Having heard about an unholy amount of chatter about Benghazi for the umpteenth time, I decided that I’d better inform myself about it. All I knew was that there was some uncertainty after the fact about what the cause had been, that the Obama administration had given mixed signals as to whether it was a planned attack or a spontaneous event triggered by the anti-Muslim video.
I knew that Romney had tried to zing Obama in the debates about whether he had identified it as a terror attack or if he had blamed the video, but that was obviously a trifle. I mean, conservatives are talking about this being worse than Watergate; that rises to a pretty serious level. It suggests that the government did something illegal and, knowing this, Obama tried to have it covered up.
So, what was the illegal action? I had heard people talking about botched security, either a lack of overall preparedness, or a decision at some level to withhold rescue for the diplomats. As far as I can tell, this is pure speculation.
I also heard something about there being two prisoners held at the CIA annex in the consulate, and the attack was a mission to break them out. The CIA denies that such prisoners were held there.
Fox is trying to sell the narrative that the White House dawdled and delayed at the time of the attack, painting a picture of the embassy staff repeatedly pleading for permission to escape or getting military assistance while Obama and his staff coldly told them to sit and wait and did nothing. Reading the article, it appears to be the usual Fox combination of unnamed sources, cherry-picked information, and directed conclusions.
The most central claims, it seems, appear to focus simply on the reporting of the facts by the Obama administration; McCain, for example, called it “a cover-up or the worst kind of incompetence,” and demands investigations—but seems to focus only on how it was reported by Obama and U.N. Ambassador Rice.
The thing is, none of what is being reported rises to the level of an illegal action, so far as I can tell. The mixed messages seem to be the result of scattered intelligence and possibly poor coordination, but that’s not illegal. If prisoners were being held at the CIA complex, was that illegal? I wouldn’t think so, and certainly I don’t hear that being held as the center of the scandal. If the White House failed to react in a timely or effective manner, that might be a black eye for them, but it’s not illegal. And if there is no illegal action, then a “cover-up” is also not illegal.
Who knows. Maybe there is something here, but it sure as heck doesn’t look like it. What it looks like is what we’ve seen several times before: the conservative bubble seeing an event or crisis that could harbor some kind of wrongdoing by the Obama administration, so they immediately claim there is a scandal, while they flail about with any variety of conspiracy theories that, of course, “demand” full investigations with committees and prosecutors and such, while the right-wing media does everything it can to make it appear that there is something actually going on.
Paul Waldman at The American Prospect seems to sum it up best:
So what’s going on here? I can sum it up in two words: scandal envy. Republicans are indescribably frustrated by the fact that Barack Obama, whom they regard as both illegitimate and corrupt, went through an entire term without a major scandal. They tried with “Fast and Furious,” but that turned out to be small potatoes. They tried with Solyndra, but that didn’t produce the criminality they hoped for either. Obama even managed to dole out three-quarters of a trillion dollars in stimulus money without any graft or double-dealing to be found. Nixon had Watergate, Reagan had Iran-Contra, Clinton had Lewinsky, and Barack Obama has gotten off scott-free. This is making them absolutely livid, and they’re going to keep trying to gin up a scandal, even if there’s no there there. Benghazi may not be an actual scandal, but it’s all they have handy.