Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Benghazi as an Excuse for Impeachment Shenanigans

Remember the late ’90s and the impeachment of President Bill Clinton? After spending years looking into his financial dealings (Whitewater), the “murder” of Vince Foster, and anything else that they thought might stick, Republicans eventually impeached President Clinton for lying about getting a blowjob. Now, they’re at it again, but this time their ire is focused on both President Obama and Hillary Clinton.

It seems that Republicans have actually been trying to find a basis to impeach President Obama since about the time that he was initially inaugurated. But I guess that someone with a functioning brain in the GOP suggested that passing popular legislation probably didn’t quality as a high crime or misdemeanor. And then Benghazi.

I’ve tried to avoid writing much (if anything about Benghazi), and I still don’t really want to get bogged down in the facts as, frankly, I’m not sure that I know all of the facts (not that Republicans have let facts or a lack thereof deter their conspiracy-mongering). Rather, I want to focus on the Republican need to find a scandal that they can use to tarnish President Obama or even use as the basis of impeachment. And that scandal seems to be Benghazi.*

Unless I’m mistaken, I don’t think that Republicans are actually blaming President Obama for the attack on the compound in Benghazi (though I suspect that it wouldn’t take too much searching to find some who are making that allegation … after all, some on the far right conspiracy fringe have recently accused President Obama of secretly being the worldwide head of al-Qaeda). Instead, the allegation seems to be that President Obama didn’t send proper reinforcements to try to stop the attack (notwithstanding that the military says that there was nothing that could have been done) and/or that his administration edited talking points to try to cover up that it was a terrorist attack (even though he said it was an “act of terror”).

That appears to be the extent and gist of the allegation. I think. (I must admit that I have some degree of difficulty fully understanding right-wing conspiracy theories; after all, they make little logical sense and there are just so damn many of them.) Apparently, from what I’ve been able to glean, it appears that the “conspiracy” was maybe to let the Americans die in order to … er, well … actually, I haven’t figured that part out yet. But then the conspiracy was to deny that the attack was a terrorist attack (you know, by calling it an act of terror, instead) because if it was a terrorist attack, it would prove that President Obama wasn’t doing a good job against terrorists and he would have therefore lost the 2012 election. Or something. And this conspiracy lasted for a whole week. Or three days. Or something. And it involved withholding emails from Congress that were actually given to Congress or refusing to brief Congress except for the briefings that were given to Congress. Or something.

Yesterday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California), tried to clarify when he helpfully noted, as part of his explanation of what it is that President Obama did wrong, that “an act of terror is different than a terrorist attack”. Yep. Read that one again, folks.

But Republicans really seem to think that this is a big deal. Some have been talking about impeachment recently. Some have suggested that this is such a big deal that they don’t think that President Obama will be able to serve out his full term. Others have compared the “conspiracy” to Watergate (but, of course, Benghazi is worse and will “make Watergate look like kindergarten”) and even to 9/11 but found that President Obama’s actions and “Benghazi” were much, much worse. Seriously. Benghazi is worse than Watergate and worse than 9/11 because … um … because, yeah. Some Republicans in Congress want a “select committee” to investigate the whole mess.

So do you know what I find odd about all of this? Think back to the 8 years of the Bush administration. I know you don’t want to; I know you’ve tried to block it from your mind. But work with me here, people. Think back to those long, dark years and remember all of the Republican outrage, committee hearings, select committees, and impeachment talk after the following:

