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“What I Learned From Watching The Benghazi Hearing”: No One Can Doubt That Hillary Clinton Has Got What It Takes To Do The Job

Yes, I watched the entire 11 hours – although I must admit that my attention lagged every now and then. The Republicans on the committee threw everything they had at Hillary Clinton. Here are my two big take-aways from all that.

The line of questioning that came from Rep. Jim Jordan wasn’t new…it’s been the big accusation against President Obama, Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton from the get-go. The claim is that all of them tried to fool the American people into believing that the anti-Muslim video that was sparking demonstrations all over the Middle East (both peaceful and violent) was the cause of what happened in Benghazi, when it was really a “terrorist” attack. I guess they forgot about the shellacking Romney took during the 2012 presidential debate when Obama allowed him to dig a disastrous hole with, “Please proceed, Governor.”

But overall, this argument tells us a lot about Republicans. Clinton got into trouble during a previous Congressional investigation about Benghazi when she basically asked why all that mattered. From a reality-based perspective, she had a point.

It seems that for Republicans, the death of a U.S. Ambassador and 3 other Americans wouldn’t matter as much if they were the result of protests rather than a terrorist attack. That kind of thinking is exactly why they get so perturbed that President Obama won’t call ISIS “radical Islamists.” It’s all about the words you use rather than the actions those words describe.

For as long as I can remember, Republicans have been trying to scare us with the words they use to describe our adversaries. During the Cold War and McCarthy hearings, it was all about “communists.” Reagan called the Soviet Union the “evil empire” and George W. Bush talked about the “axis of evil.” Instead of going after those who were responsible for 9/11, the Bush/Cheney administration launched a “global war on terrorism.”

Given all that, Republicans know that Benghazi isn’t an adequate vehicle for fear mongering unless we call it a “terror attack.” If, instead, it was the result of an angry mob reacting to an anti-Muslim video, that dilutes the message. But in the end, as Clinton said, what difference does it really make? Would our response be any different if there was a slight change in what we learned about what motivated the attackers? I’d suggest that a reasonable response (not the kind we got from Bush/Cheney to 9/11) would not.

As is often the case, reality is a bit more nuanced than Republicans try to paint it. We learned that when one of the leaders of the Benghazi attack – Ahmed Abu Khattala – was captured.

Despite extensive speculation about the possible role of Al Qaeda in directing the attack, Mr. Abu Khattala is a local, small-time Islamist militant. He has no known connections to international terrorist groups, say American officials briefed on the criminal investigation and intelligence reporting, and other Benghazi Islamists and militia leaders who have known him for many years…

On the day of the attack, Islamists in Cairo had staged a demonstration outside the United States Embassy there to protest an American-made online video mocking Islam, and the protest culminated in a breach of the embassy’s walls — images that flashed through news coverage around the Arab world.

As the attack in Benghazi was unfolding a few hours later, Mr. Abu Khattala told fellow Islamist fighters and others that the assault was retaliation for the same insulting video, according to people who heard him.

In other words, one of the leaders of the attack had no known connections to international terrorist groups and used the video as a tool to recruit fighters to join in the attack. On the other hand, it was not a spontaneous reaction from protesters. It was a planned attack. People like Rep. Jim Jordan seem incapable of grasping that kind of nuance. Here he is lecturing former Secretary Clinton:

“You picked the video narrative. You picked the one with no evidence. And you did it because Libya was supposed to be…this great success story,” he said during one of his filibusters. “You can live with a protest about a video. That won’t hurt you. But a terrorist attack will.”

That, my friends, is the best distillation of Republican confusion about Benghazi that you’ll find anywhere.

The other thing I learned from watching the hearing is all about Hillary Clinton. I’ve always known that she is smart. But two things I’ve heard about her – especially during this campaign – is that her age is an issue and she tends to be evasive rather than direct when she feels challenged. Those two critiques were banished as completely irrelevant on Thursday.

