Nel's New Day

June 29, 2016

Benghazi Panel Won’t Stop Going Nowhere

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 9:45 PM
Tags: , , ,

The House Committee on the tragic deaths of four people in a diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, has slogged along for almost 800 days—longer than the 704 days that the 9/11 Commission worked to dig out every piece about the worst terrorist attack on the United States. That committee created a bipartisan report endorsed by all the commission members. The Benghazi committee was created on May 8. It has lasted longer than investigations in Pearl Harbor, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and the Hurricane Katrina debacle and found nothing new over the first seven Benghazi inquiries.

The committee isn’t finished. Although the Republicans on the committee has already released an 800-page report, they interviewed another witness today, a man who used the hashtag “#ifyouvoteforhillaryyouarebeyondstupid.” The Air Force mechanic posted an argument on his Facebook page that planes from his European base could have saved the people who died. His superiors have already testified that there’s nothing to what he claims.

The committee vote on whether to adopt the report is July 8, and Democrats are just getting copies. Not one Democrat on the committee was allowed to see the report before it was released to the public. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), leading Democrat on the committee, described today’s interview as further evidence of GOP attempts to smear Clinton. That one committee cost the public at least $7 million, and Cummings questioned why taxpayers should have to pay more money “to chase down unsubstantiated conspiracy theories against Secretary Clinton.”

The GOP’s sole goal in the investigation, according to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), was to discredit Hillary Clinton to keep her from becoming president. Whether the partisan witch hunt has succeeded in finding enough dirt on Clinton to destroy her differs depending who is reporting the information. The conservative publication from the nation’s capital, The Hill, announced, “Benghazi Panel Faults Clinton.” The headline from the popular Huffington Post was “House Republicans spent millions of dollars on Benghazi Committee to exonerate Clinton.”

The New York Times summarized the Benghazi report:

“Ending one of the longest, costliest and most bitterly partisan congressional investigations in history, the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued its final report on Tuesday, finding no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in the 2012 attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead.”

These seven “findings” in the report show how desperate The Hill is. Although Republicans may wish to believe that these are new, all seven emerged in the earlier seven investigations:

  • Ambassador Stevens, one of the four men killed, wanted to make the Benghazi facility permanent.
  • The military never got moving (probably because it was too far to be successful in stopping the attack).
  • Troops changed clothes four times. (That Marines in Rota, Spain were required to change four times from military to civilian attire and back again is irrelevant because no aircraft was at Rota and the Marines’ destination was Tripoli, not Benghazi.)
  • YouTube video dominated White House meeting, but the anti-Muslim video ultimately proved not to be a contributing factor.
  • Former Qadhafi loyalists evacuated U.S. people from Benghazi’s CIA annex to the airport.
  • Clinton blamed terrorists in private. (The report tried to show this as part of her deception.)
  • Rice went “off the reservation.” The racist statement from the State Department’s senior Libya desk officer in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs was a criticism of then-United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice’s statements on the Sunday talk shows after the attack when she said the assaults were spontaneous. She was actually using information from the CIA, some of which the CIA admitted later were wrong.

In the almost four years since the tragic event at Benghazi, that one word is now defined as everything that went wrong in Libya since the overthrow of Muammar Qadhafi, assisted by the U.S. The GOP focus on Clinton’s fault in the deaths kept any thoughtful consideration of U.S. interventions in other countries’ politics. The GOP opinion made only one shift: In the past, Republicans claimed that the Obama administration handled the crisis badly because they could have sent military forces but didn’t. Now they’re saying that the situation was badly handled because they had not positioned military forces to make a difference.

Donald Trump and his son, Eric, have viciously lied about Clinton “sleeping” while Ambassador Stevens was killed. Yet the attack occurred at 3:30 pm EST, and Clinton released a public statement after 10:00 pm. She was still sending emails after 11:00 pm that night.

