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Dems rally behind White House on Benghazi
WASHINGTON — Democrats rallied behind President Barack Obama in the long-running, bitter dispute over the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attack, arguing that the White House’s latest email disclosure undermines Republican claims of a cover-up.
“Let’s be honest about what’s happening here,” Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said Thursday in speech on the Senate floor. “It’s not about doing all we can to find the truth and making sure it never happens again; it’s about political-gamesmanship and finding someone to blame.”
The White House released some 100 pages of emails and notes on Wednesday about interagency discussions on how to describe the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in which militants struck the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, killing four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Yet Republicans made clear they have no plans to back down, with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, telling reporters that the GOP members on five committees were “working overtime” on the Benghazi issue.
Republicans have accused the Obama administration of misleading the American people about the circumstances of the attack, playing down a terrorist strike that would reflect poorly on Obama in the heat of a presidential race. Obama has dismissed charges of a cover-up and suggested on Monday that the criticism was politically motivated.
Eight months after the attack, the issue remains a political winner with the Republican base as conservatives have been ferocious in assailing Obama. Rank-and-file GOP members and outside groups have pressured Boehner to appoint a special select committee to investigate. Instead, Republicans are pursuing their own inquiries and promising to call more witnesses to testify publicly, including the veteran diplomat and retired admiral who led an independent review of the attack that widely criticized the State Department’s insufficient security at the facility.
In the latest back-and-forth between the two leaders and a House Republican committee chairman, Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen sent a letter Thursday to the oversight committee chairman saying they will testify in public but not submit to private interviews with staff investigators prior to their testimony.
The emails disclosed on Wednesday underscored the turf battle between the State Department and CIA, as neither one wanted to take the blame for the attack. They also showed the reluctance within the administration about saying anything definitively as officials scrambled to write talking points for lawmakers and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who discussed the attack on Sunday talk shows.
Rice’s widely debunked remarks that cited protests over an anti-Islam video as the cause of the attack fueled the criticism of the administration and later cost her a chance at becoming secretary of state.
Petraeus‘ deputy, Mike Morell, after a meeting at the White House on Saturday, Sept. 15, scratched out from the CIA’s early talking point drafts mentions of al-Qaida, the experience of fighters in Libya, Islamic extremists and a warning to the Cairo embassy on the eve of the attacks of calls for a demonstration and break-in by jihadists.
By John R. Bolton
The president fiddles at his domestic altar while the world burns
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