In what may be the least surprising part of the ongoing shutdown saga, conservatives are now dragging last year’s tragedy in Benghazi, Libya into the debate over the closure of national monuments in Washington, DC.
At issue is the World War II memorial and other open air sites in DC being closed off to the public while the federal government is closed. On Tuesday, veterans moved aside barriers to see the site as they intended, drawing crowds of support from politicians and the public alike. What began as an inspiring event quickly descended into a political circus, as lawmakers such as Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and others used the veterans to slam Democrats for refusing to accept their demands and defund health care.
Now the argument over funding has become one where Benghazi can be used to make a point. The head of the House of Representative’s Republican Policy Committee Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) drew the comparison while appearing on Fox News on Wednesday afternoon. “We right now have more guards standing around an open air World War II memorial that’s typically open 24 hours a day with one or two guards,” Lankford said, “We have more guards there now than what we had standing around our embassies in Benghazi.”
Lankford isn’t alone in comparing the two situations without irony. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tweet out the following from his official account on Wednesday:
— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) October 2, 2013
A U.S. News and World Report editor also tweet out a similar message and the Washington Examiner devoted a whole article to the ‘controversy’. This new talking point manages to draw both on conspiracy theory and hypocrisy alike. Many conservatives still argue — despite the absence of evidence and sworn testimony to the contrary — that the Obama administration could and should have sent armed forces to Benghazi last year when a diplomatic mission was under attack.
The guards present in the Benghazi building at the time of the attack were later joined by CIA officers who were also present in the city. All told, four Americans died that night, including Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, and former Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen have all said that there was no way to get more forces to Benghazi in time to make a difference.
The latter is amazing due to the position of the Republicans who have thus far supported the shutdown through refusing to pass a ‘clean’ continuing resolution, one devoid of any new cuts to health care funding. Passage of such a bill would allow the memorials to reopen, making the number of guards the Park Police could marshal around them compared to assets able to be positioned in Libya a moot point. Sen. Paul has, in fact, come out in favor of a clean resolution — but only with funding for a week or two.