News came this morning that Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspected ringleader in the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, has been apprehended. Special forces captured Khattala in a covert raid over the weekend. For the families and friends who lost loved ones in that assault—including the family of former Amb. Christopher Stevens—this news may bring some small sense of solace.
Not so Republicans. Here is the early reaction from Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, two of the president’s harshest Benghazi critics. McCain told Politico’s Scott Wong that Khattala ought to be held at Guantanamo, while Graham quickly put out a series of tweets:
Very pleased our Special Forces have detained Ahmed Abu Khattala. #Benghazi— Lindsey Graham (@GrahamBlog) June 17, 2014
However, naval vessels were never meant to be detention and interrogation sites. #Benghazi— Lindsey Graham (@GrahamBlog) June 17, 2014
Holding Khattala on a ship shows the haphazard approach which comes from not having rational detention & interrogation policies. #Benghazi— Lindsey Graham (@GrahamBlog) June 17, 2014
Ahmed Abu Khattala should be held at Guantanamo as a potential enemy combatant. #Benghazi— Lindsey Graham (@GrahamBlog) June 17, 2014
The response from the GOP’s hawkish foreign policy duo is predictable. For nearly two years, Obama has been castigated for being ineffective, weak, and complacent about bringing the perpetrators of these murders to justice. (Republicans have even batted around the surreal idea of his impeachment over the matter.) The moment one of the supposed masterminds is apprehended, Obama all of sudden has nothing to do with it.
For McCain and Graham, the president is incapable of getting any credit for being the commander-in-chief when he has just overseen a successful operation. A victory against a common enemy is just another opportunity to suggest that Obama is a weak executive who doesn’t have a rational plan. (The mention of Guantanamo is a moment to neatly remind everyone both that the president hasn’t delivered on his promise to close it, and to suggest that Republicans, who believed in its legitimacy, were always thinking of a situation just like this. So, really, Republicans were right all along.)
It seems that for these senators, Obama only has his fingerprints on a policy when it’s failing. When it results in an unmitigated victory, he is somehow MIA.