Pat Smith, mother of Benghazi victim Sean Smith, speaks during the opening day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 18, 2016.
Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC

RNC manipulates the pain of a grieving mother for partisan gain

I’ve been watching major-party conventions for a long time. This was probably the lowest point a party has reached in my lifetime.
The mother of an American killed in the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, said she personally blames Hillary Clinton for her son’s death.
“She deserves to be in stripes,” [Pat] Smith said of Clinton…. “I personally blame Hillary Clinton for the death of my son,” Smith said while fighting back tears.
The convention soon after turned over the stage to two veterans who proceeded to blatantly lie about assorted Benghazi conspiracy theories – each of which contradicted the findings of the Republicans’ own investigations.
The Rachel Maddow Show, 7/18/16, 8:43 PM ET

Politicization of Benghazi takes tragedy to dark place

Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, talks with Rachel Maddow about Ambassador Chris Stevens and the politicization of the deadly terror attack in Benghazi.
Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, talks with Rachel Maddow about Ambassador Chris Stevens and the politicization of the deadly terror attack in Benghazi.
It was a spectacle so offensive, it was hard to even comprehend. Obviously, basic human decency requires sympathy for Pat Smith, Benghazi victim Sean Smith’s mother, who’s had to endure the kind of pain few of us can imagine. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that her claims last night simply weren’t true. We know her arguments defy reality because Republicans launched multiple probes of the 2012 Benghazi attack – no event in American history has received more congressional scrutiny – and have concluded that the conspiracy theories are wrong.
GOP officials searched desperately for many years to uncover any kind of evidence to bolster their beliefs and partisan attacks. They found nothing. So why put a grieving mother on the convention stage to say things that are obviously wrong? Because the party’s rabid base needed some red meat to chew on?
NBC News’ Richard Engel explained on the air last night that the Republican convention appears to have offered “a manipulation of someone’s grief,” which meant “going to a very dark place.”
And therein lies the larger point. Modern, major political parties, hoping to govern in a global superpower, probably shouldn’t choose to deliberately take their televised national convention to “a very dark place.”
Watching this unfold, journalist Ben Adler asked a good question: “Can you imagine if Dems in 2004 had a 9/11 victim’s parent at DNC saying, ‘I blame George W. Bush personally for her death’?”
That need not be a rhetorical question. In the Reagan-Bush era, violent attacks on U.S. outposts abroad were far more common than they are now, and in too many instances, Americans were killed. Imagine if the Democratic National Convention invited several people, including grieving family members, to spread obvious falsehoods and conspiracy theories about the Republican administrations?
Democrats would be seen as fanatics lacking in the seriousness of purpose necessary to govern.
And yet, here we are.
Postscript: In case this wasn’t quite baffling enough, Donald Trump appeared on Fox News via phone during Pat Smith’s dishonest remarks. In other words, the presumptive GOP nominee competed for attention with his own nominating convention, encouraging at least some viewers to listen to him instead of the person on the stage. I’ve honestly never seen anything like this.