10 May 2013
Thinking straight about Benghazi
The attack on American diplomats in Libya last September 11 seems to have caught the Obama administration in campaign mode. The main concern seems to have been not to give Republicans a campaign issue. This looks like the most plausible explanation, to many people, for why government spokespersons tried to characterize the attack as a spontaneous (hence impossible to anticipate or prevent) outburst provoked by the "Innocence of Muslims" video when subsequent evidence indicated a premeditated attack on the auspicious day. Some administration officials appear also to have been mean toward diplomats who criticized the initial handling of the incident. It was a bad attempt at spin, presumably meant to block attempts to portray Obama as weak on terrorism, but long after the election Republicans want to keep it spinning. As a result, we've had a new round of hearings this week, with demands for more information from the White House. Some observers believe that the Republicans are playing a long-term game here, their goal being not just to keep embarrassing the President, but to discredit then-Secretary of State Clinton before she has a chance to get a 2016 presidential campaign going. I sympathize with those who feel that Republicans have no moral right to criticize Democrats for bungling on national security -- but that doesn't mean that no one has a right to criticize the government's handling or mishandling of the Benghazi incident. It's possible that people in the administration simply jumped to the conclusion that the video, then a hot news item, had provoked the attack, but a government ought to be more careful about jumping to conclusions in front of anybody. If they were spinning the incident for political reasons, they're just as bad as Republicans are when they do the same -- or when they're doing it now. And if we take the attitude that Benghazi is not worth talking about because talking about it can only benefit Republicans, then we're as guilty of bipolarchy thinking as anyone else ever denounced on this blog. The enemy can never be so bad that his enemy is always right.