Thirty-nine percent of polled Republicans convinced that the Benghazi issue is the worst scandal in American history don’t know where Benghazi is.
Forty-one percent of Republicans, according to a recent poll, think the “cover-up” of Benghazi is the “biggest political scandal in American history. Forty-three percent disagree; 74 percent think it was worse than Watergate.
The noise machine is in full cry. The president lied, didn’t care about the attack, and tried to blame a video rather than al-Qaida. But there are some problems.
According to that same poll, 39 percent of those convinced this is the worst scandal in American history don’t know where Benghazi is. Some place it in the incorrectly in a Middle Eastern country, but 6 percent think it is in Cuba and 1 percent put it in North Korea.
Moreover, while the RealClearPolitics editorial cited above at least makes some specific allegations, if you venture to any Internet discussion of the “Benghazi scandal,” you can read a hundred comments without anyone actually mentioning what the scandalous behavior was, what exactly was covered up or what exactly the president should have done.
That’s our political debate in a nutshell: We’re really worked up, but we don’t actually know what we are worked up about.
The IRS scandal
The other scandal percolating at the moment concerns the IRS. It is alleged that its scrutiny of groups labeled “Tea Party” (or similar words) applying for tax-exempt status was unfair. But lost in the noise is any discussion of what an organization must do to earn tax-exempt status, data that would prove liberal groups got treated differently, and if the conservative groups targeted actually deserved to be tax exempt.
The sarcastic reply to this might be that it is the IRS’ job to harass conservatives since the FBI has long thought it needed to go after liberal groups.
In all these debates, all sorts of questions are left hanging. Democrats contend that cuts to embassy security were partly to blame for the deaths in Benghazi. Is that actually true – can a link be drawn? Just how many groups were given more scrutiny by the IRS, and, a key question, did they actually deserve it?
Instead we are treated to the Speaker of the House Boehner (R-Ohio) wondering if anyone is going to jail for the IRS scandal – but long silent on similar punishment for those whose financial misconduct blew up the economy, causing the suffering of millions. And then, there was Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) claiming that when Obama called Benghazi an “act of terror” he was denying that it was “terrorism.” The two terms, Issa contended, meant different things.
This incredible claim actually has supporters. The “fact checking” site run by Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post, which should know better, gave this alleged distinction “four Pinocchios” – their most serious negative evaluation – which they only issue when they think there is a “significant factual error and/or obvious contradiction.”
To make it worse, the site also claims that even when Obama said “act of terrorism” that this also was a way of denying the attack was “terrorism.” They interpret Obama’s reluctance to blame specific groups or declare definitively who was behind the attack as tantamount to insisting it wasn’t terrorism.
This is what occupies space in our news media.
On the other hand, two other scandals, or potential scandals, are having trouble getting any attention.
A potential scandal?
Last week the FBI decided to put a woman, Joanne Chesimard, accused of a crime from 40 years ago, on their list of most wanted terrorists and, in the process, doubled the reward the FBI and New Jersey are offering for her capture to $2 million. Chesimard apparently has been quietly living in Cuba for 20-plus years and seems not to be involved in any current political or criminal activity.
Others on the terrorism list are wanted for hijacking an airplane, blowing up U.S. embassies and the Khobar Towers military housing in 1996 and various acts of conspiracy to commit terror.
Chesimard’s case is ambiguous to say the least. A New Jersey state trooper, Werner Foerster, was murdered, but there is some evidence Chesimard didn’t do it and was trying to surrender. Others strongly dispute that. Chesimard was part of a radical group associated with a number of violent crimes, but only convicted once in eight trials.
She is no hero, but is she really one of the most serious terrorists currently at large?
Why is she so important? And why now? A trooper was killed. Yes, and so far this year 41 police officers have been killed in the line of duty, 16 by gunfire alone. Why is this one case from 40 years ago so significant?
Was this driven by political concerns? An effort to look tough, or distract attention? Or an effort to signal that left-wing political organizations, especially those involving Blacks are still going to be singled out for additional effort? No one knows.
This incident attracted some attention when it occurred, but has faded into the background. Right-wing groups are not likely to get upset over this, and left-wing groups have little traction in the media.
Associated Press phone surveillance
Over a period of months in 2012, the Justice Department obtained phone records on a number of Associated Press phone lines. Justice argues that there was a significant leak of classified information evidenced in this May 7, 2012 AP report on a CIA operation in Yemen. The report indicates that the White House asked AP not to publish the report and AP delayed its report until the operation was over.
This investigation against leakers of classified information is part of a trend, with the Obama administration having brought more cases than all previous administrations combined.
As of today, it is unclear if this scandal will gain any traction. As in the Chesimard case, the primary protesters will be largely left-wing groups, with the notable exception of the often very conservative AP.
Politics by scandal
The top five stories on the CNN home page as this is being written concern the survivors of an abduction, another sex assault case, two stories on O.J. Simpson and one about New Jersey Governor Christie’s anger over ill-fitting clothes.
Turn to the political page and the stories are all about the Benghazi and the IRS scandals.
In the meantime, restarting the economy, assisting democracy in the Middle East, defusing Syria, implementing Obamacare, immigration reform, dealing with global warming, stabilizing the financial system and a dozen other issues attract little attention.