When it comes to searching for a scandal to tie to your opponent, House Republicans are always hopeful that they can turn a lemon into lemonade. Lately, however, it’s been more like turning that lemonade into piss water. They had such great hopes for the failed Operation Fast & Furious gun-walking ATF scheme to be the scandal of scandals which would upend the Obama administration, sending it into a spiraling tailspin. But…that didn’t work out so well — and, in the process, we learned about a similar ATF operation during the Bush administration called Wide Receiver that was just as unsuccessful. Oops.
House Republicans hoped for a second chance in the aftermath of the killing of the ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and members of his staff in Benghazi. They sought to accuse the State Department and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of gross negligence in protecting consulates from terrorists. Darrell Issa (R-Media Megalomaniac), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, believed he had finally found his Golden Goose — or, rather, he’d hoped to roast the Obama administration’s goose. In his zeal to fry the State Department, Issa bypassed private due diligence and authorized televised hearings anyway. Oops, Part II.
Apparently, the Benghazi compound where Ambassador Stevens was killed, was (cue drum roll)…actually under CIA control. Yep, it was a CIA base:
In their questioning and in the public testimony they invited, the lawmakers managed to disclose, without ever mentioning Langley directly, that there was a seven-member “rapid response force” in the compound the State Department was calling an annex. One of the State Department security officials was forced to acknowledge that “not necessarily all of the security people” at the Benghazi compounds “fell under my direct operational control.”
And whose control might they have fallen under? Well, presumably it’s the “other government agency” or “other government entity” the lawmakers and witnesses referred to; Issa informed the public that this agency was not the FBI.
“Other government agency,” or “OGA,” is a common euphemism in Washington for the CIA. This “other government agency,” the lawmakers’ questioning further revealed, was in possession of a video of the attack but wasn’t releasing it because it was undergoing “an investigative process.”
…That the Benghazi compound had included a large CIA presence had been reported but not confirmed. The New York Times, for example, had reported that among those evacuated were “about a dozen CIA operatives and contractors.” The paper, like The Washington Post, withheld locations and details of the facilities at the administration’s request.
All of these revelations took place not in private, un-televised chambers, but on C-SPAN, for all to see — complete with a chart and aerial photographs. When Issa, after the fact, ordered, “I would direct that that chart be taken down. In this hearing room, we’re not going to point out details of what may still in fact be a facility of the United States government or more facilities.” Gee, ya think? Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Hapless Sidekick) albeit blocked the aforementioned chart like a gentleman throwing a cape over a naked lady.
But the buffoonery doesn’t end here. Oh, no. In a Wednesday interview with CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien, Rep. Chaffetz was forced to admit that House Republicans had voted twice (in 2011 and 2012) to reduce the State Department’s security budget (despite all of the terrorist activity going around). All this as Republicans were expressing extreme umbrage over supposed lax security for State Department personnel in dangerous locations. Kinda like scolding someone with cancer, and who is unable to afford health insurance, for not seeking expensive treatments in time to save their life.
And how did Chaffetz defend himself (because, you know, he voted for those cuts in security)? “Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have…15,000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, a private army there, for President Obama, in Baghdad. And we’re talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces. When you’re in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices. You have to prioritize things.” Okay… Then don’t complain when people are killed; just call it…hmm…”acceptable collateral damage.”
For the past two years, House Republicans have continued to de-prioritize the security forces protecting State Department personnel around the world. In fiscal year 2011, lawmakers shaved $128 million off of the administration’s request for embassy security funding. House Republicans drained off even more funds in fiscal year 2012 — cutting back on the department’s request by $331 million.
Of course, Issa and Chaffetz are trying to spin this as “the State Department should have done something anyway” — despite the slashed security budget. I suppose they expected President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to chip in for mercenary security support…from Blackwater, perhaps?