The Campaign Spot

No Showboating at the Benghazi Hearings, Please

From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

The Benghazi Hearings: No Showboating, Please

Dear Republicans on the House Oversight Committee:

Please do not grandstand. Please do not take the time before the television cameras to tell us how outraged you are, even though what you are investigating is, indeed, outrageous. There will be plenty of time for that after the hearing. All day Wednesday, give us the facts, and then more facts, and then more facts.

Just ask the questions of the witnesses. Let them speak and don’t cut them off. Do not give the Obama administration any cover to claim that this is a partisan witch hunt from unhinged political opponents. Don’t waste time complaining about the media’s lack of interest or coverage so far. Just give them — and us — the facts to tell the story, a story that will leave all of us demanding accountability.

Sheryl Attkisson’s excellent reporting for CBS gives us a sense of what to expect, with three big issues.

First: Leading up to September 11, why did the State Department keep reducing the amount of security protecting diplomatic staff in Libya, in light of the increasingly dire requests from those in country?

The former deputy chief of mission for the U.S. in Libya, Gregory Hicks was interviewed by congressional investigators on the House Oversight Committee in April. He told them, “We had already essentially stripped ourselves of our security presence, or our security capability to the bare minimum.”

Second: Precisely what happened that night? Was there a time when a rescue could have been authorized, but wasn’t? Were any forces told to “stand down” and not attempt a rescue?

From Hicks’s interview:

A: So Lieutenant Colonel Gibson, who is the SOCAFRICA commander, his team, you know, they were on their way to the vehicles to go to the airport to get on the C-130 when he got a phone call from SOCAFRICA which said, you can’t go now, you don’t have authority to go now. And so they missed the flight. And, of course, this meant that one of the . . . 

Q : They didn’t miss the flight. They were told not to board the flight.

A: They were told not to board the flight, so they missed it. So, anyway, and yeah. I still remember Colonel Gibson, he said, “I have never been so embarrassed in my life that a State Department officer has bigger balls than somebody in the military.” A nice compliment.

Wait, there’s more from another witness:

On the night of Sept. 11, as the Obama administration scrambled to respond to the Benghazi terror attacks, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a key aide effectively tried to cut the department’s own counterterrorism bureau out of the chain of reporting and decision-making, according to a “whistle-blower” witness from that bureau who will soon testify to the charge before Congress, Fox News has learned.

That witness is Mark I. Thompson, a former Marine and now the deputy coordinator for operations in the agency’s counterterrorism bureau. Sources tell Fox News Thompson will level the allegation against Clinton during testimony on Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

Third, what happened afterwards, and was there an effort to lie to the American people about what happened?

Hicks, again:

Greg Hicks: . . . The net impact of what has transpired is the spokesperson of the most powerful country in the world has basically said that the President of Libya is either a liar or doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The impact of that is immeasurable. Magariaf has just lost face in front of not only his own people, but the world . . . my jaw hit the floor as I watched this . . . I’ve never been as embarrassed in my life, in my career as on that day . . . I never reported a demonstration; I reported an attack on the consulate. Chris’s last report, if you want to say his final report, is, “Greg, we are under attack.” . . . It is jaw-dropping that — to me that — how that came to be.

Finally, did the previous efforts to investigate this amount to a cover-up?

Jed Babbin:

Last week, we learned that the State Department’s Inspector General is investigating the Pickering-Mullen “Accountability Review Board” for, among other things, its failure to investigate and get statements from the Benghazi survivors. Before there were whistleblowers there were survivors, yet the comprehensively misnamed “Accountability Review Board” didn’t question them.

Which isn’t a surprise. The ARB did what it was paid to do: limit the damage and blame people under Hillary Clinton for the failures of leadership and management. It was, simply, a whitewash. We’ll probably wait a long time for the IG to report the facts — 2017 sounds like the right time frame.

In the press conference announcing the report, Adm. Mullen said something that’s been bothering me ever since. He said that no military assets could have been deployed in time. In time to do what?

Jed makes a good point here: Just how did the U.S. military and diplomatic folks outside of Benghazi know how long they had to rescue anyone? How did they know how long our guys would be able to hold out, or how long the attack would go on? After the fact, you can calculate that not enough forces could have reached the site in time, but how did they know that as the events were ongoing?

If that means, in Clintonian terms, that they wouldn’t have been in time to save Ambassador Chris Stevens, that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t have been in time to save the SEALs.

If you parse Mullen’s words — as we learned we must when Hillary’s hubby was president — he almost certainly meant that the ambassador was killed in the early moments of the attack.

In short, what we don’t need is a bold, expectation-setting, agenda-hinting prediction like this:

Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said on his radio show Monday that President Obama “will not fill out his full term” because he was complicit in a “cover-up” surrounding the attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Libya.

“I believe that before it’s all over, this president will not fill out his full term,” Huckabee said. “I know that puts me on a limb, but this is not minor.”

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