Meadville Tribune

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December 1, 2012

SUNDAY ISSUE: Benghazi attack

MEADVILLE — Just how scandalous is the Benghazi attack? On Sept. 11, U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Republicans claim that President Barack Obama and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, in the midst of the president’s re-election fight, tried to cover up terrorist complicity in the attack. Democrats say the GOP is trying to take tragedy and create an overblown scandal with it.

What’s at stake in the debate over Benghazi? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

MATHIS:

What happened in Benghazi was a tragedy. But it’s not a scandal, despite GOP attempts to hype it as such.

Remember: While the consulate was still burning, Mitt Romney’s campaign sent out a statement suggesting that the Obama administration’s first instinct was “to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

It was an execrable lie, and Romney, it was reported after the election, soon realized he’d made a mistake. “We screwed up, guys,” Romney told his staff that day. “This is not good.”

So the criticism evolved. Remember Romney’s charge that Obama had refused to call the Benghazi attack an act of terrorism?

Except that the president had described the attack in just those terms, during his first public White House appearance to discuss the situation. Romney was corrected on the matter during the second presidential debate by moderator Candy Crowley, and never really got his mojo back after that.

So the criticism has evolved, again. Now Republicans say the real problem is that Rice went on TV the weekend after the attacks and described them as a response to an anti-Islam video that had been produced in America.

Turns out, the story was more complicated than that: terrorists were targeting the consulate before the video came into play. But Rice didn’t know that: She was working off “talking points” provided by the CIA, which thought, at the time, that they were correct. When the known facts changed, so did the administration’s story.

If there’s a scandal here, it’s that Republicans have been so eager to gin up a scandal that they’ve been unwilling to let the facts emerge -- instead, cynically waving Ambassador Stevens’ bloody shirt from the start to raise outrage against a president they believe should’ve lost the election.

Benghazi was a tragedy. The GOP’s response? More like farce.

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