Benghazi: The Movie

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 7 2013 12:13 PM

Benghazi: The Movie

House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa tweets an official-looking, coming-this-summer-ish promo for tomorrow's Benghazi hearing:

Theatricality, check. But I'd like to see people tear into this in the comments: What are the potential cover-ups that Republicans seek to expose? Let's rank them on a scale of 1-5.

The talking points: A low 2. The outrage over Susan Rice's post-Benghazi Sunday show hits only started to make sense to me when Gregory Hicks started saying that the separation between her talking points—and the Libyan president's sureness that Benghazi had been hit by terrorists—created problems down the line. Apart from that, I've never grokked the idea that the administration's spin of "terrorists taking advantage of spontaneous protests" was going to protect them come Election Day. Who was this voter who would vote for Obama if four Americans were merely killed by local terrorists and mobs, but not if those terrorists were connected to Al Qaeda? Republicans who reliably argue that George W. Bush prevented "more attacks on the homeland after 9/11" know that voters don't get as worried about attacks overseas. They should, maybe, but they don't.

The hidden witnesses: A 3. John McCain and Lindsey Graham constantly point out that the people evacuated from Benghazi on September 12 have not been put in front of investigators or reporters in a public way. They still want a timeline of the president's awareness of the attacks, and his actions, on September 11 and September 12.

The "stand down": Ah, this is a 5, potentially, because Hicks and the State Department disagree on the instructions from the "chain of command" that meant support did not quickly arrive in Benghazi. In State's report, a support team arrived on the scene in the early morning hours of September 12, before the mortar attacks, and another team eventually arrived to evacuate Americans. In Hicks' account, there was a request made for special forces between those two calls, and the request was denied. If this is true, the administration could have explained its strategic thinking a very long time ago. But it didn't.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.