November 17th, 2012

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.

  1. Kensensei
    November 17th, 2012 at 15:26 | #1

    Yeah, the Bengazi snafu continues to be a front-running political talking point on Right Wing radio (as I posted once in previous comment on this blog).

    One can tune in at nearly any time of the day to any Right Wing station and it’s not surprising to discover they STILL are droning on (and on, and on) about it.

    I don’t speak for everyone, but this incident is off the radar for most Americans. It’s over. Done. Over-done. Time to move on.

    So I agree with Paul Waldman that this story is a desperate attempt on the part of the GOP and Right Wing media to stick it to Obama–mostly because it’s all they’ve got on him.

    In the meantime, far more pressing issues such as the impending fiscal cliff are taking a backseat to pointless political finger-pointing. No wonder the Congressional approval rate is at an all-time low. Get a clue, GOP!


  2. Troy
    November 18th, 2012 at 01:50 | #2

    couple of angles here I’ve seen. One is the Republican attempt to portray the administration as incompetent and getting our people killed through that.

    This goes back to the Les Aspin thing in Somalia, his alleged refusal to authorize APCs to our forces there (that the elder Bush had so cleverly thrown into the country after he had lost reelection in 1992).

    Secondly I’ve seen righties complain that Obama refused to sign off on a military rescue mission while the attack was on-going, eg:

    A significant chunk of the military fervently desire the gung-ho civilian command that the neocons give them.

    Thirdly, Fox was in fact simply trying to “gin up” a scandal to give the administration a black eye leading into the election.

    Romney needed only one out of twenty Obama voters in Colorado to vote for him, so character assassination was all they had left in October, along with outright bullshit lying that Romney was overtaking Obama in the polls and was going to win on Tuesday.

    Actually, I made a graphic of the former thing, how close the election actually was:

    Proportion of Obama voters Romney needed in Florida (1 out of 115 to switch):
    ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺
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    ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☻

    Ohio (1 out of 52)
    ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺
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    Virginia (1 out of 26)
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    Colorado (1 out of 20)
    ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☻

    If this BS had moved one out of twenty voters from Obama to Romney, Romney would have won.

  3. Luis
    November 18th, 2012 at 10:29 | #3

    Troy: I don’t think the charts you’ve got there are necessarily accurate. Not all those votes were up for grabs; you’re counting people who were committed to voting for Obama. It should not be 1 out of every x votes based on all Obama votes divided by (half the amount Obama won by plus one), but all the swing votes Obama won divided by (half the amount Obama won by plus one). Not quite so easy. That would be somewhere between 3 and 5%.

    Let’s assume that Ohio, for example, had 5% of all votes as swing voters. Let’s say that Obama had won 4 of every 5 of them. Under that assumption, Romney would have had to sway 51,741 out of a population of roughly 212,000 voters, or just over 1 out of every four swing voters, just under 25%. Not 1 out of 52, or just under 2%.

    Another way of looking at it is that Obama won Colorado by 4.7%; Romney would have had to get roughly 63% of Obama’s swing voters (again, assuming there were 5% and Obama won 80% of those). That would be pretty damned hard to do.

    Seen this way, I don’t think the election was as close as you are expressing it.

    However, the general idea—swaying voters—is correct, I am sure, for what was going on during the election. Now, afterwards, they want to weaken Obama, take away some or most of the power he’s accrued, weaken his position with the public.

    That is easy to see. The question for me is, what do they really have? I see three possibilities: there is something they know that we don’t which is damaging and they want to slooooowly pull it out; they think something is there, and want to dive in and find it; or they know there is nothing there, but they want to try to smear Obama the same way they always do, which is to create enough innuendo so that most people believe that there was something illegal done.

    In all scenarios, I bet more than anything what they want is a fishing expedition like they had with Paula Jones, where they can subpoena the crap out of the administration, getting people to go under oath and then asking all kinds of questions in the hope of finding anything possible they can make into a scandal.

  4. Troy
    November 18th, 2012 at 13:41 | #4

    While I can’t disagree with what you said, those faces are just the material the Republicans had to work on to win.

    here’s a “likely voter poll”:

    Q9 is a poll of the depth of Obama’s support:

    “Probably vote for him” was 7% of his support and “just leaning/not sure” was also 7%

    So out of every 20 Obama voters in CO, 3 were arguably wavering, and Romney needed one of those 3.

    That’s also one out of 7 not-strong Obama voters in OH, and 1 out of 16 not-strongers in FL.

    Like the hurricane, this Benghazi thing came just a bit too late for the Republicans to fully leverage it to their advantage.

    As for whether there’s really anything culpable there, I really don’t see why there would be. There may have been oversights, screw-ups, or whatever, but I assume everyone we put on the ground and in the chain of command is competent above the level of “treason”, whatever that is supposed to mean.

    But it’s always better to play offense and not defense in politics. That’s how & why Romney “won” the first debate.

    Another factor here is that SO many evangelical end-timers WANT to believe Obama is in cahoots with an American crypto-Islamic movement actively engaged in turning our country to Satan.

    And I mean every word of that. There’s some in my family who believe that. No, don’t ask me how they square that with Romney being service with Satan too as of last year at least, because we can’t talk politics.

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