If Roy Blunt is notable for anything it’s for coming up from the rear and jumping on tottering GOP bandwagons. You could say that he likes to “lead from the back,” not in the diplomatic sense used by the Obama administration, but rather in the sense that it’s always safer to be in the rearguard, and since the targets have already been well-defined by others, there’s no need to do any thinking before taking potshots.
This approach shows in a recent National Journal piece Blunt put his name to. In it he perpetuates the whole litany of obfuscations and general silliness that has characterized GOP efforts to make political hay out of the Benghazi incident. Blunt’s thesis:
Having misled Americans for weeks about the September 11 attacks in Libya, the Obama administration is now attempting to mislead us about how it misled us.
Blunt’s evidence for this accusation regurgitate conjectural allegations shopped by his GOP colleagues to a compliant, sensation-hungry media in order to misdirect public attention from the complexities of the situation in the Middle East, and manufacture politically advantageous doubt about Obama’s foreign policy chops, one of his strengths, prior to the election.
Blunt voices the requisite if meaningless worries about when the President used the word “terrorism” or a relevant derivative. He references the efforts of GOPers to leverage who said what when into evidence of deception, and he crows that Joe Biden gave the game away when he said that the White House wasn’t told that there had been requests for increased security from Libyan embassy personnel. All of which, when examined closely, amount to much ado about nothing.
David Ignatius reports today in the Washington Post that newly available documents indicate the evolving nature of the administration’s statements reflected the emerging intelligence, and that, contrary to Republican claims, initial statements by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice accurately conveyed information supplied by the CIA:
“Talking points” prepared by the CIA on Sept. 15, the same day that Rice taped three television appearances, support her description of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate as a reaction to Arab anger about an anti-Muslim video prepared in the United States
The CIA documents also indicate that the conclusions were tentative and subject to change, which fact was reflected in subsequent administration statements.
As Kevin Drum observes after detailing a timeline based on the latest reports:
It’s true that it took about ten days for all this to really shake out, but let’s be honest: ten days isn’t all that long to figure out what really happened during a violent and chaotic attack halfway around the world. I get that it’s a nice opportunity for Republicans to score some political points in the runup to an election, but really, there’s not much there there.
The silliest aspect of Blunt’s opus is his inclusion of the twaddle about when the president actually uttered the word “terrorism.” In fact, as a report in today’s Los Angeles Times makes clear, there seems to have been no Al Queda involvement, contrary to GOP assumptions, and many participants do seem to have been acting spontaneously, some referring, according to witnesses, to the video. It was, as investigators have concluded, a very confusing, decidedly hybrid situation.
The President, nevertheless, appropriately labeled the attack an act of terror when he first addressed it in his Rose Garden statement – which fact was verified publicly in last week’s debate – and in several immediately subsequent statements. Old Roy and his pals were just trying to capitalize on the fact that our President always speaks carefully, especially when confronted by a situation in which the facts are not altogether clear.
As for the request for increased security, it seems to be generally acknowledged that such requests would not have been pushed up the chain to the President or Vice-President. And why would they? Embassy staffing is a State Department personnel issue. Further, as Drum puts it:
… increased security probably wouldn’t have changed anything. As the New York Times reported a couple of weeks ago, “The requests were denied, but they were largely focused on extending the tours of security guards at the American Embassy in Tripoli – not at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, 400 miles away.”
So just where is Blunt leading us with this string of tired and empty accusations? To signal his intent he falls back on another absurd GOP meme, which has it that the President is so uninvolved that he doesn’t attend his daily security briefings. Blunt clearly implies that this negligence led to the Benghazi incident. No matter that the claim has been well-refuted:
While his predecessor might have preferred an oral daily briefing, Obama religiously reads a written version of the same prepared material, often on a secure iPad (as seen in this official White House PHOTO). He often receives an in-person briefing in addition, aides note, as well as real-time national security updates during the day, both in the office and on the road.
What Blunt is trying to do is clear. What is not clear is how he gets from this collection of exaggerations, misapprehensions, outright falsifications and slander to the statement that the President’s foreign policy is “unraveling.” I do understand, though, why he had to include it. Both Ryan and Romney repeat it ad nauseum and the GOP have all subscribed to the theory of rhetorical persuasion that holds that repetition should be employed like a sledge hammer.
Last I heard, foreign policy is difficult under the best of circumstances. How it is conducted is important to all of us. Consequently, wouldn’t it behoove a putative public servant like Senator Blunt to refrain from using it as a political football? And if he just has to do it, couldn’t he for once try to say something of substance in the process? There might actually be some real insights that a dedicated but loyal opposition – something we haven’t seen in a long, long time – could offer. I get so tired of the same old lies all the time.