The kind of stress a president deals with is only secondarily physical. It is mostly emotional. We need to know that the person we elect to that position is capable of keeping their cool when a lot of difficult things come their way. At 67, Hillary Clinton just withstood 11 hours (minus breaks) of people coming at her with every kind of attack and negative insinuation they could find. She did something I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have done under those circumstances…kept her cool and answered every question with intelligence and patience. Here’s how Jeb Lund summarized it:

She didn’t lose her cool under circumstances that would have sent any of us screaming for the exit or climbing over the dais to try to brain someone with a shoe. She was by far the most prepared person at the hearings and the most fluent in the details. She said the two funniest lines of the day, broke into a big natural grin, delivered a fairly riveting account of the fog of war during the events of the compound attack, and became visibly affected when talking about those harmed during it. The Republicans on the Benghazi committee just inadvertently put her through an 11-hour stress test of her intelligence, patience and composure as a leader. They just vetted their own opposition, and they did it through such a protracted, disingenuous, confused and obnoxious display that even people who have every right to feel ambivalent about her doubtless felt a twinge of sympathy.

People will continue to have their policy differences with Clinton. But no one can doubt that she’s got what it takes to do the job.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 24, 2015

October 25, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“More Problems For Romney”: After Sabotaging The Economy, Republicans Now Desperate For An “America Under Siege”

One reason the Benghazi controversy has always seemed so bogus to me is that I’ve never bought the core premise, which is that the administration had any clear political reason or advantage to gain by claiming the attack was tied to the video as opposed to a pre-planned assault. (Here’s our look at how Benghazi evolved into a GOP talking point.) In addition to a great number of hacks peddling this idea, some people I respect a great deal seem to credit the idea too. But again, it doesn’t add up to me.

However that may be, the factual premise itself now seems to be coming apart. In this morning’s Washington Post, David Ignatius comes forward with new evidence suggesting that Susan Rice’s now notorious claims about the centrality of the video were pretty much verbatim from CIA talking points prepared that day for administration officials.

From Ignatius

The Romney campaign may have misfired with its suggestion that statements by President Obama and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice about the Benghazi attack last month weren’t supported by intelligence, according to documents provided by a senior U.S. intelligence official.“Talking points” prepared by the CIA on Sept. 15, the same day that Rice taped three television appearances, support her description of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate as a reaction to Arab anger about an anti-Muslim video prepared in the United States. According to the CIA account, “The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.”

Meanwhile, an article published yesterday afternoon in the LA Times suggests that these initial reports remain what US intelligence still believes happened: an attack with relatively little advanced planning, a high degree of disorganization and at least some level of triggering by the riots in Cairo earlier that day.

From the LAT

The attack was “carried out following a minimum amount of planning,” said a U.S. intelligence official, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a matter still under investigation. “The attackers exhibited a high degree of disorganization. Some joined the attack in progress, some did not have weapons and others just seemed interested in looting.”A second U.S. official added, “There isn’t any intelligence that the attackers pre-planned their assault days or weeks in advance.” Most of the evidence so far suggests that “the attackers launched their assault opportunistically after they learned about the violence at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo” earlier that day, the official said.

It would be wrong to think we now know what happened in any definitive sense. Maybe it was triggered by the video. Maybe it was planned months in advance. For me, the main issue is that a US diplomatic team was killed — and whether it was a relatively unplanned haphazard attack or one with a lot of advanced planning is operationally significant but sort of beside the point in political or policy terms. It underscores that Libya is an incredibly dangerous place right now and the Ambassador lacked the protection he should have had.

As I mentioned after the debate last week, Romney totally got hoisted on his own petard by the ridiculous hyperfocus on the word “terror”. But really the whole focus on this word only makes sense in a hyper-ideological mindset in which using the ‘terror’ buzzword signifies you fully understand some global war on Islamofascism which Romney’s advisors are trying to bring back from the middle years of the Bush era.

My global take remains the same: only in the final weeks or a presidential campaign, with one candidate desperate for a America under siege Carteresque tableau to play against, would this ever remotely have been treated like a scandal. A bunch of reporters basically got played and punk’d.

 

By: Josh Marshall, Editors Blog, Talking Points Memo, October 20, 2012

October 21, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Sad And Pathetic”: The Lost Soul Of Mitt Romney

The nation has suffered a death in the family.

This morning we learn that our Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, was among four Americans killed yesterday in a violent attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. It was an attack carried out by a mob deeply upset by a film made by an American-Israeli, California-based real estate developer that ridicules Mohammed, the central figure in Islamic religious belief.

