Still hoping to exploit the 2012 Benghazi attack as a 2016 campaign issue, Donald Trump declared on Twitter last week: “If you want to know about Hillary Clinton’s honesty & judgment, ask the family of Ambassador Stevens.”
For Republican conspiracy theorists, that may not be the best idea. The New Yorker’s Robin Wright spoke this week with Dr. Anne Stevens, Ambassador Chris Stevens’ sister, about whom she holds responsible for the terrorism that claimed his life.
“It is clear, in hindsight, that the facility was not sufficiently protected by the State Department and the Defense Department. But what was the underlying cause? Perhaps if Congress had provided a budget to increase security for all missions around the world, then some of the requests for more security in Libya would have been granted. Certainly the State Department is under-budgeted.“I do not blame Hillary Clinton or Leon Panetta. They were balancing security efforts at embassies and missions around the world. And their staffs were doing their best to provide what they could with the resources they had. The Benghazi Mission was understaffed. We know that now. But, again, Chris knew that. It wasn’t a secret to him. He decided to take the risk to go there. It is not something they did to him. It is something he took on himself.”
Dr. Stevens went on to lament the degree to which her brother’s death has been “politicized,” while also complaining about Congress’ reluctance to “focus on providing resources for security for all State Department facilities around the world.”
She added, “With the many issues in the current election, to use that incident—and to use Chris’s death as a political point – is not appropriate…. I know he had a lot of respect for Secretary Clinton. He admired her ability to intensely read the issues and understand the whole picture.”
It should be interesting to hear Trump and other conspiracy theorists explain why Anne Stevens’ perspective doesn’t matter.
Before moving on, Vox flagged a paragraph from the House Republicans’ new Benghazi report, which was emblematic of the party’s larger problem.
“The assets ultimately deployed by the Defense Department in response to the Benghazi attacks were not positioned to arrive prior to the final lethal attack on the Annex. The fact that this is true does not mitigate the question of why the world’s most powerful military was not positioned to respond; or why the urgency and ingenuity displayed by team members at the Annex and Team Tripoli was seemingly not shared by all decision makers in Washington.”
Think about that one for a moment. For years, Republicans have argued that the Obama administration could have deployed military forces, which were positioned to make a difference, but failed to do so. This, they said, was proof of how awful the administration’s handling of the crisis was.
Now, however, Republicans are arguing that the Obama administration couldn’t have deployed military forces, which weren’t positioned to make a difference, which should nevertheless be seen as proof of how awful the administration’s handling of the crisis was.
After all of the countless hours of investigation, the hearings, the interviews, the depositions, the conspiracy theories, the media chatter, the bizarre social-media messages written by our crazy uncles who watch Fox all day, the event that received the most congressional scrutiny in the history of the United States turned out to be exactly what reality-based observers said it was.
The conspiracy theorists were completely, demonstrably wrong. Regrettably, the best Republicans could do with their special, select committee, was take what the Obama administration said, reword it to make it sound like a condemnation, and package it in an 800-page report that took two years and $7 million – in our money – to produce.
Don’t be too surprised if the right starts to turn on Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), whom conservatives invested so much hope in. The far-right South Carolinian was supposed to bury, not exonerate, Hillary Clinton, and his inability to deliver a useful campaign weapon will likely be seen as both a failure and a betrayal.