Oops! Suddenly, Republicans had to find another issue to run on in 2014. It didn’t take long. Hello, Benghazi — soon to be under investigation by a Special Committee named by Speaker John Boehner. In announcing creation of this extraordinary, Watergate-like committee, Boehner promised it would not be a circus or sideshow.
Who’s he think he’s kidding? Within 24 hours, the National Republican Congressional Committee sent out a fundraising email linked to Benghazi. “House Republicans are moving fast to hold Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama accountable for their actions on the night of September 11, 2012,” notes the letter. Then, after citing the Special Committee headed by South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy, the NRCC calls on supporters to join what it calls a “national effort for a national investigation.” The pitch: “Will you automatically add your name today to join us and become a Benghazi Watchdog?”
How do you become a Benghazi Watchdog? Surprise, surprise. By making a donation — to the NRCC. So much for Benghazi being, as Boehner and Gowdy piously avowed, an issue that “transcends politics.” For Republicans, with full-time support of Fox News, Benghazi has been nothing but a political football from the very beginning.
Indeed, on the night of September 11, 2012, while the attack on our consulate in Benghazi was still underway and before we even knew Ambassador Chris Stevens was one of four victims, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney accused Obama of sympathizing with those who carried out the attacks. Ever since then, it’s been nonstop political attacks with a dual purpose: to stir up the Republican base in 2014 and to derail a possible Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016.
Boehner’s call for a Special Committee to investigate Benghazi is just the latest game. There have already been 13 congressional hearings on Benghazi, by five different committees, plus 50 administration briefings held for members and staff, and over 25,000 pages of documents released by the White House. Meanwhile, every charge made by Republicans about this tragic event has turned out to be false.
It’s time to expose the lies about Benghazi and tell the truth. Republicans charge President Obama never called it “terrorism.” Wrong! I was in the Rose Garden on September 12, the morning after the attack, when Obama declared: “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.”
Republicans charge that then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice deliberately lied to the American people by claiming the protests were a spontaneous response to an anti-Islam video. Wrong! Ambassador Rice simply relayed early reports by U.S. intelligence agencies that what happened in Benghazi was linked to earlier protests in Cairo and around the Middle East, which had indeed been triggered by anger over an anti-Islam video produced in the United States. At the same time, she stressed this was only a preliminary assessment and would be updated as more information became available. Which it was.
Republicans charge that the Obama administration gave a “stand-down order,” preventing deployment of readily available military forces to break up the attack. Wrong! A special panel headed by Admiral Mike Mullen concluded no U.S. military ships or planes could possibly have been deployed to Benghazi on time.
Finally, Republicans charge that an email from Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, released last week, is the “smoking gun” proving the White House directly orchestrated a “cover-up” of what happened in Benghazi. Wrong again! In fact, laugh-out-loud-funny. Read it. All Rhodes’ email proves is White House aides prepared “talking points” for a top administration official scheduled to appear on the Sunday morning shows. Hardly unusual. And clearly not an impeachable offense.
Yes, it’s time to tell the truth about Benghazi: We were attacked by terrorists. Four Americans were killed. Our sole mission now should be to track down those responsible. End of story. Quick! Somebody tell Fox News.
Bill Press is host of a nationally-syndicated radio show.