Trump went so far as to tell people to ask Stevens’ family how they feel about Clinton. Dr. Anne Stevens, the ambassador’s sister said this about the tragedy:

“It is clear, in hindsight, that the facility was not sufficiently protected by the State Department and the Defense Department. But what was the underlying cause? Perhaps if Congress had provided a budget to increase security for all missions around the world, then some of the requests for more security in Libya would have been granted. Certainly the State Department is under-budgeted.

“I do not blame Hillary Clinton or Leon Panetta. They were balancing security efforts at embassies and missions around the world. And their staffs were doing their best to provide what they could with the resources they had. The Benghazi Mission was understaffed. We know that now. But, again, Chris knew that. It wasn’t a secret to him. He decided to take the risk to go there. It is not something they did to him. It is something he took on himself.”

The GOP-controlled Congress started slashing security funding for embassies as soon as they took over in 2011. The year before Benghazi, Hillary warned the GOP that their embassy security cuts put Americans at risk, but they refused to listen to her. Instead the report blamed the tragedy on positioning of “assets”:

“The assets ultimately deployed by the Defense Department in response to the Benghazi attacks were not positioned to arrive prior to the final lethal attack on the Annex. The fact that this is true does not mitigate the question of why the world’s most powerful military was not positioned to respond; or why the urgency and ingenuity displayed by team members at the Annex and Team Tripoli was seemingly not shared by all decision makers in Washington.”

Despite all their efforts, the GOP failed to place the blame: they just raised general criticisms and concerns about inadequate security resources, breakdowns among agencies, and bureaucratic inaction. Committee Democrats released a press statement that stated, in part:

“Decades in the future, historians will look back on this investigation as a case study in how not to conduct a credible investigation.”

The far right-wing has now moved from Hillary Clinton to a new scapegoat, committee chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC). The Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi released a 73-page Benghazi report against Clinton and President Obama that reads like a Trump speech and includes fantasy connections between the deaths and the Clinton Foundation and the president’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the report, one of the men who died, Ambassador Stevens, was at fault because he “rather romanticized the Libyan jihadis.”

Retired Gen. Thomas McInerney said that the congressional leadership’s “dirty little secret” is that they approved “black operations” to run weapons from Benghazi to ISIS in Syria. “We see a field of smoking guns,” said Roger Aronoff of Accuracy in Media, which convened the Citizens’ Commission at the National Press Club. And it’s not just the public—two committee members wrote their own report.

In The Guardian, Chris Stephen gave three questions that will probably never be answered: who launched the attack, why did they do it, and were US actions in the turmoil of post-revolutionary Libya a contributory factor? The mystery may never be solved because the CIA won’t provide any explanation of their presence in the city. The report has no information about why the CIA had a Benghazi annex with dozens of agents and contractors to organize massive transfers of weapons from the Libyan government’s stockpile to Syria.

Trey Gowdy knows that the Benghazi report would not be damning to Clinton. He released it just before the Fourth of July recess, a time when few people pay attention, and during the media focusing on the British vote to leave the European Union.

The taxpayers in the U.S. have paid more than $100 million to investigate all the myths surrounding the Clintons—Whitewater, Travelgate, Vince Foster, and Benghazi. The GOP certainly won’t have any concern about a few more million dollars.

As for Clinton’s guilt, Trey Gowdy asked people to read the 800-page report and decide for themselves. If you’re so inclined, it’s online here. At least Democratic committee members can now find the report.

August 4, 2014

House GOP Members Attempt to Govern

“GOP wants to show it can govern.” That’s the funniest headline I’ve read about the Congressional dysfunction—and it came from GOP-supportive The Hill. And that’s exactly what Republicans worked on during the past few weeks before they had to face their constituents this month.

Offshore-drilling Permits: Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) managed to push through a bill (218-204) to stop the Department of Energy from blocking offshore-drilling permits. His aides forgot to tell him that this agency has nothing to do with these permits; the Interior Department issues those.

Climate Change: The Department of Defense considers consideration of climate change to be vital to national security, but Rep. David McKinley, R-WV) succeeded in getting the House to prohibit both the U.S. Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers from spending “to design, implement, administer or carry out specified assessments regarding climate change.” His amendment is part of the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act which contained other anti-environmental measures which include slashing the Energy Department’s budget for renewable energy programs by $100 million. The proposal could stop Army Corps of Engineers programs in river and harbor construction, flood- and storm-damage reduction, and shore protection because the agency uses information about projected rising sea levels.

