A local Republican Twitter celebrity (OK, it was Nic Lott) tweeted last week, referencing this http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/09/20/carney-elf-evident-benghazi-attack-was-terrorism/">Fox "News" story, suggesting the White House had finally "explicitly label" the attack on our Benghazi mission in Libya a "terrorist" attack."
It got me wondering—because I really didn't know at first—what the heck is going on in conservatives' heads over this Libya tragedy?
Specifically, why is the GOP faithful so desperate to paint the murder of embassy officials in Benghazi using the specific word "terrorism" -- and why do they feel it's a "gotcha" when the word comes out of the press secretary's mouth?
I was particularly puzzled since I understand POTUS has called it both an "acts of terror" and the work of "extremists."
(The Fox story acknowledged that the President has called it "terror," so its seems that what the GOP folks have officially gotten their knickers in a tangle over the suffix "-ism." Of course, that's not actually anything new, I guess.)
This http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/09/17/168782/us-libyan-officials-offer-vastly.html">report by the McClatchy news service brings it home. The GOP -- with its single-minded mission of bringing down this President, regardless of what it does to our economy or our standing abroad -- is very focused on making sure that this incident makes him look bad. That's the goal.
To do that, they have to show that it was a failure of anti-terror policy that led to the deaths of the embassy workers—and that there was a plot hatched a long time ago that a well-oiled counter-terrorism machine (presumably run by the GOP, and with their reputation from 9/11 and the Iraq war notwithstanding) would have caught before it got started.
So, they point at Mohammad Magarief, the interim head of the Libyan National Congress, who has declared that it was "pre-planned, pre-determined," and "planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their arrival," according to McClatchy.
GOPers ask -- if he knew... then how can Obama still be pretending an investigation needs to happen?
Two problems. One, the GOP is throwing its eggs into an interesting basket when they side with Magarief, who leads a government that is under fire for not being able to control the militias in Libya and, in some case, for contracting with them for "security," including Ansar al-Shariah, a group suspected of a role in the attack. In other words, it's important for Magarief that this happened completely outside of his purview—an inside job would cause trouble, as has already http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/news/2012/sep/21/libyans-stage-massive-protest-benghazi-against-mil/">happened in the past few days.
Second is this... Just as Mitt Romney was so eager to remake himself for a prime time audience at the RNC that he forgot to mention America's troops, the GOP seems so eager to turn this against the President that they seem to forget the government has a responsibility to get this right.
It's only in the past few week that we've gotten anyone on the ground to figure out exactly what happened; there clearly were widespread protests last week, and it may in fact be true that protests provided opportunity for the murders—or that one attack provided cover for the second; it's hard to tell, since the the Libyan originally investigating, deputy interior minister Wanif al Sharif, was fired soon after saying there had been protests.
Even if there weren't, it's important to be extremely careful in situations like this were we have assets on the ground in an extremely volatile region.
Administration and intelligence officials, throughout, have said "our current best assessment..." and "while everything is still under investigation..." when pressed on these questions. As they learn more, we learn more.
But it seems to me -- like most of the hands dealt them in this election cycle -- the GOP folks are overplaying this one.
At the end of the day, particularly on issues of foreign policy, it really is important that we act with an abundance of caution and learn the facts before once again offering reams of ink and TV time to publicize international terrorist organizations… which is what they crave… because one party thinks it might do damage to the other party's President and his re-election chances.
The GOP used to be a party that understood better that there's two parts of the phrase that ends "... and carry a big stick."
These days, if Teddy Roosevelt was around to say the first two words, "Speak softly...," Fox News and their ilk would probably chastise him for apologizing to our enemies.