GOP aides are criticizing the House Republicans’ partisan witch-hunt over the Obama administration’s handling of the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya last year, arguing that the Party should focus more on substantive issues, such as lessons learned and how to recalibrate diplomatic security.
Roll Call reports that Republican aides are saying staffers are getting bogged down chasing bogus accusations.
“We have got to get past that and figure out what are we going to do going forward,” a GOP aide told Roll Call. “Some of the accusations, I mean you wouldn’t believe some of this stuff. It’s just — I mean, you’ve got to be on Mars to come up with some of this stuff.” Another aide expressed frustration at accusations that military assets weren’t properly deployed during the night of the attacks and that a team from Tripoli could have been flown in to fight off the attackers:
“There are some real issues there and then there is just some crazy stuff,” the senior House GOP aide said. “The crazy stuff is, you know, the airman in Ramstein [Air Base, Germany,] that knew that the Predator [drone] was armed. There are no armed Predators in the region there. The [status of forces agreement] does not allow us to fly them armed, and everybody knows it.” […]
GOP aides described another criticism aired at a recent House Oversight Committee hearing that there were four security officers at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli who were ordered to remain in the capital for several hours after the first reports of an attack, rather than being scrambled to assist the consulate in Benghazi.
“The stand-down order was for four guys,” the GOP aide said. “When you step back and say how were the people killed at the annex, they were killed by an indirect fire mortar round. Four more M-4s [rifles] inside the annex doesn’t change that outcome. In fact, they might have just created more casualties. We have got to get down to what really happened on the DoD side and for us the DoD side was not properly postured, why?”
It appears that some Republicans are also beginning to see that the GOP’s Benghazi affair isn’t paying dividends. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell backed away from some Republicans’ baseless claims of an Obama White House cover-up. And Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) in an interview on Fox News on Monday warned his colleagues about taking the issue too far:
BLUNT: I think the real challenge here for Republicans, frankly, is to be patient and methodical when you’re outraged. It’s hard to do when you’re outraged. But the right thing to do here is let the facts come out, don’t try to prejudge what they are.
Rep. John Mica (R-FL) recently dropped his support for a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attacks. Republicans have been calling for creating the committee, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) hasn’t been supportive. “I think Mr. Boehner made the right decision,” Mica said.
Behind the scenes in the House, a GOP aide told Roll Call that staffers will push to address lessons learned from Benghazi. “We’re trying to stay on the substance of it,” one senior GOP aide said. “There has got to be some good that comes out of those fatalities.”
The State Department thinks so too. On Monday it released a fact sheet detailing its implementation of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board’s 24 unclassified recommendations, which include “plans to send dozens of additional diplomatic security agents to high-threat embassies, install millions of dollars of advanced fire-survival gear and surveillance cameras in those diplomatic posts, and improve training for employees headed to the riskiest missions.”
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced a bill last week to provide funding to increase embassy security. The focus “should not be to score political points at the expense of the families of the four victims,” he said. “It should be on doing all we can to protect our personnel serving overseas.”