There’s nothing wrong with congressional Republicans – and congressional Democrats, for that matter – asking tough questions about the September attack in Benghazi. Four Americans were killed and policymakers have a duty to understand what happened and try to prevent it from happening again.
The problem comes when some GOP lawmakers throw tantrums for no reason. Benghazi was used as an excuse to justify the first-ever filibuster of a cabinet nominee yesterday, and it’s being used as an excuse to block President Obama’s choice to lead the CIA.
A trio of Republican senators will delay the nomination of John Brennan to be head of the CIA if they don’t receive an answer from the White House about who changed talking points in the days after the attacks on the consulate in Benghazi.
Sen. Lindsey Graham said he, along with Sens. John McCain and Kelly Ayotte, are determined to receive an answer.
“When Brennan comes before the Congress, we’re going to find out who changed those talking points or die trying,” Graham, the South Carolina Republican, said.
Senators asking questions about a terrorist attack makes sense. Senators asking questions they already know the answer to doesn’t make sense.
Graham is desperate to “find out who changed those talking points”? That information is already in the public record. It’s not classified; it’s not a secret; it’s not some important detail that’s been shielded from Congress or the public.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Dec. 4 – well over two months ago – that CIA, not the White House as Republicans suggested, made a deliberate decision to omit references to al Qaeda from the talking points. Why? Because as NPR reported the same day, the initial draft was changed “to protect sources and protect investigations, before the talking points were shared with the White House.”
In other words, Graham and his cohorts don’t need to “die trying” to get an answer to their question; it’s already been answered.
And therein lies the larger point. Given how often Graham and McCain whine incessantly about the lack of Benghazi information, some, including many reporters, start to think they may have legitimate questions that have gone unanswered. But they don’t – they’re playing a political game, using a terrorist attack as a partisan toy, demanding information they already have.
Update: Adam Serwer added that there are “legitimate reasons” to use the Brennan nomination to get information from the White House, but Graham only wants to “feed the fever swamp.” Agreed.