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“Long Past Time For The Farce To End”: GOP Committee’s Lawyer Undercuts Benghazi Conspiracy Theory

Things have not been going well for the House Republicans’ Benghazi committee, which is overseeing an investigation that, as of last week, has now lasted over two years. This morning, things have managed to get worse for the GOP’s partisan witch hunt.

As of a couple of weeks ago, the Defense Department started pushing back against the committee Republicans’ increasingly outlandish demands. In no uncertain terms, the Pentagon let Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) know the panel’s requests have become “unnecessary” and “unproductive.” Worse, the DoD believes the partisan committee is guilty of “encouraging speculation” from witnesses, rather than focusing on facts and evidence.

Today, however, the beleaguered committee, whose very existence has become something of a joke, is facing a new round of embarrassing headlines. The Huffington Post reported:

Shortly before the House Benghazi committee ramped up its battles with the Department of Defense in its probe of the 2012 terrorist attack, the committee’s own top lawyer admitted at least four times in interviews with military officials that there was no more they could have done on that tragic night.

That’s according to a letter obtained by The Huffington Post that was sent Sunday to the chairman of the committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), from the top Democrats on the Benghazi panel and the House Armed Services Committee, Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.).

Remember, the whole point of the right-wing conspiracy theory is built around the idea that the military could’ve done more to intervene in Benghazi the night of the September 2012 attack, but it didn’t for political reasons. Military leaders, the State Department, and multiple congressional investigations all concluded that the conspiracy theory is wrong, but House Republicans don’t care, which is why they created a committee, led by Trey Gowdy, to tell conservatives what they want to hear.

Now, however, there’s evidence that Gowdy’s former top committee staffer already concluded that the question has been answered truthfully. The Benghazi panel is investigating a conspiracy theory that the committee’s lawyer considers bogus.

According to the letter, that staffer, former Gen. Dana Chipman, said in interviews with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former Defense Department Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash that the department did all it could on that night when Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

“I think you ordered exactly the right forces to move out and to head toward a position where they could reinforce what was occurring in Benghazi or in Tripoli or elsewhere in the region,” Chipman told Panetta in the committee’s January interview with the former defense secretary, according to transcribed excerpts. “And, sir, I don’t disagree with the actions you took, the recommendations you made, and the decisions you directed.”

Chipman was similarly deferential to Bash. “I would posit that from my perspective, having looked at all the materials over the last 18 months, we could not have affected the response to what occurred by 5:15 in the morning on the 12th of September in Benghazi, Libya,” said Chipman, who himself served 33 years in the Army.

And if the military did everything it could that night, the conspiracy theory is no more. The Benghazi committee is asking questions that have been answered to the satisfaction of the committee’s top lawyer, chosen by the committee’s Republican chairman.

Circling back to our previous coverage, Republicans have already admitted the Benghazi panel is a partisan exercise, making it that much more difficult to justify its prolonged existence – at a cost of nearly $7 million. Now there’s evidence the committee is not just annoying the Department of Defense for reasons no one seems able to defend, the panel’s former top lawyer has also seen the evidence and rejected the investigation’s basic premise.

To reiterate a recent observation, though I find the Republicans’ Benghazi Committee ridiculous, I’m not suggesting the deadly terrorist attack in Libya, which left four Americans dead, is unworthy of investigation. Just the opposite is true – Congress had a responsibility to determine what happened and take steps to prevent similar attacks in the future.

But therein lies the point: seven separate congressional committees investigated the Benghazi attack before the Select Committee was even created. This was already one of the most scrutinized events in American history. Republican lawmakers, however, didn’t quite care for what the evidence told them, so they effectively concluded, “Maybe an eighth committee will tell us something the other seven committees didn’t.”

But even now, Republicans can’t substantiate the various conspiracy theories, which their own lawyer has dismissed.

It’s long past time for the farce to end.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 16, 2016

May 17, 2016 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Is Obama Bold Enough For You Now?”: Conservatives Derided Him For Timidity, Appalled At What A Tyrant They Now Think He’s Being

Remember when the problem everyone had with Barack Obama was how passive he was? In late October, Charles Krauthammer lamented Obama’s “observer presidency with its bewildered-bystander pose.” Dana Milbank agreed that “The real problem with Obama is not overreach but his tendency to be hands-off.” Milbank quoted Mitt Romney approvingly for his criticism of Obama for not being sufficiently “focused” on the Ebola threat (I guess a more focused president would have managed to avert the thousands of American Ebola deaths—oh wait). Anonymous Hillary Clinton aides tell reporters that unlike the “passive” Obama, their boss is going to be “aggressive” and “decisive” when it comes to foreign crises. Leon Panetta writes a memoir criticizing Obama for being passive, but the specific criticisms look a lot like, “I told the President to do something, and he didn’t follow my advice!”

