After President Obama announced that the only remaining American prisoner of war in Afghanistan had been freed and was returning to the United States, I remember thinking that no one would dare complain about such good news. That, of course, didn’t turn out well.
But that was before. This afternoon, I thought there would simply be no way for even the most rabid partisan to complain about U.S. forces capturing Ahmed Abu Khattala, the suspected terrorist behind the 2012 Benghazi attack that left four Americans dead, as part of a mission in which there were no American casualties. Who’d be disappointed by this good news?
Even for right-wing conspiracy theorists, who tend to believe everything is “a distraction from Benghazi,” the usual talking point can’t apply here: this literally is Benghazi.
And yet, some folks apparently found a way.
To hear the right tell it, Special Operations forces, the FBI, and the White House all worked together to promote Hillary Clinton.Right-wing political voices took to the airwaves and Internet on Tuesday to speculate about the timing of the arrest, following the news that one of the suspected ringleaders of the Benghazi terrorist attack had been arrested. Former Secretary of State Clinton has been hit hard for her role in the Benghazi attacks for years; she responded to critics in her new book, Hard Choices, which she’s currently promoting with a heavy media blitz. She’s scheduled to have two interviews tonight with Fox and CNN.
One Fox News host told viewers, “You have a former secretary of state who is in the middle of a high profile book tour, I think this is convenient for her to shift the talking points to some of the things she has been discussing.”
We talked last week about the notion that for much of the right, there is simply no such thing as uncontested good news. An American POW goes free? Complain that he didn’t deserve it. Unemployment rate drops? Complain that the White House has orchestrated a conspiracy to manipulate data. A strike takes out Osama bin Laden? Complain that Bush and Cheney aren’t getting enough credit.
U.S. forces capture a suspected terrorist believed to be responsible for the murder of four Americans? Complain about … whatever the right can think of.
Indeed, as the afternoon has progressed, the right’s potential talking points have begun to take shape – enough to create a Top 10 list.
1. This is about Clinton’s book tour. It’s hard to know how to respond to such obvious nonsense, but to believe that U.S. Special Forces, the FBI, and the White House hatched a military mission, months in the making, to help a former cabinet official on a book tour seems rather delusional.
2. This is about the IRS “controversy.” Apparently, capturing terrorists is now part of a plot to distract attention away from a story that evaporated a year ago?
3. Obama was golfing when the suspect was captured. I’m not sure if the claim is true, but if it is, I’m not sure why anyone should care. The president ordered the mission; American personnel on the ground carried out the mission. Why would anyone care about Obama’s physical location when the suspect was taken away?
4. Obama should put Ahmed Abu Khattala in Guantanamo. This gem, pushed by Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, argues that the terrorist suspect shouldn’t be tried in courts with a great track record for convicting and imprisoning terrorists. (Wasn’t McCain the guy who, in 2008, said the United States needs to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay? Does McCain even remember his own position?) Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy, after hearing about McCain’s and Graham’s appeal, was quoted as saying,”Oh for God’s sake…” which seems like the appropriate reaction.
5. Obama waited for the “perfect political opportunity.” This line, rolled out by former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), seems especially bizarre given that it’s easy to think of plenty of other politically opportune moments to capture Abu Khattala. Indeed, there’s nothing particularly interesting or important about right now.
6. Nothing to see here; move along. Told about the Benghazi attacker’s capture in Libya, one Fox News host said, “Good news there … I guess.” Drudge is pretending this is largely meaningless, too. The moral of the story: ridiculous Benghazi conspiracy theories are huge news, while successful counter-terrorism missions in Benghazi are ho-hum.
7. This took too long. There’s a lot of “Obama was too slow” commentary this afternoon. Funny, five full years after 9/11, George W. Bush said he didn’t even much care about catching bin Laden – ever. Where were the conservative complaints then? The truth is, these missions abroad aren’t easy and they take time. A win is a win, no matter how long it takes.
8. Don’t Mirandize! Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) responded to the developments with a statement that read, “Rather than rushing to read him his Miranda rights and telling him he has the right to remain silent, I hope the administration will focus on collecting the intelligence necessary to prevent future attacks and to find other terrorists responsible for the Benghazi attacks.” For the record, Bush/Cheney routinely Mirandized terrorist suspects in U.S. custody, which GOP lawmakers never found troubling until after Jan. 20, 2009.
9. Only one? House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) issued a statement saying Abu Khatallah is but “one of dozens, if not hundreds of individuals, involved in the murder of four Americans in Benghazi.” Perhaps, though Khatallah is believed to have been a ringleader of the attack, and other suspects are likely to be taken into custody, too.
10. We could have had Abu Khattala sooner. The accused has been the principal suspect for quite a while, but in reality, a previous mission “postponed because of violent uprisings against the Libyan government.”
In late April, House Speaker Boehner, hoping to defend the eighth congressional investigation into the 2012 attack, said, “Our investigation into the events of that September night is going to continue until this White House owns up to the truth – and until these terrorists are brought to justice.”
Well, Abu Khattala is in custody and the White House has answered all of the remaining questions. Maybe Republicans can celebrate the good news today and consider governing tomorrow?