From the start, the right has used the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, not to figure out how to prevent future tragedies, but to bring down President Obama. This was made clear from the moment Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s first reaction was to accuse the president of “sympathiz[ing] with those who waged the attacks.” His later attempt to use Benghazi during the presidential debates was an embarrassing failure, but the strategy of politicizing this tragedy was taken to heart by the right-wing media bubble.
After the 2012 election, the campaign to create a Watergate-like scandal out of this tragedy shifted from defeating Obama to bringing down members of his administration: first U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and then former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But at each turn, the central claim that the administration engaged in a criminal cover-up doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and only serves to deflect attention from figuring out how to prevent future tragedies like these attacks.
Take the hyper-partisan April 23 report on Benghazi, authored by five Republican House committee chairmen. That report featured an accusation parroted throughout the right-wing echo chamber that Clinton personally saw and authorized cables to U.S. diplomatic facilities in Libya denying increased security measures, which was credulously called a contradiction to Clinton’s congressional testimony in January. Legitimate news outlets quickly deflated this smear and reported that every single one of the millions of cables sent from the State Department to foreign outposts bears the name of the secretary of state. A member of the independent State Department Accountability Review Board, which investigated the Benghazi attack, said the accusation “just doesn’t make any sense to anybody who understands the State Department.”
Conservative media have long accused the administration of doctoring unclassified talking points from the CIA to hide the connection to terrorist groups and instead promote the idea that the attacks were connected to protests against an anti-Islam YouTube video elsewhere. But the conservative Weekly Standard accidentally vindicated the administration when its investigation into how the talking points were changed showed that the original version of the talking points from the CIA included its belief that the Benghazi attacks were inspired by the Cairo protests, which were reportedly in response to the anti-Islam video. And the right-wing media have virtually ignored then-CIA director David Petraeus’ explanation that the references to alQaida were removed from the unclassified talking points to avoid tipping off terrorist organizations about how they were being tracked.
Right-wing media have also ignored the timeline of the attacks to hold onto the myth that there were military forces close enough to have made a difference in a subsequent attack on an annex near the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, where two members of the first reaction force from the Tripoli embassy were killed. But even Republican congressmen conducting the hearing have admitted that additional forces could not have gotten to the area in time to help with the attack.
Fox News has recently tried to cover for Republicans by insisting that the GOP’s continued obsession with Benghazi is not political in nature. But ranking Democrats from the committees whose names were on the April 23 Benghazi report protested to House Speaker John Boehner that Republicans were “excluding Democratic Members entirely” from drafting and vetting the report. In addition, Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, issued a statement that said that Democrats and their staff have been excluded from the committee’s investigation and interviews of witnesses. A State Department spokesman also said that the department had not been given the full transcripts of the interviews Republican staffers have conducted with witnesses, and only had access to selected excerpts that were provided to the media.
By: Zachary Pleat, Washington Whispers Debate Club, U. S. News and World Report, May 9, 2013
“Here in the House,” Speaker John Boehner announced after meeting with his caucus Wednesday morning, “Republicans are going to continue to stay focused on jobs.”
It’s true. Technically, House Republicans are focused on jobs: Eric Holder’s and President Obama’s. They want to put both men out of work.
Tying up this administration is Job One for the opposition party, and never more so than this week. Republicans have been awaiting with giddy anticipation a Supreme Court decision Thursday that they expect will overturn Obamacare, the signal achievement of Obama’s presidency. “If the court does not strike down the entire law, the House will move to repeal what’s left of it,” Boehner vowed.
At the same time, Republicans decided to dedicate Thursday to a spectacle on the House floor: voting to hold Holder, the attorney general, in contempt of Congress for declining to hand over certain documents related to the Operation “Fast and Furious” guns program on the Mexican border.
Fox News Channel’s Chad Pergram asked Boehner (R-Ohio) whether he thinks “the American public is buying the narrative that you’re here to talk about jobs, when in the next 24 hours . . . everything emanating from the House floor is about contempt of Eric Holder?”
