By John Kass
Mention the word “Benghazi” to Republicans, and chances are, they’ll become eager, animated, even predatory, seeking weakness in President Barack Obama.
But say “Benghazi” to Democrats and they’ll flinch. Some will step back as if you’re carrying a disease. Others will offer a defensive smirk.
“Benghazi happened a long time ago,” Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, said the other day, approaching the Benghazi question as if it were leprous.
It is a tactic used by Republican and Democratic mouthpieces. Translation: That’s no story. That’s old news. What’s wrong with you? Don’t you have anything better to do than go after old news?
But Benghazi is more than a partisan political word. It’s a bloody Libyan city where four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2012.
And it’s time the partisan nonsense stops and the American people get answers.
There have been no arrests of suspects. The Obama White House stalls now as it stalled at the onset of the crisis during the president’s re-election campaign, hoping it would go away.
Republicans in Congress want to nail Obama, yes. But they also clamor for legitimate information and want witnesses to testify before various investigating committees. Unfortunately, the whistle-blowers can’t testify if they first can’t talk things out with their lawyers.
Victoria Toensing, a Republican lawyer representing Benghazi whistle-blowers, told me on my WLS midmorning talk show last week that her client is not being given the necessary security clearance to talk fully with her.
Hear no evil
Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress cover their ears, hush their mouths and hear no evil. Naturally, if the political parties were reversed, and some Republican war-party interventionist were in the White House, Democrats would be shrieking and Republicans would be silent. But the so-called mainstream media would have been on the warpath.
So Benghazi is now about Washington suits inflicting verbal wounds.
But Stevens died there. And so did U.S. State Department computer specialist Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
Doherty and Woods spent hours on the rooftops, fighting off the terrorists who attacked the diplomatic compound, waiting for help from Washington that never came. They weren’t rescued. They stayed. They died.
And we still don’t know what the president did when the compound was under attack, what he ordered, what he asked. It’s not discussed.
What we do know is that the rationale initially given by Obama, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and others is not true. They insisted that an anti-Muslim video on the Internet compelled angry protesters to gather outside and attack the compound.
The video had nothing to do with it. According to Factcheck.org, a nonpartisan project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center:
“There were no protesters at the Benghazi consulate prior to the attack, even though Obama and others repeatedly said the attackers joined an angry mob that had formed in opposition to the anti-Muslim film that had triggered protests in Egypt and elsewhere. The State Department disclosed this fact Oct. 9 — nearly a month after the attack.”
Last week, at a White House news conference, Obama was asked if there were any efforts to prevent witnesses from testifying before Congress.
“I’m not familiar with this notion that anybody has been blocked from testifying,” Obama said. “So what I’ll do is I will find out exactly what you’re referring to.”
The next day he sent Carney out to brush off the story. “Benghazi happened a long time ago,” Carney said. “We are unaware of any agency blocking an employee who would like to appear before Congress to provide information related to Benghazi.”
On my radio show, Toensing said that the questions to the president about blocking testimony weren’t properly framed.
Be More precise
“The question was not asked precisely enough, so he was allowed to wiggle out of it,” she said. “The issue is why won’t the State Department provide a process for clearing lawyers so that I can talk to my client and get classified information.
“It’s a Catch-22,” Toensing said. “My client is not allowed to provide classified information, and in order to tell the complete story, she or he must be able to provide me that classified information. But unless the State Department blesses that arrangement and says I’m cleared to hear it, my client is violating the law.”
Obama and Clinton spoke beautiful words at the funerals for the four killed in Benghazi. They promised survivors that they would get to the bottom of things.
As to the four who died in Benghazi, they were Americans. And they deserve better than this.
John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Distributed by MCT Information Services.
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