For most of the year leading up to the presidential elections, the Republicans took every opportunity to remind Americans that the only important issue for voters was the economy. Anything else, including foreign policy, was irrelevant. Yet now that the elections are over, and President Obama won, the GOP seems to care about nothing but the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, and is trying to spin a huge controversy from it.
This is nothing but a cheap political sideshow meant to distract us from the fiscal cliff discussions and to tarnish the White House. We know that Republicans do not like to govern, but apparently they want to prevent anyone else from doing it too, especially a popular Democratic president. They did it with Bill Clinton and they are doing it again. It is deeply irresponsible and if the Republicans want to maintain any credibility for the future, they should shut the hell up now.
For starters, they have no basis for challenging the Obama administration's resolve in dealing with terrorism. This is, after all, the president who gave the order to kill Osama bin Laden, who has used drone attacks on militants with increasing frequency despite fierce opposition from his own party and many others, has taken a hard stance with Pakistan in the war on terror, and has now overtly expressed support for Israel in its assault against Hamas in Gaza. Unlike the Republican narrative, Obama is clearly not soft on terrorists and does not hesitate to "pull the trigger" for the sake of our national security.
The Libyan attack was unfortunate but was also part of the war that we are fighting in that part of the world. If we go after someone, they will hit back -- that's just the nature of war; and in a dangerous region like the Middle East, where extremists are prepared to kill anyone to undermine progress, where the enemy does not abide by any rules of engagement, and where terrorists hide inside the civilian population, perfect security is impossible to attain. No matter how many bodyguards are assigned to someone, fanatical militants and suicide bombers will always find a way to hit their target. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was not a neophyte; he was an experienced diplomat who knew the dangers of his mission and went anyway. He did it because he wanted to make a difference and because he was a patriot, which is more than we can say about the Republicans.
It is all right to question the effectiveness of the State Department's security measures, but to accuse the government of deliberately ignoring the safety of Americans is reprehensible. There is not a single shred of evidence to indicate that anyone in the government, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, willingly compromised the safety of Ambassador Stevens or his colleagues. Whatever happened, happened during a time of immense chaos and in the heat of war, when events are fast-paced and often unpredictable, when situations change in the blink of an eye, when intelligence can be unreliable or even false, and most importantly, when there are no definite answers to difficult questions. The attack should still be examined to identify any weaknesses in the U.S. security apparatus, but it should be for the purpose of making future improvements, not for making pointless recriminations and conducting political witch hunts.
Which brings us to the most ridiculous Republican assertion of all, delivered by the increasingly opportunistic Senator John McCain, that President Obama hid the fact that the Benghazi attack was an act of terror so that he could win the election. Never mind that it would have made a lot more sense for Obama to label it a terrorist attack and launch airstrikes on militants in response, thereby looking even more presidential to conservative voters, McCain's characterization itself is a convenient lie. As a former military man, he knows better than anyone that classified intelligence, especially as it comes in and is still evolving, cannot always be shared with the public, and certainly not when the information could have serious implications for U.S. foreign policy. It is not a question of politics, but prudence.
Yet he persists. Why? Well, to score political points and because the Republicans want to derail the possible nomination of Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, for Secretary of State. Rice, like Obama, delivered the unclassified version of events after the attack, but even though her action was standard protocol and the right thing to do, she is under fire simply because she is Obama's pick and therefore anathema to the Republicans. As I said, a cheap ploy by a cheap political party.
What really amazes me though is that after all the jaw-dropping mistakes made by the Republicans during the election cycle, they still insist on acting like idiots. Even though their candidate was decimated, their platform rejected, and the Democrats handed a clear victory by the majority of Americans, they still think they have a mandate to continue attacking the president and obstructing government.
To paraphrase Gordon Gekko, there should be a picture of the Republican party in the dictionary next to the word "stupid."
SANJAY SANGHOEE has worked at leading investment banks and at a multi-billion dollar hedge fund. He has an MBA from Columbia Business School and is the author of a thriller titled "Merger", which Chicago Tribune called "Timely, Gripping, and Original". Please visit www.sanghoee.com for more details.