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Cohen: GOP’s misguided obsession with Benghazi

  • (DAVID HORSEY / Los Angeles Times)

Tuning the car radio some weeks back, I heard the president denounced as a moron. I was shocked. I had reached some right-wing talker and he was carrying on about something Barack Obama had recently said — that he worries more about a nuclear attack on New York than he does about Russia. The radio guy declared that the president had given terrorists an idea. He apparently forgot that the notion of attacking New York had already occurred to them.

I live in a media bubble, I suppose, and this might account for my otherwise inexplicable innocence. But this is the way the president’s opponents talk. It is rude. It is crude. It is disrespectful, and it is downright nuts — but it is not limited to radio talkers. It is the lingua franca of the Republican Party.

I feel about the GOP as I do about the religion of others: I don’t get it. I know feelings can be strong and reason plays little part in it — faith is faith, after all — and this is the way I see the GOP snits about the IRS and, more pertinently, Benghazi. What are these people talking about?

Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, died in the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya — two from mortar fire, and Stevens and another man from smoke inhalation. These deaths are a serious matter for which bureaucratic blame has already been assessed. No one can possibly think the Obama administration knew the attack was coming and let it happen. There is no proof of that. Similarly, no one can still think the White House put the brakes on a rescue attempt by the U.S. military. Again, there is no proof of that.

So what is Benghazi? Beats me, I am tempted to say. But I recognize it as a transparent Republican attempt to provide the party’s base with grist for its fantasy mill. Is it possible the Obama administration fudged the nature of the attack, refusing to apply the term “terrorist”? Yes, of course. Did the White House spinmeisters put their hands all over it? Could be. But is any of this so momentous that it has required 13 public hearings and now a select House committee that will delve and delve feverishly ... for what?

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