This isn’t a new complaint. For years, pundits who are supposed to have some sense of how politics actually works have looked at the institutional and political limits surrounding policymaking and whined, “Why won’t Obama lead?” as though he could do things like make Republicans agree with him if only he were to exert his will more manfully. A close cousin of this inane belief is the idea that Obama could solve some complicated problem by giving a really good speech about it, an idea that has had disturbing currency among Obama’s liberal critics.

Perhaps some of this comes from the contrast between Obama and his predecessor, who called himself “the decider,” so decisive was he. During his time in office, reporters and headline writers were forever referring to George W. Bush’s proposals and actions as “bold,” almost regardless of what they entailed. And some of them actually were. Invading Iraq? Now that was bold. Had Obama decided to invade Syria, that would have been bold, too. But we probably wouldn’t be too pleased with the results.

Even when Obama has done bold things, he’s seldom described that way. Perhaps it’s because of his generally calm countenance; I’m really not sure. But his career has been characterized by periods of patience interrupted by calculated risks taken when the timing seemed right. So maybe it’s because many of the “bold” things Obama has done, like running for president after only a couple of years in the Senate or proposing ambitious health care reform, actually worked out. In retrospect, everyone thinks an electoral or legislative success was pre-ordained, and the sage observer saw it coming all along. Perhaps if Obama crashed and burned in dramatic ways more often, he’d get more credit for boldness.

But now, with two years remaining in his presidency and faced with a Congress unified under Republican control, Obama doesn’t look so passive. He’s using executive authority to grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants, he’s making agreements with China on carbon reductions, he’s issuing regulations on ozone. Of course, the same conservatives who derided him for timidity are appalled at what a tyrant they now think he’s being. Could it be that nobody really cares whether he’s being too bold or too passive, and those complaints are just a cover for their substantive disagreements with whatever he’s doing (or not doing) at a particular moment?

If there’s an area where you think Obama hasn’t done what he should have, go ahead and make that criticism. You might be right. There may be issues on which he’s allowed the status quo to continue when you think more aggressive moves were called for, and you could be right about that too. But presidents constantly make choices to pursue some paths and not others, to allow some policies to remain in place while trying to change others, to start some political fights that they think look winnable while avoiding others that don’t. If you think some issue ought to be higher on his agenda, the fact that it isn’t is probably just because he doesn’t agree with you on that particular point, not because of some broader orientation toward passivity that is holding him back.

And if you’re pleased that he’s moving on immigration and climate change, is it because you think the things he’s doing are worthwhile, or because you just favor boldness in the abstract? I’ll bet it’s the former.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, December 1, 2014

December 2, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Politics, President Obama | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Already In The Line Of Fire”: Predictable Republican Response To Women’s Roles In The Military

The conservative reaction to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s announcement that the military would abolish its arbitrary restriction against women serving in positions defined as “combat roles” is predictable but a bit behind the times. As Adam Serwer at Mojo quickly pointed out, a lot of women are already placing themselves in the line of fire without technically being in a combat role. Check out Serwer’s response to the Daily Caller‘s Tucker Carlson, who has been prominent among opponents of the rule change:

Carlson is a political journalist, so he might be expected to know that there is a woman US Army veteran amputee named Tammy Duckworth currently serving in Congress. Duckworth, who represents Illinois’ 8th congressional district, lost her legs after an attack brought down the helicopter she was piloting in Baghdad.

But this development is actually a bit older than you might think. Back in 2002, on the brink of the second Iraq War, in a Washington Monthly article, Phillip Carter predicted thousands of women would serve in de facto combat roles in Iraq, based on earlier experience:

Since the Gulf victory in 1991, a series of largely unnoticed policy changes have opened new opportunities for women to fight alongside, and even to lead, front-line troops. The Navy and Air Force, with some fanfare, allowed women into the cockpits of fighters and bombers. But less well known is how vastly the Army has expanded the role of women in ground-combat operations. Today, women command combat military police companies, fly Apache helicopters, work as tactical intelligence analysts, and even serve in certain artillery units–jobs that would have been unthinkable for them a decade ago. In any war in Iraq, these changes could put thousands of women in the midst of battle, far more than at any time in American history.

Carter, like Serwer, notes that having combat roles officially opened will be extremely helpful to women who want a professional career in the armed services, since combat experience is often crucial to promotion opportunities. And in any event, elimination of the gender barrier does not mean women unqualified for combat roles will assume them, any more than unqualified men, a point Serwer makes:

Most men cannot meet the necessary mental and physical requirements for service in combat. Any woman who can meet those standards should not be denied the opportunity because of an arbitrary gender restriction. Moreover, removing the restriction is not about celebrating militarism. The military has long been a path for historically disfavored groups to claim the full benefits of citizenship. Justifying discrimination against blacks, gays and lesbians, or women becomes much more difficult when they’re giving their lives for their country.

Perhaps that’s an underlying motive for conservatives deploring the change: it helps give discrimination a bad name!

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 24, 2013

January 25, 2013 Posted by | Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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