“We’re going to continue to focus on jobs,” Boehner repeated.
After that, the next jobs-related activity for House Republicans was to hold a meeting of the Rules Committee to determine procedures for Thursday’s vote on Holder.
Republicans rushed the contempt citation to the floor — the first time in history that the body has taken such action against a sitting attorney general — under “emergency” procedures. They did so even though Boehner had not yet met with Holder and even though the committee handling the investigation had not allowed a single witness whom Democrats wanted to testify publicly. Had they worked with such alacrity to create jobs, the economy would probably be booming.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the panel investigating Holder, told the Rules Committee that the attorney general has been “uncooperative at every step of the way” and that the Justice Department “lied” to Congress, and he suggested that Justice officials are “covering up a crime.”
Elijah Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on Issa’s committee, said the inquiry is “one of the most highly politicized congressional investigations in decades.” The reason for the contempt vote, he said, “is plain and simple: politics.”
It was but an appetizer for Thursday’s food fight, but even this session, in a small, ornate hearing room at the Capitol, got nasty and personal, as lawmakers addressed one another by their first names. A trio of Republicans maintained that, as Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) put it, “this is not something that is desirable for any of us.” But Issa seemed to be enjoying himself as he mixed it up with the Democrats on the panel.
“It has all the trappings of a witch hunt,” charged Louise Slaughter (N.Y.), the rules panel’s ranking Democrat.
“Looks and smells like a witch hunt,” agreed Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).
Issa retorted: “That’s been the Democratic talking point all along.”
At another moment, McGovern said Republicans “keep on moving the goal posts” in their requests of Holder.
“Not just moving the goal posts, moving the stadium,” Cummings added.
Responded Issa: “We keep moving the goal posts closer, but he can’t kick a two-yard field goal.”
Democratic complaints continued at great length: “You absolutely did not answer the question!” “Hold on, just a minute!” “A cynical maneuver.” “A disservice to the American people.” “A scripted sideshow.” “A dark, dark day.”
In response, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) shared with the panel lessons she had learned during her morning Bible study, and Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) shouted about serving as “stewards of the United States Constitution.” Issa taunted the Obama administration: “You own that mistake.”
Democrats did get Issa to admit that “I’ve never said Eric Holder knew anything specific” about the Fast and Furious program and that his contempt action “isn’t even about the program. It’s about the failure to tell us the details of post-lying events.” He further acknowledged that he didn’t call a George W. Bush administration attorney general to testify because he was “narrowly focused” on Holder and that he didn’t call other Democratic witnesses to testify because he was concerned about grandstanding.
“That’s the new definition of irony,” McGovern said, pleading for “the speaker to approach this in a more rational way.”
Unlikely. “I have no role in it,” Boehner said when reporters asked about the Holder vote.
Remember? He’s focused on jobs.
By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, June 27, 2012
Members of Congress who questioned Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker when he testified before a US House committee last year are asking the chairman of that committee to help them determine whether the controversial anti-labor governor made deceptive statements while under oath.
The ranking Democratic member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, joined Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly and Connecticut Congressman Christopher Murphy in signing a letter to Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-California, which asks Issa to contact Walker and seek “an explanation for why his statements captured on videotape appear to contradict his testimony before the committee.”
The Congressmen began their letter: “We are writing to request that you ask Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to clarify his testimony before our Committee hearing on April 14, 2011, in light of a new videotape taken of Governor Walker three months earlier and an article published last week by The Nation entitled “Did Scott Walker Lie Under Oath to Congress?” Did Scott Walker Lie Under Oath to Congress?’”
Here’s the May 14 article that got members of Congress asking questions anew of Governor Walker:
Did Scott Walker Lie Under Oath to Congress?
When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker met with a billionaire campaign donor a month before he launched his attack on the collective-bargaining rights of public-sector workers and public-school teachers, he engaged in a detailed discussion about undermining unions as part of a broader strategy of strengthening the position of his Republican party.
