Benghazi: Screws to turn for Obama

2012-10-10 11:09
Barack Obama. (File, AP)

Barack Obama. (File, AP)

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New York - I mentioned before that President Barack Obama could face huge flak for his administration's response to the attack on a US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed the US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three others.
 
A quick reminder: Susan Rice, the USA's ambassador to the United Nations said numerous times on television that the attack was a spill over from a protest against a film which was derogatory to Islam.

This has since turned out to be incorrect – on Tuesday the State Department told the media there was no protest outside the consulate preceding the attack.

A state department official told Foreign Policy magazine, "The ambassador walked guests out at 20:30 or so; there was nobody on the street. Then at 21:40 they saw on the security cameras that there were armed men invading the compound."

Rice has since said her initial conclusions were due to false intelligence information.
 
This political weakness will be fully exploited on Wednesday when the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a hearing entitled "The Security Failures of Benghazi", during which it will quiz two officials from the State Department.

Republicans 'overseeing' Democrats

The New York Times says the hearings are "expected to focus on any potential intelligence failures in assessing a growing militant threat in Benghazi and eastern Libya; possible security lapses at the mission; and whether the Obama administration underestimated the dangers posed by Al-Qaeda's franchise in northern Africa and other extremist groups in Libya". It will also focus on whether the State Department tried to downplay the threat of terrorism – ie lied to the American public.
 
It is worth remembering, however, that this is a Republican held House "overseeing" a Democratic administration a few weeks before an election.

Democrats and Republicans on the committee are both apoplectic at how the other party is dealing with the attack in Benghazi, both accusing the other side of playing politics.

For example, the top Democrat on the panel undertaking Wednesday's hearing, Elijah E Cummings said, "Never in all of my years in Congress have I seen such a startling and damaging series of partisan abuses… The Republicans are in full campaign mode," while Jason Chaffetz, the top Republican on the panel said Democrats were "[blaming] it on politics rather than addressing the nature of the issue".
 
What is clear is that Republicans will get their say during the hearing, and it is likely to fly around the news media for a few days.

New campaign front

What is also clear is that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan have begun mentioning the Libya attack repeatedly while campaigning since the beginning of the week.

On Thursday Ryan will debate Democrat vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden, and this is likely to come up there again. We are also currently in the lead up to presidential debates on 16 and 22 October, both of which will include foreign policy.
 
Wednesday is potentially the start of a heavy focus on the Benghazi attack. Byron York, chief political correspondent at the Washington Examiner summed it up perfectly: "As more bad news about Libya comes out this week, notably in the House hearings, President Obama will find himself facing questions that can't be answered simply by repeating the fact that Osama bin Laden is dead. Libya has become a new front in the campaign, and Romney appears ready to fight."
 

Read more on:    barack obama  |  simon williamson  |  mitt romney  |  libya  |  us  |  north africa  |  benghazi attack  |  us elections 2012
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