“Why does Benghazi go on? No one was ever fired? So, people made tragic errors. No one’s accepting responsibility and no one was fired.”
— Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), on CNN’s “State of the Union,” May 19, 2013
Paul’s comment this week jumped out at us because we remember the headlines back in December:
“4 Are Out at State Dept. After Scathing Report on Benghazi Attack” — The New York Times
“Four State Department officials disciplined following Benghazi probe findings” — The Washington Post
“Four State Department officials were removed from their posts,” The Times said, while The Post said they “were disciplined.” Eric J. Boswell, the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, “resigned,” both reports said.
We will leave aside the question of responsibility — we recall then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton taking responsibility but perhaps that is in the eye of the beholder — and focus on whether anyone has been “fired.”
Depending on the dictionary, you get a variety of definitions: To discharge from a position; to dismiss from employment; having lost your job. Moira Bagley, spokesman for Paul, says that, for the senator, “fired” means “actual job termination,” meaning no longer working at the State Department.
The dismissals were announced after the completion of the Accountability Review Board report, which fixed the blame for the poor security that led to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, including the U.S. ambassador, at the Assistant Secretary level and below. Besides Boswell, two other officials in Diplomatic Security lost their positions, as well as a deputy assistant secretary in the Near East bureau.
"It's a mischaracterization of my position. I've never been against the Civil Rights Act, ever, and I continue to be for the Civil Rights Act as well as the Voting Rights Act. There was a long, one interview that had a long, extended conversation about the ramifications beyond race, and I have been concerned about the ramifications of certain portions of the Civil Rights Act beyond race, as they are now being applied to smoking, menus, listing calories and things on menus, and guns. And so I do question some of the ramifications and the extensions but I never questioned the Civil Rights Act and never came out in opposition to the Civil Rights Act or ever introduced anything to alter the Civil Rights Act."
— Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), during a speech at Howard University, April 10, 2013
There’s an old rule in politics: If it’s too complicated to explain, you are probably in trouble.
Paul, a potential GOP candidate for the 2016 presidential election, gave an interesting speech on Wednesday to historically black Howard University, but his remarks were overshadowed by his attempt to explain the controversy over his 2010 comments on the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“I have never wavered in my support for civil rights and the Civil Rights Act,” he said in his speech. “The dispute, if there is one, has always been about how much of the remedy should come under federal or state or private purview.”
But then Paul expanded on his remarks in the question-and-answer period, saying in response to a tough question that he had been concerned really only about the “ramifications and extensions” of the Civil Rights Act. We sought an explanation from Paul’s staff but did not get a response. So let’s go to the video tape!
The Civil Rights Act was pushed by President Lyndon Johnson but likely would not have become law without the shrewd legislative gamesmanship of then-Senate Republican leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois. Dirksen figured out a way to bring along wavering Republicans, in order to break a lengthy filibuster led by Southern Democrats, by carefully tweaking a House bill to reduce federal intervention in local matters — but not enough to force a rewriting of the whole bill in the House.
“Where would we cut spending? Let’s start with ending all foreign aid to countries that are burning our flag and chanting ‘Death to America.’ In addition, the president could begin by stopping selling or giving F-16s and Abrams tanks to Islamic radicals in Egypt.”
— Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in the tea party response to the State of the Union speech, Feb. 12, 2013
We once gave Four Pinocchios to the American people for failing to understand the basics of the federal budget. A range of surveys showed huge misimpressions about the federal budget, with a majority incorrectly believing that the federal government spends more on defense and foreign aid than it does on Medicare and Social Security.
But where do such strange notions come from? Politicians, of course. Let’s see how big a chunk of the budget Sen. Rand Paul would save with his proposal.
Paul’s comment came just before he said that the looming automatic spending cuts known as the sequester would not reduce the budget deficit fast enough. He quoted “many pundits” as saying that “we need $4 trillion in cuts” over the next decade.
“Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health-care costs.”
— President Obama, State of the Union address, Feb. 12, 2013
“Obamacare, it was supposed to help middle-class Americans afford health insurance. But now, some people are losing the health insurance they were happy with. And because Obamacare created expensive requirements for companies with more than 50 employees, now many of these companies aren’t hiring. Not only that, they’re being forced to lay people off and switch from full-time employees to part-time workers.”
— Sen. Mario Rubio (R-Fla.), GOP State of the Union response, Feb. 12, 2013
Obama’s health-care law was in many ways the dog that did not bark during the State of the Union. Obama felt no need to defend it, and Republicans no longer declared that they would repeal it. Rubio simply referenced “Obamacare” as a government program that could hurt the middle class — while Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in the tea party response, made no mention of the health-care law.
In other words, the law is more or less here to stay. The race is now on to define the law’s legacy and impact.
Let’s take a look at whether either man has the facts to back up their diametrically opposed statements.
We’ve written before about the effort by some Democrats to jump the gun on the impact of the health-care law — much of which has not been implemented. In the State of the Union address, Obama is more boldly making a connection between the law and a recent slowdown in health-care costs that former president Bill Clinton had also suggested in his speech at the Democratic National Convention last year.