In the Arena

Benghazi: The October Mirage

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For the life of me, I can’t understand why the Republicans are harping so hard on the Benghazi security debacle–except, maybe, you know…politics. There is no reason, or evidence, that the request of a consulate–or even an embassy–for beefed up security would ever get anywhere near the President’s desk. It may have reached the lower echelons of the national security council, as part as a larger complaint from the State Department about the need for more money for security across the region (especially after the Ryan budget cut funding for State Department security by $300 billion). But it may not have even gotten that far. And the Obama Administration is doing the appropriate thing, as Hillary Clinton emphasized today:  the State Department is investigating. And let’s put this in the proper context:

The deaths of Chris Stephens and the others was a preventable tragedy. That it happened is outrageous. But these sort of incidents have been exceedingly rare since 2001, and the Obama Administration has attacked and decimated Al Qaeda in a more efficient and effective way than either of its predecessors, Bush or Clinton. (To be fair, Clinton didn’t have the drone technology–but he did have special forces who might have taken out Bin Laden after the two attacks on US Embassies in 1997 and the USS Cole in 2000.)

The Benghazi incident was a failure that blemishes, but does not diminish the Obama Administration’s tremendous success in the war against Al Qaeda. In fact, the more we see Ryan and Romney flailing around, trying to find something to criticize the President about in the foreign policy realm, the more impressive the Obama record seems. It is not sufficient to repeat, robotically, that the “Obama foreign policy is unraveling,” as Ryan did last night. The constant tide of criticism without substantive policy alternatives has become foolish and insulting to the American people.

There are no points to be scored here–and it would be nice, and even patriotic, if Romney would support the President where he agrees with him. That used to be the general rule when it came to foreign policy; in 1940, Wendell Willkie agreed with Franklin Roosevelt on lend-lease and other programs to support our British allies–and he refused to use it as an issue in the campaign. But that was before political consultants and the absolute need to oppose your opponent on every single issue. (By the way, kudos to Ryan for agreeing with the 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan–but that only made his criticisms of the President’s current drawdown that much more incomprehensible.)