Dodd-Frank Law: In its continued attempt to weaken the Dodd-Frank financial law, the House passed a deregulation bill in late June by a vote of 265-143, benefiting the Koch brothers and the nation’s biggest banks. One provision would allow U.S. firms to skirt domestic regulations on some derivatives by conducting trades through offshore affiliates in other major financial centers. A nickname for this provision is the “London Whale Loophole Act” in fond memory of JPMorgan’s infamous trade that cost the bank over $6.2 billion in abrupt losses.

Border Issues: The infamous border bill passed last Friday evening after House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told House members that they couldn’t go home until it was done. Architects were Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Steve King (R-IA). The Iowa Republican became famous partly because of his comment about Mexicans having thighs like cantaloupes because of all the marijuana that they hauled across the border. King claimed that U.S. borders were established by God, and disrespecting the borders is really disrespecting God’s will. (He cribbed the idea from far-right Christian leader Bryan Fischer.)

Bachmann continues her own craziness. President Obama is bringing all the children across the southern U.S. border—“illegal aliens,” as Bachmann calls them—to be unwilling victims for medical experiments. When she called the president “lawless,” the House chair immediately rebuked her.

The bill allots $694 million ($3 billion short of what the president requested) for the problems of minors coming across the border in large numbers and eliminates the law that permits undocumented children to stay in the country to find assistance in the courts if their countries do not border the U.S. Texans already at the airport came back to vote for the bill because it includes $35 million to deploy National Guard troops to the border. Four Republicans–Paul Broun (GA), Stephen Fincher (TN), Thomas Massie (KY) and Walter Jones (NC)—voted against it, and one Democrat, Henry Cuellar (TX), voted for it.

Even the conservative Washington Post admitted that the vote was a farce when it conceded the legislation “would do little to immediately solve the crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border but would allow [Republican lawmakers] to go home and tell voters that they did what they could.”

After the House Republicans dithered for months about the bill, they insist that the Senate return immediately to approve the bill. President Obama has already said that he won’t sign the bill. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will run out of money by mid-August, and Customs and Border Protection has funding only until mid-September.

DACA: A separate bill passed in the House keeps the president from expanding the DACA (Deferred Action for Child Arrivals) program to provide two-year work permits for eligible undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children before 2007. Eleven Republicans opposed this measure, and four Democrats supported it.

Child Tax Credits (CTC): House Republicans continued its practice of helping the wealthy by approving a tax break them while letting a tax benefit drop for low-income people. It works this way: The CTC drops tax bills for couples by $1,000 per child. The credit starts shrinking at an income of $110,000 and is capped at $150,000. Couples with income under $3,000 cannot collect it. The bill raises the amount for phasing out to $150,000 and indexed it to inflation at a cost of $115 billion to taxpayers for the next ten years.

According to the GOP, indexing the minimum wage to inflation is socialism, but doing it for tax credits is entirely appropriate. At the same time, the House let CTC for low-income people lapse in 2018. A single mother with two children making $14,500 will lose her entire CTC worth $1,725. In 2018, 12 million people, including six million children, will either fall into or fall deeper into poverty.  Rich kids are worth more than poor kids to the House GOP members.

CTC

Suing the President: The House GOP members are most proud, however, of their bill to sue the president. For the first time in U.S. history, all but five House Republicans approved a civil suit against the President of the United States because the White House shouldn’t circumvent Congress in making public policy. Their excuse was that President Obama had tweaked the Affordable Care Act to accommodate the needs of businesses by extending deadlines, something that the House GOP members wanted—when they weren’t trying to repeal the entire act.

The five representatives who opposed the lawsuit wanted impeachment instead: Paul Broun (GA), Scott Garrett (NJ), Walter Jones (NC), Thomas Massie (KY), and Steve Stockman (TX). Other GOP House members have argued for impeachment such as Michele Bachmann (MN), Kerry Bentivolio (MI), Louie Gohmert (TX), and Randy Weber (TX).

