According to U.S. Sen. John McCain, the Obama administration has conducted a coverup of “massive proportions” regarding the assassination of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi last year. Other Republicans have implied that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was so terrified of having to testify before Congress that she faked a major illness (”Benghazi fever”) to avoid the appearance.
Well, today will be the day to put up or shut up. Clinton will testify, alone, before committees in both the House and Senate. If McCain has evidence for his claims, let’s see it. If there’s something so earth-shaking about the Benghazi tragedy that Clinton was quaking in her boots at the prospect of being asked about it, this would be the time to bring that information forward.
GOP presidential hopefuls Rand Paul and Marco Rubio also sit on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, giving them the opportunity to do battle with a potential opponent in 2016, should they choose to do so. Clinton enters the hearing with 65 percent of America viewing her favorably, and only 29 percent unfavorably. After all the braying on the right about Benghazi, this is their chance to make the charges stick, in public.
Again, should they try to do so.
An investigatory blue-ribbon board appointed by the State Department has already outlined operational failures and deficiencies that contributed to the deaths of Stevens and three brave members of his team. It also calmly and factually repudiated fanciful claims by the conservative media that the Obama administration could have intervened militarily but chose not to do so.
That report implicated Congress as well, noting that “the solution requires a more serious and sustained commitment from Congress to support State Department needs, which, in total, constitute a small percentage both of the full national budget and that spent for national security.” The metric often bandied about in Washington is that the Pentagon has more authorized personnel in military bands than the State Department has professional diplomats.
Again, there is no question that the Benghazi tragedy revealed important lapses of judgment among State Department personnel, including Stevens himself, as well as institutional problems within the department. Clinton, who will soon be leaving office, has acknowledged those problems and pledged to correct them, a task that her probable successor, John Kerry, will have to continue. As part of its oversight function, Congress has every right to press Clinton on the progress she has made.
But since news of the Benghazi attack first broke, Republicans in Congress and the conservative media, led by Fox News, have tried to portray it as something much more sinister. McCain, for example, suggested that Benghazi was worse than Watergate, the scandal that ended Richard Nixon’s presidency. Such claims have always seemed grossly exaggerated based on the available facts, but again, if he and others have the evidence to back such hyperbole, this is their chance to present it to the American people.
I’m betting they don’t.
– Jay Bookman