Cynical opportunism has long been a part of politics. Hell, it’s practically the lifeblood of the game. But yesterday’s House Oversight hearings on the Libyan Embassy attack in Benghazi really set out to take the cake. Daryl Issa (R-CA) is using the pulpit, just as he did with the “Fast and Furious” probe, to benefit the GOP congressional and presidential races. Make no mistake.
The GOP saw an opportunity to make President Barack Obama look weak on national security and they cynically took it.
The main argument seems to be that the Obama administration was at best misleading the government and American people on the true nature of the attack. At worst, the administration was engaged in a cover-up. The conspiracy theorists out there on the right claim an anti-Mohammed film was drudged up as a diversionary tactic. A way for Obama to disguise a terrorist attack that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. Apparently these dickheads never considered that the film protests were a perfect cover for terrorists to stage an attack. Or that the Obama administration had to condemn the film publicly to quell any Muslim anger. Indeed, the GOP would have called him out if he had remained silent on the film.
The only real and legitimate question seems to be: did Ambassador Stevens deserve a greater security detail? Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, former head of embassy security in Libya, noted as much in his testimony when he said: “The RSO (regional security officer) struggled to obtain additional personnel there, but was never able to attain the numbers he felt comfortable with.” Does anyone really think that the Obama administration had been neglecting the goings-on in Libya? It’s ludicrous.
Anyone who has ever read up on intelligence gathering, or even taken a cursory glance at how intelligence estimates influence federal politics, would know that the spy game is not full-proof. Never has been. It’s a looking glass world where white is black and black is white. It’s all smoke and mirrors in espionage. So when U.S. intelligence services fail to identify a threat, it isn’t always attributable to any one factor. Even if we had 100% intelligence awareness of all enemies, there would still be unexpected maneuvers.
As former head of regional security in Libya Eric Nordstrom noted in his testimony yesterday:
I had not seen an attack of such ferocity and intensity previously in Libya nor in my time with the diplomatic security service. I’m concerned that this attack signals a new security reality, just as the 1983 Beirut marine barracks bombings did for the marines, the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings did for the state department and 9/11 did for our entire country.
And yet here is the GOP, led by Issa and the Romney campaign, demanding the impossible. It harkens back to the Bush administration in the years following 9/11, when it was de rigueur to blame the coordinated terrorist attacks on Bill Clinton’s lack of action. That, of course, was power politics as well.
We should expect this sort of behavior from both parties, but most especially from the GOP. Don’t think for a minute that they really care about the attacks on some national security level. They understand that intelligence gathering is not perfect. Their only real concern is electing more GOP candidates to congress and placing Romney in the oval office.