Maybe Nixon, too…Probably the Bush’s, too…but for sure, just partisan opportunism (just like all the other scandals that are only scandals because the Republicans hate a black president):
The continued Republican frenzy over the killings in Benghazi, which has now been going on for more than two months, is pretty obviously motivated by partisan opportunism, linked to the frustrated desire for an “Obama scandal,” and for validation of the underlying conservative narrative that the administration is more concerned about pandering to Muslims than protecting Americans. But putting all that aside (if you can), along with the Petraeus side-show, there’s the underlying problem of an U.S. diplomatic structure that is being encouraged to think first and foremost of its own safety, rather than its actual mission. This is the topic of a fascinating New York Times Magazine piece by Robert Worth that traces the devolution of U.S. embassies and consulates from interactive listening posts to isolated fortresses, beginning most notably with the Beirut bombings of 1983. Here’s a brief excerpt from the detail-rich piece, which deserves to be read in its entirety:
Three decades later, after serving as an ambassador in three countries, [Ronald] Neumann found himself marveling at how much his profession has changed. “The dangers have gotten worse, but the change is partly psychological,” he told me. “There’s less willingness among our political leaders to accept risks, and all that has driven us into the bunker.”
Nothing illustrated those changes better than the death of J. Christopher Stevens, after an assault by jihadis on the U.S. mission in Benghazi on Sept. 11. Stevens was a brave and thoughtful diplomat who, like Neumann, lived to engage with ordinary people in the countries where he served, to get past the wire. Yet his death was treated as a scandal, and it set off a political storm that seems likely to tie the hands of American diplomats around the world for some time to come. Congressmen and Washington pundits accused the administration of concealing the dangers Americans face abroad and of failing Stevens by providing inadequate security. Threats had been ignored, the critics said, seemingly unaware that a background noise of threats is constant at embassies across the greater Middle East. The death of an ambassador would not be seen as the occasional price of a noble but risky profession; someone had to be blamed.
While Worth focuses on the Beirut bombings as the turning point, you could make a strong argument that the politicization of diplomatic deaths, and in turn the lowering of the “political risk” threshold, dates back to the Iran Hostage Crisis. Those searing events were intimately connected (in memory and symbolism more than election data) with the demise of the Carter Administration and the rise of Ronald Reagan (though Reagan himself initiated a literal withdrawal of U.S. diplomacy from Lebanon after the Beurit bombings).
More than getting Obama re-elected, Benghazi illustrates the true power of the press and how dangerous it has truly become.
I don’t know if Benghazi is a scandal because of bad foreign policy, “leading from behind”, true incompetence or criminal indifference. I have an opinion but as a citizen, I have no ability to investigate on my own. It the past, that was the role of the press, to be the surrogate of the public. That role is no more.
What I do know is with Democrats fighting any inquiry into anything by politicizing absolutely everything and the current administration receiving cover from a mass media that has 1) chosen sides, 2) promoting the narrative that there is “nothing to see here”, 3) refusing to do even the most minimal of investigations and 4) actively ignoring the story, it is highly unlikely that we will ever find out.