Why we should not let this matter drop from our attention.
Mention the word “Benghazi” to Republicans, and chances are they’ll become eager, animated, even predatory, seeking weakness in President Obama.
But say “Benghazi” to Democrats, and they’ll flinch. Some will step back as if you’re carrying a disease. Others will offer a defensive smirk.
“Benghazi happened a long time ago,” Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, said the other day, approaching the Benghazi question as if it were leprous.
It is a tactic used by Republican and Democratic mouthpieces. Translation: That’s no story. That’s old news. What’s wrong with you? Don’t you have anything better to do than go after old news?
But Benghazi is more than a partisan political word. It’s a bloody Libyan city where four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2012.
And it’s time the partisan nonsense stops and the American people get answers.
There have been no arrests of suspects. The Obama White House stalls now as it stalled at the onset of the crisis during the president’s re-election campaign, hoping it would go away.
Republicans in Congress want to nail Obama, yes. But they also clamor for legitimate information and want witnesses to testify before various investigating committees. Unfortunately, the whistleblowers can’t testify if they first can’t talk things out with their lawyers.
Victoria Toensing, a Republican lawyer representing Benghazi whistleblowers, told me last week that her client is not being given the necessary security clearance to talk fully with her.
Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress cover their ears, hush their mouths and hear no evil. Naturally, if the political parties were reversed, and some Republican war-party interventionist were in the White House, Democrats would be shrieking and Republicans would be silent.
But the so-called mainstream media would be on the warpath.
So, Benghazi is now about Washington suits inflicting verbal wounds. But Stevens died there. And so did U.S. State Department computer specialist Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
Doherty and Woods spent hours on the rooftops, fighting off the terrorists who attacked the diplomatic compound, waiting for help from Washington that never came. They weren’t rescued. They stayed. They died.
And we still don’t know what the president did when the compound was under attack, what he ordered, what he asked. It’s not discussed.
What we do know is that the rationale initially given by Obama, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and others is not true. They insisted that an anti-Muslim video on the Internet compelled angry protesters to gather outside and attack the compound.
The video had nothing to do with it. According to Factcheck.org, a nonpartisan project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center:
“There were no protesters at the Benghazi consulate before the attack, even though Obama and others repeatedly said the attackers joined an angry mob that had formed in opposition to the anti-Muslim film that had triggered protests in Egypt and elsewhere. The State Department disclosed this fact Oct. 9 — nearly a month after the attack.”
Last week, at a White House news conference, Obama was asked if there were any efforts to prevent witnesses from testifying before Congress.
“I’m not familiar with this notion that anybody has been blocked from testifying,” Obama said. “So what I’ll do is I will find out exactly what you’re referring to.”
The next day he sent Carney out to brush off the story.
“Benghazi happened a long time ago,” Carney said. “We are unaware of any agency blocking an employee who would like to appear before Congress to provide information related to Benghazi.”
Carney’s credibility with me is low. When he was a Time magazine reporter, he favorably compared Rich Daley of Chicago to the fictional Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry.
Toensing said that the questions to the president about blocking testimony weren’t properly framed.
“The question was not asked precisely enough, so he was allowed to wiggle out of it,” she said. “The issue is why won’t the State Department provide a process for clearing lawyers so that I can talk to my client and get classified information.
“It’s a Catch-22,” Toensing said. “My client is not allowed to provide classified information, and in order to tell the complete story, she or he must be able to provide me that classified information. But unless the State Department blesses that arrangement and says I’m cleared to hear it, my client is violating the law.”
Obama and Clinton spoke beautiful words at the funerals for the four killed in Benghazi. They promised survivors that they would get to the bottom of things.
Later, of course, after the video story exploded, a defensive Clinton testified before Congress and made her immortal statement:
“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?”
If you’re a politician, not much.
As to the four who died in Benghazi, I don’t know their politics. I don’t suppose you care how they voted, either. There is only one aspect of their politics that matters. They were Americans.
And they deserve better than this.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.