During Wednesday’s House Foreign Relations Committee hearing to discuss military action in Syria, Tea Party favorite Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) introduced his conspiracy theory to explain why the president wants to intervene in Syria now, but not when Bashar al-Assad’s regime reportedly used chemical weapons in late April.
“Was it delayed to divert attention today from the Benghazi, IRS, NSA scandals, the failure of Obamacare enforcement, the tragedy of the White House-drafted sequestration, or the upcoming debt limit vote?” Wilson asked
Secretary of State John Kerry didn’t entertain Wilson’s diversion.
“The president didn’t believe it was a compelling enough case to win the support of the American people, as well as the world,” Kerry responded.
The secretary was soon greeted by another Tea Party conspiracy theory enthusiast.
“The same administration that was so quick to involve the U.S. in Syria now was reluctant to use the same resources at its disposal to attempt to rescue four brave Americans that fought for their lives in Benghazi,” Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) said.
To make his point, the congressman held up a photo of Tyrone Woods, a Navy SEAL who lost his life in Benghazi.
Here, Kerry lost his patience.
“We are talking about people being killed by gas and you want to go talk about Benghazi and Fast and Furious,” he said. “This is not about getting into Syria’s civil war. This is about enforcing the principle that people shouldn’t be allowed to gas their citizens with impunity. And if we don’t vote to do this, Assad will interpret from you that he’s free to go and do this any day he wants to.”
The secretary concluded his response: “So let’s draw the proper distinction here, Congressman, we don’t deserve to drag this into yet another Benghazi discussion. And the real issue here is whether or not the Congress is going to stand up for international norms with respect to dictators that have only been broken twice until Assad — Hitler and Saddam Hussein — and we give license to someone to continue that shame on us.”
House leaders from both parties expressed concern during Wednesday’s hearing about the use of chemical weapons against innocent Syrians but those concerns were countered by fears of possible retaliation, a lack of allies, and the possibility of al-Assad using chemical weapons again to escalate the conflict.
“We cannot overlook the danger chemical weapons pose to a volatile country and volatile region,” Kerry said. “Since President Obama’s policy is that Assad must go, it is not insignificant that to deprive or degrade Assad’s chemical weapons deprives him of a lethal weapon in the ongoing civil war.”
Secretary Kerry was joined by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey in spending the entirety of the four-hour testimony assuring members of Congress that they are certain al-Assad is responsible for using chemical weapons and insisting that intervention will not lead to an all-out war.
Wilson and Duncan prove that Tea Party conspiracy theories by conservatives refuse to die — no matter how often they are debunked. In fact, Republican activists are working to make sure that they don’t.
Shouting “Benghazi” is a surefire way to please the base while distracting from the actual policy choices Republicans seem reluctant to make.
Watch Duncan’s remarks to Secretary Kerry: