Adapted from The Rachel Maddow Show, 5/10/13
Depending on the day, depending on which hour of Fox News you're watching, there are a number of different ways, that the right has tried to make the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya into a political scandal. Sometimes they say: IT WASN'T A SPONTANEOUS ATTACK! IT WAS PLANNED!
Sometimes they say: WHO CHANGED THE TALKING POINTS!!
Sometimes they say: WHY DID YOU NOT CALL IT AN ACT OF TERROR!
Sometimes they say: WHY WERE YOU NOT BETTER PREPARED FOR THE ATTACK!
Sometimes they say: WHY DID THE MILITARY NOT RESPOND!
We know the answer, now, to why they said it was a spontaneous attack. The answer is they were wrong. But the intelligence community thought it was a spontaneous attack and said so in the talking points that they gave to the administration (pdf). That was the initial assessment, it was wrong, and when they realized it was wrong, they said so, and stopped describing it that way. That happened right away.
On this one, "Why did the president not call it an act of terror!" Mitt Romney tried to gotcha the president with that at the debates, remember? The problem was that the president did call it terror, right away, the day after the attacks. In public. On tape:
"No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for."
So, that one's answered to -- they did call it an act of terror. Right away. Immediately.
As for why the military did not respond to stop the attack, the military has also answered that one. The then-secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, did, back in February:
"There was not enough time given the speed of the attack for armed military assets to respond."
And then there's this one:
Who changed the talking points! -the intelligence community talking points for administration officials in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
They were sent around to the FBI, the State Department, the White House -- the e-mail chain showing the initial draft and the revision process was sent to members of congress a couple of months ago, while they were considering the nomination of the new CIA Director. So they have had this for a couple of months, showing these revisions. ABC published them today as a smoking gun, and all the Republicans purported to be outraged by what was in them! Shocked! Impeach! But they have had them for a couple of months, and never said anything about them before.
And that leaves this: Why were we not better prepared for the attack? Right? Good question. And that was the point. That was the unsparing and damning conclusion of the inquiry into what happened in Benghazi -- headed up by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen, and veteran diplomat Thomas Pickering. Tasked with an independent comprehensive review (pdf) of what went wrong, they found that the State Department had a "security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi, and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place."
It condemned "systemic failures in leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels" of the State Department.
When that report came out, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she accepted all the report's recommendations without reservation, and she accepted full responsibility:
"As I have said many times, I take responsibility, and nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country, safer stronger and more secure."
That was back in January, after the official report came out, cataloging the one actually outstanding question from what happened in Benghazi. The same question that could be, and is, asked every time one of our diplomatic facilities abroad is attacked. This is still the outstanding matter -- the administration accepted all the recommendations of the report on this as a problem and is implementing those recommendations now. But today, impeach! All of a sudden. Impeach! We'll figure out why later, I guess.