After he initiated those attacks, Governor Walker testified under oath to a Congressional committee. He was asked during the April 2011 hearing to specifically address the question of whether he set out to weaken unions—which traditionally back Democrats and which are expected to play a major role in President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign—for political purposes. Walker replied: “It’s not about that for me.”
During the same hearing, Walker was asked whether he “ever had a conversation with respect to your actions in Wisconsin and using them to punish members of the opposition party and their [union] donor base?”
Walker replied, not once but twice, that the answer was “no.”
So, did the governor of Wisconsin lie, under oath, to Congress? The videotape of Walker talking with Diane Hendricks, the Beloit, Wisconsin, billionaire who would eventually give his campaign more than $500,000, surfaced late last week. Captured in January 2011 by a documentary filmmaker who was trailing Hendricks, the conversation provides rare insight into the governor’s long-term strategy for dividing Wisconsin. And the focus of the conversation and the strategy is by all evidence a political one.
In the video, Walker is shown meeting with Hendricks before an economic development session at the headquarters of a firm Hendricks owns, ABC Supply Inc., in Beloit. After Walker kisses Henricks, she asks: “Any chance we’ll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions?”
“Oh, yeah!” says Walker.
Henricks then asks: “And become a right-to-work [state]?”
Walker replies: “Well, we’re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill. The first step is we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer.”
After describing the strategy, Walker tells the woman who asked him about making Wisconsin a “completely red state”: “That opens the door once we do that.”
In a transcript of raw footage from the conversation, Hendricks asks Walker if he has a role model. Walker replies that he has high regard for Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who early in his term used an executive order to strip collective-bargaining rights away from public employees and who, more recently, signed right-to-work legislation. Walker described the use of the executive order to undermine union rights as a “beautiful thing” and bemoaned the fact that he would have to enact legislation to achieve the same end in Wisconsin.
Within weeks, the woman who asked Walker about his strategy to make Wisconsin “a completely red state” wrote a $10,000 check to support his campaign. (She would eventually up the donation to $510,000, making Hendricks the single largest donor in the history of Wisconsin politics.) Within a month, Walker had launched the anti-union initiative that the two had discussed as a part of that “red-state” strategy, provoking mass protests that would draw the attention of Congress.
Testifying under oath to the US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Walker said in his formal statement and in response to questions from committee members that his efforts to restrict the collective-bargaining rights of unions— including moves to prevent them from collecting dues, maintaining ongoing representation of members and engaging effectively in political campaigns—had nothing to do with politics.
Walker was asked specifically about a Fox News interview with Wisconsin state Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald, in which Fitzgerald said of the anti-union push: “If we win this battle, and the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you’re going to find is President Obama is going to have a much difficult, much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin.”
Congressman Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, asked Walker about Fitzgerald’s statement. “I understand you can’t speak for [Fitzgerald] but you can opine as to whether you agree with your state Senate leader when he says this is ultimately about trying to defeat President Obama in Wisconsin. Do you agree?”
“I can tell you what it is for me,” Walker answered. “It’s not about that. It’s ultimately about balancing the budget now and in the future.”
Under questioning from other members of the committee (especially Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley), however, Walker admitted that many of the moves he initiated had no real impact on the state budget.
They did have the impact of weakening unions in the workplace and in the politics of the state, however.
It was in that context that Congressman Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, pressed Walker on the matter of political intentions.
“Have you ever had a conversation with respect to your actions in Wisconsin and using them to punish members of the opposition party and their [union] donor base?
“Never had such a conversation?” Connolly pressed.
“No,” said Walker.
The videotape from several months earlier, in which Walker speaks at length with his most generous campaign donor, suggests a very different answer to the questions from Murphy and Connolly. Indeed, the videotape shows Walker having just such a conversation.
By: John Nichols, The Nation, May 22, 2012