The purpose of Wednesday’s hearing of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee was to examine security lapses that led to the killing in Benghazi last month of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others. But in doing so, the lawmakers reminded us why “congressional intelligence” is an oxymoron. – Dana Milbank
After watching hours of Rep. Darrell Issa’s oversight hearing The Hill headline remains the story of Wednesday’s congressional circus: “Rep. Issa Closes in on Clinton.” It was a partisan spectacle from start to finish. At a moment when the country truly needed a transparent attempt to get facts, Mr. Issa and his sidekick Jason Chaffetz, along with other preening political show horses, revealed their lack of seriousness on the subject, putting politics above all else. Congress earns the disdain they receive from the American public.
The Republicans believe they’ve found a way to damage Obama on national security, as the video above reveals. They may be correct, because the Obama administration couldn’t have handled the aftermath worse.
Rep. Chaffetz stood out, but not in a good way. He went on CNN earlier in the day to brag “ABSOLUTELY,” proud to have cut State Department funding. But it was his allegations that State was revealing classified documents, which he pulled out of thin air, even taking Issa by surprise, that made him look so foolish.
One of the smartest foreign policy reporters in the business expressed what most were feeling on Twitter:
Since when did Chaffetz assign himself to be in charge of determining what is classified from executive branch? Sheesh.
— Laura Rozen (@lrozen) October 10, 2012
Ambassador Kennedy, who wasn’t taking any of the Republican charade as anything but what it was, a partisan show, again and again emphasized that the FBI had cleared all material being offered.
Charlene Lamb, deputy assistant secretary in charge of diplomatic security, admitted rejecting requests for security, which made her the easy scapegoat for the Administration’s Libya policy, which as way of disclosure I should say I’ve been against from the beginning.
As to the funding question, Lamb gave conflicting answers minutes apart, though when Rohrbacher got his “no,” he abruptly cut her off.
Lamb: “no sir,” budget was not an issue.
— Taylor Marsh (@taylormarsh) October 10, 2012
Lamb now says it’s true they had “limited resources.” Budget is a reality.
— Taylor Marsh (@taylormarsh) October 10, 2012
The title of the Issa’s hearing, “The Security Failures of Benghazi,” gave the purpose of Issa’s hearing away.
Secy. Clinton warned at the time that cuts would endanger national security. Republicans are always targeting the State Department’s budget, because most on the right think diplomacy is for weenies, preferring to load up the Pentagon beyond what we need and can afford.
Dana Milbank made the obvious connection to Issa’s hypocrisy.
For fiscal 2013, the GOP-controlled House proposed spending $1.934 billion for the State Department’s Worldwide Security Protection program — well below the $2.15?billion requested by the Obama administration. House Republicans cut the administration’s request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012. (Negotiations with the Democrat-controlled Senate restored about $88 million of the administration’s request.) Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans’ proposed cuts to her department would be “detrimental to America’s national security” — a charge Republicans rejected.
After Rep. Issa blew it on Fast and Furious, making a fool of himself, he’s making sure not to shoot too high and miss. But his target is clear.
The Washington Post picked up the same framing as The Hill.
Facts are important and there are many questions to ask, including of the State Department, though intelligence and DoD should be brought in as well. But the goal wasn’t answers on Wednesday. The goal was to humiliate President Obama in an election year.
Former Green Beret Lt. Col. Wood, as well as another security expert, Mr. Nordstrom gave damning testimony of the lack of security, leaving open questions for which the Administration must answer. But the partisan nature, with Issa choosing that over transparency, diminished the power of both men’s experienced accounts.
Ambassador Stevens knew the security reality, while choosing to not only move out of Tripoli to the Benghazi location, but remain as threats mounted, as well as attacks on the consulate escalated. This is what no one wants to talk about, but which Ambassador Kennedy, who was strong and forceful, continued to emphasize. The foreign service needs to be in these dangerous places. You can make them safe, but you can’t protect them against everything.
It was a precarious situation at best, as I wrote about in another piece yesterday, covering this issue from top to bottom.
It’s a hero’s job what the foreign service does in far away places and it’s dangerous, too, diplomatic soldiers putting their lives on the line. We are reminded of it yet again through the deaths in Benghazi.
The Obama administration remains on the grill over Benghazi. Trying to keep your job while forgetting to do your job, which begins with communicating to the American people when things go wrong in foreign lands, is a perilous road in today’s 24/7 multi-media landscape, as has been proven through Benghazi.