Exactly what the right suspects about Benghazi isn’t clear. Initially, Republicans seem to have hoped that talking up al Qaeda would somehow help Romney and damage Obama. Not the most patriotic strategy, but that was their plan. What they supposedly suspect now remains obscure. Graham mutters darkly that he is “disturbed,” while McCain claims to be “troubled.” The blustering Ayotte has now locked herself in a bunker with these volatile characters, whose motives and behavior are hardly above suspicion.
Whatever their problem, knuckling under to such a puerile challenge would represent an unacceptable defeat for the newly re-elected Obama.
Properly, the Benghazi incident is under investigation by the FBI and the CIA as well as Congressional committees – and what those probes appear to have established so far is that the security arrangements at the consulate never came within the specific purview of the White House. The CIA almost certainly made mistakes and omissions in protecting the consulate, and sadly paid for those errors with the lives of courageous agency officers who died there trying to protect the State Department staff when the compound came under sustained assault from heavily armed jihadi militants.
The notion that Rice or any other administration official intentionally misled the public already has been thoroughly debunked by David Petraeus, the resigned CIA director. Petraeus told a closed-door hearing on Capitol Hill, attended by McCain, that Rice had faithfully followed the declassified talking points provided by US intelligence agencies. (McCain promptly fled from reporters when that hearing ended.) Although the president himself had referred to the Benghazi attack as an “act of terror” in the White House Rose Garden, specific information about potential terrorist suspects remained classified for sound investigative reasons.
It isn’t hard to imagine what McCain would say if Rice had accidentally blurted out classified details of the Benghazi probe prematurely on television. In fact, it isn’t necessary to imagine, because not so long ago, he angrily accused the White House of revealing classified information. But in fact, the only damaging leak in the Benghazi matter emerged from the hyperactive mouth of Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee.
Perhaps McCain, Graham, and Ayotte should instead spew their bile on Issa, who has actually abused his authority and trifled with national security. They would be better off, because their reputations — and not Rice’s — will be irreparably damaged if they continue to pursue this vendetta when the president sends up her nomination.
Photo credit: AP/Susan Walsh
Copyright 2012 The National Memo