The lawsuit may not cost taxpayers much money. According to a trial lawyer, the federal court’s limited jurisdiction, as laid out in Federal Rules of Civil procedure, may result in a non-case. On the other hand, the White House can file counter-claims. Much more information is available here.

Rep. Virginia Foxx’s (R-NC) argued that this was not a political action, that she would vote to sue any president who did the same thing. In truth, George W. Bush did the same thing in 2006 when he extended deadlines and waived penalties for seniors in the new Medicare D prescription drug law. Foxx was in the House in 2006 but did nothing about Bush’s actions.

The conservative USA Today described the law as a “grudge match,” one in which the GOP is seeking an outcome it hasn’t been able to achieve at the polls or through the legislative process.

While the House GOP members were dithering about their border bill, Boehner declared that the president should do something about the problem. The man who is suing the president for circumventing ACA wants the president to take executive action to solve the border issues. Unfortunately for him, the president plans to do exactly that while Congress is out of town during the next five weeks.

Before leaving for vacation, the House Intelligence Committee, led by Republicans, issued its report on Benghazi. They found that the Obama administration is not at fault for deliberate wrongdoing in the deaths of four U.S. officials in the attack on the diplomatic outpost. The two-year investigation concluded that the administration’s process for developing “talking points” was “flawed, but the talking points reflected the conflicting intelligence assessments in the days immediately following the crisis.” Their conclusions will not stop the House Benghazi Select Committee which Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) will gavel into session in September. He said that it is about changes for the State Department to better protect diplomats.

The House does deserve credit for one of their actions late last month: it passed a resolution requiring authorization from Congress for a sustained presence of combat troops in Iraq. With a 370-40 vote, three Democrats and 37 Republicans voted against the resolution.

Tomorrow, the bills that the House rejected.

November 12, 2013

No Excuses for the Media

The entire news media are liberal, according to conservative complaints. Only the Fox network can be trusted, the far-right claims. A close look at politics on mainstream media, beginning with 60 Minutes, shows a different view. One of the recent stories on this venerable program was about the attack on the U.S. diplomatic million in Benghazi (Libya) over a year ago. The biggest flaw in the story is that 60 Minutes reporters did their fact checking after the story was shown, not before.

The centerpiece of the story was a man called Morgan Jones who told about his scaling a 12-foot wall at the compound and using the butt end of his rifle to knock down an extremist while desperately trying to rescue the people there. He also reported that after he failed in his task, he saw the body of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens at a hospital. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) got so excited about this black eye on the Obama administration that he told media he would block all the president’s nominees until Congress heard from the U.S. survivors of the attack. Those include Jeh Johnson for Secretary of Homeland Security and  Janet L. Yellen as head of the Federal Reserve.

The problem with the 60 Minutes report—and Graham’s delighted reaction—is that Dylan Davies, who pretended to be Morgan Jones on the program, told his employer three days after the attack that he spent most of that night at his beach-side villa. The Britain-based contractor hired to handle the compound’s perimeter security wrote in his report, “We could not get anywhere near . . . as roadblocks had been set up.” He added that he learned about Steven’s death after a Libyan colleague came to Davies’ villa and showed him a cellphone photograph. According to his 21.5-page report, he didn’t go to the compound until the following day when he photographed the devastation.

Both the State Department and GOP Congressional aides confirmed that Davies’ report was among tens of thousands of documents that lawmakers had available. Yet this week Davies’ book by Sergeant Morgan Jones, The Embassy House which has the same story as the 60 Minutes report, was supposed to be released. The co-author, Damien Lewis, doesn’t even believe Davies’ account because the man’s superiors told him by telephone during the attack to stay away from the compound. Simon & Schuster, the book’s publisher announced last Friday, “We are suspending the publication.” The company is asking stores to return any books that they have received.