While the Romney campaign chose to turn yesterday’s events in Cairo and Benghazi into a political opportunity by criticizing the Obama Administration for a statement issued by our embassy in Cairo earlier in the day (more on that in a moment), a check of Twitter and other communications sources reveals that, as of the time of publication of this piece, Governor Romney has not yet seen fit to so much as express his condolences to the families of Ambassador Stevens and the other Americans who lost their lives in service to their country. Now, if I’ve somehow missed Romney’ issuance of condolences, I’m sure that there are many readers who will gladly point this out. I, in turn, will be more than willing to correct the record if this is the case—however a close search of all sources reveals that no such statement has been forthcoming from the Romney camp.

The Romney condemnation—issued prior to official confirmation of Ambassador Steven’s death—stated, “I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

These words were uttered at the time when the families of our fellow countrymen were being notified of the terrible fate that had befallen their loved ones.

Is this really how leadership works?

A leader waits until all the facts are available and the impact of one’s words can be more fully assessed. In speaking out before he was fully aware of the situation on the ground, Governor Romney chose the path of the impulsive politician rather that the road taken by a measured leader—and all in the quest of political gain.

And then there is the Twitter posted by GOP Chairman, Reince Priebus, which simply says, “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.”

Apparently, there is nothing sufficiently sad and pathetic about the violent loss of American lives to merit so much as a follow-up Tweet from Chairman Priebus mourning these terrible deaths.

What was the transgression that led the GOP candidate and party chairman to attack the President for ‘sympathizing’ with the protestors or— as many right-wing voices are today saying—“apologizing” (a favorite trigger word of the right these days) to the protestors?

It was a statement issued earlier yesterday by staffers at the American embassy in Cairo—a statement containing words that sought to defuse a situation quickly getting out of hand as Muslims protested the offending film outside the embassy gates. That statement, issued without the prior approval of either the State Department or the White House, was one that we can reasonably assume was the result of frightened embassy employees—employees under siege and attempting to keep a bad situation from getting dangerously out of control.

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

Maybe I’m experiencing another one of those hemorrhages in that pesky left-side of my brain, but it’s a real struggle to find anything approaching an apology in those words.

What I do see is a reminder to the Muslim protestors that the United States of America, while defending the right of free speech even when that speech is deeply offensive to some, is not a nation that stands for anyone disrespecting the religious beliefs of another. Indeed, as the communiqué noted, this religious tolerance is a cornerstone of American democracy.

At least it used to be.

Governor Romney should understand this better than most as the founder of Romney’s own LDS religion, Joseph Smith, was murdered by a violent mob whose own religious beliefs had been offended by Smith. Ironically, that mob violently stormed the jail in which Smith was being detained and killed the man in cold blood.

I’m sure the irony of our Ambassador’s death at the hands of such a mob is completely lost on Governor Romney who has now cashed in the decency I have always ascribed to the man in exchange for his willingness to do anything—and say anything—if it helps him capture the prize he so intensely seeks. No doubt, the Romney campaign tells itself that trading their souls is the price they must pay for the greater good. No doubt, they convince themselves of some wisdom they find in speaking first and thinking later if that is what must be done to save the American people from themselves.

Yet, I think all Americans know how that storyline ends.

In point of actual fact—not that the facts have ever stood in the way of Romney campaign rhetoric—President Obama has condemned the actions of the mob in the harshest possible terms— as has Secretary Clinton.

Indeed, the only apologizing I can find is the apology issued today by Libya’s interim president, Mohammed el-Megarif, who said on behalf of his country, “We extend our apology to America, the American people and the whole world.”

I suppose this will now put the leader of the Libyan government at risk with the extremists in his own country as, apparently, apologies are offensive to extremists everywhere.

While there is certainly nothing that has been said or done that would suggest that any American official has apologized for the heinous behavior of the mob—at least, not here in the real world—there is an apology that I would like to offer.

On behalf of a few of my fellow Americans who have behaved in an insensitive and inappropriate manner, I would like to apologize to the families and friends of my countrymen who died so tragically in Benghazi. I’m sure that if a presidential campaign was not clouding their judgment, they would have shown a bit more consideration, compassion and class.

At least I’d like to believe that this would be the case.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Contributor, Forbes, September 12, 2012

September 15, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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