  • January 22, 2002. Calcutta, India. Gunmen associated with Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami attack the U.S. Consulate. Five people are killed.
  • June 14, 2002. Karachi, Pakistan. Suicide bomber connected with al Qaeda attacks the U.S. Consulate, killing 12 and injuring 51.
  • October 12, 2002. Denpasar, Indonesia. U.S. diplomatic offices bombed as part of a string of “Bali Bombings.” No fatalities.
  • February 28, 2003. Islamabad, Pakistan. Several gunmen fire upon the U.S. Embassy. Two people are killed.
  • May 12, 2003. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Armed al Qaeda terrorists storm the diplomatic compound, killing 36 people including nine Americans. The assailants committed suicide by detonating a truck bomb.
  • July 30, 2004. Tashkent, Uzbekistan. A suicide bomber from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan attacks the U.S. Embassy, killing two people.
  • December 6, 2004. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda terrorists storm the U.S. Consulate and occupy the perimeter wall. Nine people are killed.
  • March 2, 2006. Karachi, Pakistan again. Suicide bomber attacks the U.S. Consulate killing four people, including U.S. diplomat David Foy who was directly targeted by the attackers.
  • September 12, 2006. Damascus, Syria. Four armed gunmen shouting “Allahu akbar” storm the U.S. Embassy using grenades, automatic weapons, a car bomb and a truck bomb. Four people are killed, 13 are wounded.
  • January 12, 2007. Athens, Greece. Members of a Greek terrorist group called the Revolutionary Struggle fire a rocket-propelled grenade at the U.S. Embassy. No fatalities.
  • March 18, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Members of the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic Jihad of Yemen fire a mortar at the U.S. Embassy. The shot misses the embassy, but hits nearby school killing two.
  • July 9, 2008. Istanbul, Turkey. Four armed terrorists attack the U.S. Consulate. Six people are killed.
  • September 17, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Terrorists dressed as military officials attack the U.S. Embassy with an arsenal of weapons including RPGs and detonate two car bombs. Sixteen people are killed, including an American student and her husband.

Hmm. Now that I think about it, I don’t recall the committee hearings or select committees, let alone the outrage, gnashing of teeth, rending of garments, and talk of impeachment.

And think about what isn’t included in the foregoing list. First of all, that list doesn’t include anything from Afghanistan or Iraq including multiple attacks on our diplomatic compounds in those countries. More importantly, I don’t recall hearing Republicans calling for hearings or impeachment of President Bush for using lies as the basis for invading Iraq in the first place. Or for “outing” covert CIA agent Valerie Plame. Or for authorizing torture, warrantless wiretaps, and indefinite detention without access to counsel (you know, good ol’ Amurican values). As we learn more about the AP subpoena scandal, we should recall how angry Republicans were about warrantless wiretaps during the Bush administration. Oh, wait.

Hmm. It seems that there was something else that happened during the Bush administration for which there were hearings but not talk of impeachment. What am I missing? Think. Think.

Oh, yeah. I seem to recall this little incident in which 3,000 people were killed in the largest terrorist attack of all time and for which President Bush had been given a warning that al-Qaeda intended to strike inside the US and might use airplanes to do so. But Benghazi was worse.

So you see, to Republicans, there isn’t much (if anything) that a Republican President can do wrong. He can lie us into a war that costs thousands of American lives (not to mention hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives). He can allow Americans to be killed. He can approve torture and permit a covert CIA operative to be outed. All of that is fine. But if a Democratic President lies, about something as innocuous as a blowjob or why a particular terrorist attack occurred … well, then, stop the presses and start the impeachment process. “Mission Accomplished”? Bah, who cares. Not putting out every known fact, even as evidence was still coming in, on why an attack occurred? Watergate! 9/11! Impeach!

You know, I really hope that the Republicans keep pushing on this. I do. I hope that the House GOP decides to start impeachment proceedings. Because maybe, just maybe, under those circumstances, the American electorate will come to realize that the GOP really doesn’t care about right or wrong or even the best interests of America. Perhaps the electorate will finally learn that facts and truth are anathema to the GOP. Nope. What the GOP cares about is damaging Democratic Presidents with whatever flimsy excuse they can find in order to have a better chance of exercising power themselves.

Maybe I’m crazy; maybe I’m just too cynical. But it seems clear to me that when far more egregious, far more deadly conduct is ignored, but less serious conduct amounting (if proven…) to little more than a lie, is subject to extreme levels of scrutiny, rhetoric, and calls for punishment, not to mention comparisons to things that are far more serious, then what we have is nothing more than political posturing dressed up in hyperbolic hypocrisy.

The comparison between these sorts of events is, I believe, damaging to the process and to our governmental system. Just as every bad person ought not to be compared to Hitler, not everything done wrong by a Democratic President is automatically and immediately comparable to Watergate or 9/11. The comparison of virtually everything to those things that truly were the pinnacle of scandal or evil means that we’ve lost all perspective. And without perspective, there is no way to understand, approach, or resolve important questions, issues, or problems.


*Well, at least it was Benghazi until the Obama administration handed Republicans two new scandals to chase with the IRS’ allegedly targeting Tea Party 501(c)(4) applications and the Department of Justice subpoenaing the phone records of some reporters for Associated Press.

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