issues the Republicans have now. Weak as it is, it pretty much represents all the political capital the GOP has to work with. The economy is growing, and pretty robust. Moral issues such as abortion, gay rights, etc have modest interest to the majority of Americans. Afghanistan is winding down. Obamacare has some partisan value, but it is de facto the healthcare system of our nation now. So what is left? Not much, but one of the few issues that the Republicans are still hoping will have some traction is Benghazi. It is slim pickings, but when one has little else to talk about, for conservatives…one can only hope.