As bad as the false report is 60 Minutes’ weak apology. After stating last Friday that the program would “correct the record on our broadcast on Sunday night,” Lara Logan gave a 90-second comment at the end of the show. This followed several days of CBS’s support of its story after Media Matters pointed out the holes in Davies’ story and Davies used other media outlets, including The Daily Beast, to defend himself against “smears.”

 The media about Logan’s Benghazi report error, a story that sent the GOP in Congress into another witchhunt, was equally shabby. Washington Post headlined its defense of her as “brutal criticism,” and the author of the piece, Paul Fahri, described her as “glamorous” with “striking looks” and “femininity.” Obviously enamored by her appearance as she trick-or-treated with her children on Halloween, he wrote that she “dressed in a hot-pink bodysuit costume, set off with high heels.” No discussion of the 60 Minutes debacle until the next page.

Fahri—and most other media—failed to point out that Logan’s original report was not only wrong but also seriously lacking information. Although Logan claimed that the report was over a year in the making, it didn’t discuss the country’s historic and violent transition in Libya at the time of the Benghazi attack. U.S. forces had helped to overthrow the Qaddafi regime with resulting disorder because of the revolution. She represented Libya as only a place with a diplomatic mission and brave men with only cowards in Washington.

The U.S. media is in a tragic situation when the best reporting comes from comedy shows The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. For the best in humor and accuracy, check here and here.

Somewhat chastised by the inability of 60 Minutes to provide accurate reporting on the subject near and dear to his heart, Graham is still clinging to his rationale for blocking the president’s nominees. When questioned on Sunday, he said, rather weakly, that he had “released” two nominees for ambassadors but would continue to block the others.

In his response to 60 Minutes’ error/sort-of apology, Jon Stewart also tackled the reference of Christie’s photo on Time‘s cover to “the elephant in the room.” Accompanying the media’s awkward description of Christie is the inability of hosts on media political “talk shows” to elicit any meaningful information from their subjects.

David Wiegel uses the four interviews of Christie last Sunday to show the fluff that pretends to be political interviews. Tim Russert, past host of Meet the Press, was worth watching. When then Sen. Barack Obama appeared on his show seven years ago, Russert didn’t ask him if he thought a black man could become president. Instead he referenced Obama’s book and began by asking him if legislators had an obligation to solve issues although they would benefit from staying “out of the way.” The interview continued with Russert quoting from Obama’s book and asking other policy questions.

The latest host of Meet the Press, David Gregory, is just the reverse of Russert. He started Christie’s interview with whether he planned to run for president and continued with others about what impact Christie might have on the GOP and how the party could be saved. About Medicaid, Gregory asked if conservatives would attack Christie for expanding it.

On This Week, George Stephanopoulos asked Christie about relieving sanctions on Iran. Christie said other people would know more, and Stephanopoulos immediately moved to another subject. In a discussion about immigration, Christie pontificates on the “broken” federal system with no interruption from the host and no follow-up question of how Kentucky was able to set up a largely trouble-free exchange.

On Face the Nation, Christie claimed he’s just the governor of New Jersey, and host Norah O’Donnell gave him a pass by asking him what lessons he has for the GOP and what goals he has for next year. When Christie brags about the people in his state not being “involved in this train wreck” of the Affordable Care Act, O’Donnell doesn’t point out that they are locked into the healthcare.gov system. Nor does she ask him why all his endorsed state GOP senate candidates lost.

As David Wiegel wrote:

“In not one of the interviews did Christie get a potentially irritating, but fact-based, question about whether his lack of coattails said anything about the limits of his appeal or strategy. He got no questions, really, that he’s never had to answer before—not on the Voting Rights Act, not on the gay rights bill moving through Congress, not on the minimum wage ballot measure that passed in New Jersey on the same day he was elected, nada, nothing.”

Graham’s desperation most likely comes from his up-coming re-election campaign. Instead of easily sliding back into office, he is opposed by—thus far—four Republicans in the primary on .The most recent one has some validity, having almost won lieutenant governor in 2012. With the contender a Democrat who has three Nevada felony convictions, the primary winner will probably go to the U.S. Senate.

For their failures, however, the media have no excuse!

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