Mitt Romney first politicized the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, only hours after the event, by claiming the president sympathized with terrorists.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., called Benghazi the “most egregious cover-up in American history” and predicted that Obama will soon be facing impeachment calls. Similar views were expressed by Michele Bachmann and by Mike Huckabee, who asserted that “this president will not fill out his full term.”
A PPP poll found that 41 percent of Republicans, echoing the Fox News/talk radio frenzy, think Benghazi is the biggest political scandal in history.
Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, agreed, saying that Benghazi is 10 times bigger than the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals put together.
That’s nonsense. Watergate was about Nixon running a burglary ring out of the White House, for which he was forced to resign. Sixty nine people were charged with crimes and forty-eight went to prison, including two of Nixon’s attorneys general (Mitchell and Kleindienst), his chief of staff (Haldeman), along with Erlichman, Colson, Liddy, Magruder, and others.
Iran-Contra was about Reagan illegally trading weapons to Iran for American hostages and lying about it. He then illegally diverted the proceeds to the murderous Contras in Nicaragua and lied about that too. Presidential historian Richard Reeves has calculated that 138 Reagan administration officials were indicted for various offenses, making his administration the most corrupt in U.S. history. Among those convicted were his Secretary of Defense (Caspar Weinberger), two National Security Advisors (MacFarlane and Poindexter), his chief of staff (Michael Deaver), Oliver North, and others, most of whom were pardoned by George H.W. Bush.
Most of the convictions were for lying, perjury and obstructing justice in an attempt to cover up criminal activity by the president.
Benghazi, in contrast, is a manufactured scandal over press talking points drafted by committee, which Republicans later misrepresented to the press.
Some are arguing that Obama, Clinton or somebody is guilty of a crime for “allowing” the attack on the consulate.
By that standard, Reagan would be guilty for the three attacks on U.S. facilities just in Lebanon: a suicide truck bomber attacked the U.S. Embassy in Beirut on April 18, 1983, killing 63 people including 17 Americans; another suicide bomber detonated a truck full of explosives at a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut on Oct. 23, 1983, killing 241 U.S. Marines and injuring more than 100 others; a third truck bomber attacked the U.S. Embassy in Beirut again on Sept. 20, 1984, killing 24 people.
In addition, a suicide attack on the American embassy in Kuwait on Dec. 12, 1983, killed five people and injured more than 80 others.
No one talked of impeaching Reagan for “allowing” three attacks in Lebanon in less than 18 months, but then, this was back when Republicans blamed the perpetrators for attacks, not the other party.
If terrorist attacks constitute impeachable offenses, what about the bizarre invasion Reagan engineered in 1983 and his belligerent “evil empire” rhetoric that almost provoked a nuclear war?
Nineteen Americans died and 119 were wounded in his unilateral invasion of Grenada, a member of the British Commonwealth with Queen Elizabeth as its sovereign, another slap at Britain and Thatcher after Reagan’s refusal to support them in the Falklands war. The U.N. condemned the invasion, 108-9.
The nuclear crisis, in November 1983, resulted from a military exercise (Abel Archer) that simulated a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. Russian participants confirm that Moscow believed that a bellicose Reagan had ordered a nuclear attack and they came within minutes of launching a “counterattack.” (See “Soviet War Scare 1983,” The History Channel.)
Watergate and Iran-Contra involved probable “high crimes and misdemeanors” by the president — impeachable offenses. Benghazi involves no such thing, and nothing approaching Reagan’s dangerous, costly foreign policy blunders.
As for the congressional hearings, they are becoming a scandal in themselves, as the Republican sideshow alters emails and exploits the Benghazi tragedy in order to raise campaign funds. The National Republican Congressional Committee recently boasted that its Clinton/Benghazi fundraising page was the most successful in its history.
Under Bush, there were violent attacks on American embassies in Yemen, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, India and Turkey, and American diplomats were murdered in Pakistan and Sudan. There were no congressional investigations of those attacks.
What we are really seeing is an expansion of Romney’s ignominious effort to exploit the attack for electoral purposes, to now include discrediting Hillary Clinton and delegitimizing Obama.
Tom Maertens describes himself as a political centrist who has worked in national security for both political parties in the White House and in the U.S. Senate. He is part of a Free Press team of readers from all political viewpoints asked to write columns.