May 10, 2013

I feel like I should get on board the Benghazi train with my Republican brethren. Everyone seems so committed to the notion that this is big and it goes right to the top. They can’t all be wrong, can they? This couldn’t be a case of micro-hysteria among Beltway Republicans, could it? Well, maybe. Or maybe I just don’t get the obsession with Benghazi. I thought last fall that it was a distraction from the Romney campaign message.

Mistakes were made, self-serving lies were told to escape blame, thuggish intimidation was deployed by political staffers against career professionals to keep them quiet and in their place, and friendlies in the media were used to set up rivals, make bosses look good and slam opponents. Okay, so what? This happens in just about every political organization in Washington every day. In fact, it is ALL some offices do in Washington every day.

The inquiry into the Benghazi tragedy is just part of the routine, except it appears that this episode won’t run its course. It is powered by some self-replenishing fuel that I don’t see. And politically, it has reached a point of diminishing return for Republicans. No less than five GOP-led committees are looking into this. We shouldn’t be doing nothing, but isn’t this overkill when voters have other priorities, like the economy? I was surprised to see Speaker Boehner himself weigh in with a new list of demands after Wednesday’s hearings.

Anyway, one big obstacle I can’t get past is the credibility, savvy and expertise of Ambassador Tom Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen. Their joint Accountability Review Board report on Benghazi is pretty clear. I’ve known Pickering for a long time, and there is zero chance that he would participate in a whitewash, compromise his ethics for anyone, be outfoxed by Obama/Clinton cronies, sign off on an incomplete investigation or sign his name to anything other than a first-rate, thorough report. And from what I know about Mullen, he wouldn’t either. If we can’t rely on and defer to these guys, then Washington really is broken.

Republicans should certainly give the Benghazi attack the attention it deserves.  But we also need to recognize that we aren’t impressing anyone — except maybe a small subset of our base — when we see things that no one else sees and declare any fact that is inconsistent with the narrative we want to be wrong, manufactured or somehow previously unknown and explosive. GOP leaders need to step up, make a couple of Benghazi-related assignments and tell everyone else to move on. If there’s more truth and more news, it will come out.  But we have more important things to do.