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The Libya Blame Game

Losing sight of what’s useful

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The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi Following Last Month's Attack(AP)

With weeks to go before the election, seemingly every aspect of last month’s attack on the U.S. mission in Libya has become a cudgel for Americans–politicians and pundits alike–to beat each other senseless with.

One example of countless many was a post last week (or perhaps all posts last week) from Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin. Here’s a bit of what she had to say.

The Obama administration had touted Libya as a great success, a model of nation-building. But, in fact, like the accusation it hurled at the Bush administration for its handling of the Iraq war, the Obama team had sublimated reality to ideology. They were grand liberators! They like us! So, therefore, there could be no danger to Americans in Benghazi or elsewhere.

But the facts that the Obama team had access to back in August told a different story: “Al-Qaeda appears to constitute a significant threat to the state-building process in Libya. The current Libyan leadership seems unable to deliver on the promise of security or to carry out meaningful reforms in order to build strong popular support for state institutions, destroyed by the former regime.”

Four Americans paid the price for the Obama administration’s refusal to pay attention to inconvenient facts.

Earlier this week, in an editorial titled “Republicans Have No Shame,” the Times fired in a different direction:

At a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last Wednesday, Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California and the committee’s chairman, talked of “examining security failures that led to the Benghazi tragedy.” He said lawmakers had an obligation to protect federal workers overseas. On Sunday, he said more should be spent on diplomatic security.

But as part of the Republican majority that has controlled the House the last two years, Mr. Issa joined in cutting nearly a half-billion dollars from the State Department’s two main security accounts. One covers things like security staffing, including local guards, armored vehicles and security technology; the other, embassy construction and upgrades. In 2011 and 2012, President Obama sought a total of $5 billion, and the House approved $4.5 billion. In 2009, Mr. Issa voted for an amendment that would have cut nearly 300 diplomatic security positions. And the draconian budgets proposed by Mitt Romney’s running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, would cut foreign affairs spending by 10 percent in 2013 and even more in 2016.

The hits keep on coming. Benghazi entered the discourse of last week’s vice-presidential debates and we’ll no doubt see it again tonight in the second presidential debate.

Last night, in the moments following Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s interview on CNN, in which she accepted responsibility for the loss of American life in Libya, her words immediately took on a new life of their own. Suddenly, she had spoken only to protect the President or, more conspiratorially, she was finally, at long last, exacting revenge on President Obama for 2012.

That Clinton asked, in the wake of the deaths of four of her colleagues, to keep the issue from being “a kind of political gotcha” fell on deaf ears. That’s to be expected. But also making a similar plea: Jan Stevens, the father of Ambassador Chris Stevens:

The security matters are being adequately investigated. We don’t pretend to be experts in security. It has to be objectively examined. That’s where it belongs. It does not belong in the campaign arena.

Perhaps we should listen.


Libyan Ambassador’s Death Not a Political Issue, Says Dad
[Bloomberg]
Obama’s Libya Debacle: Willfull Blindess [WaPo]
Hillary Clinton Falls on Her Sword for Obama [Atlantic]
Clinton Takes Responsibility for Libya Security Failure [NYT]

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The Libya Blame Game

Losing sight of what’s useful

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