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Paul, Johnson Turn Clinton’s Benghazi Hearing into Kangaroo Court

Posted on the 24 January 2013 by Kzawadzki @kzawadzki

This morning, it was finally time for the long-awaited hearing and testimony from outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the Benghazi consulate attack that killed four Americans, including ambassador, on Sept. 11, 2012. (Transcript here, courtesy of The New York Daily News.)

Given that the Obama administration’s official responses to the attack wound up changing in the days and weeks following the attack, I’ll admit, I’m not terribly surprised that people were demanding concrete answers as to what really happened. I think this hearing is necessary to get on the record what, if any, role Clinton had and what went down as the situation was developing.

These hearings are supposed to set the record straight. If maybe not “once and for all,” at least for the time being unless new developments call for reassessing the situation.

Unfortunately, that was not the goal for some of the people on the Senate committee today, especially Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). It’s fair to demand answers and ask hard questions but from what I saw, Paul and Johnson spent the day deliberately sniping at Clinton, berating her for making excuses while not even allowing her to finish her sentences and letting it be known that if it were up to them, she’d have been fired.

They continued with a line of attack about the government allegedly misrepresenting the facts and deliberately misleading the American people throughout the process. I agree that the administration seemed inconsistent in the days following the attack. But that does not by itself constitute a conspiracy or deliberate desire to mislead the public. It is an accusation that has little concrete evidence to back it up. So why did the good senator from Wisconsin waste his time rehashing a conspiracy fable? I don’t know.

Worse yet, this approach is not conducive to shedding much light on the events that unfolded in Benghazi that day. And it’s certainly not conducive to figuring out what we can take from that tragedy and apply to prevent a repeat next time. It’s just another round of a game of “pin the tail on the Democratic donkey.”

What was forgotten in all this, of course, is that budget cuts can have consequences. Sen. Paul himself in 2011 proposed massive cuts to the Department of State by as much as 71%! The cuts that were eventually approved over the past two years were considerably lower, thankfully, but it’s funny how nobody remembers that bit. It’s true, many Democrats voted with Republicans to cut these budgets so it’s unfair for them to attack the Republicans for it. But it’s also unfair for some of these same Republicans who dismissed the necessity of security funding expressed by (shocker!) Secretary Clinton to now denigrate the administration and condemn it for not prioritizing security at Benghazi.

Yes, staff at that compound have warned that the situation was becoming volatile for weeks if not months since the revolution toppled Gadhafi, but the logical follow-up to that should be “okay, what facilities do you suggest we leave bare instead?” If you’re working within certain constraints, you kind of are forced to make choices and sometimes that leaves you spread thin.

The senators Paul and Johnson might want to think about pointing their fingers because there’s reason to point right back at them. Again, sadly, that just didn’t happen here.

Rather than live up to their professed desire to lay out the facts to the American people and find lessons to be learned, they settled into an all-out assault of their own. The truth is inconsequential – they just wanted to discredit the outgoing secretary on her last days on the job, make her and the Obama administration look incompetent and run her over with a parade of buses and trucks for good measure.

It was just a kangaroo court for people who want someone to blame no matter what and will find a way to point the finger of blame regardless. It was a circus. A sideshow. And we’ve learned nothing new.

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