Skewed News — Today is day one of the House Select Committee on Benghazi’s questioning of Hillary Rodham Clinton. I have news for my Republican friends: nothing that happens today or later this week will change the fact that no one on the left cares about Benghazi.
35% of Americans don’t even know what Benghazi is.
Why, they wonder, don’t we care?
A substantial part of the answer is the ideological media divide. If you watch FoxNews, you think it’s a major story. They’ve hammered away at it, covering it at least 1,100 times in the last year. (How many times do you think they talked about income inequality?) When MSNBC mentions the story, which isn’t often, it’s an eye-rolling what’s-with-these-Republicans’-obsession way. No wonder conservatives and liberals don’t understand each other on this issue — they’re literally living in different realities.
But there’s more to the divide than balkanized TV news coverage.
The way Benghazi has been framed as a story has been tailored to trigger right-wing rage, and to elicit big fat yawns from the left.
Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy set up the GOP framing in today’s introductory speech: “Why were there so many requests for security equipment and personnel and why were those requests denied in Washington? What did our leaders in Washington do or not do, and when?”
On the right, this is red meat. It’s a war movie image. Four Americans desperately calling for reinforcements as Islamist terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda swarmed over the walls of their isolated mission in the middle of a war zone — and what do they get? Not the cavalry. A bunch of bureaucratic jibber jabber about budgets and these-things-take-time. Which leads to these frontliners being brutally murdered by thugs.
In this narrative, Hillary was the commander-in-chief. She was in charge. Whether or not she saw those requests for additional security staff is irrelevant. The responsibility was hers and now so is the blame.
Sorry, righties. This inflames you, and I understand why. But it leaves progressives cold.
Many Democrats dislike Hillary. I don’t think she should be president. But even those of us on the left who think Hillary is a self-serving corporate shill don’t believe that she’s really responsible for what looks, from the outside, like a standard — though tragic — organizational screw-up. Her defenders say it isn’t the secretary of state’s job to approve individual security requests; this sounds right. Benghazi was a remote mission in a quickly-forgotten outpost of a war Washington forgot about seconds after it sort of won by killing deposed leader Moammar Khaddafi. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Hillary never heard about the demand for additional guards.
But that’s not the big reason we don’t care.
Lefties tend to think big while rightie politics are more granular. For us, the real question ought to be — the question that would make us stand up and pay attention — why was there a mission in an active war zone in the first place? For that matter, why did the Obama Administration, which won the 2008 election by running against “stupid wars” like Iraq, start up another war in the Middle East, against Libya (and, for that matter, Syria)?
Talk about unnecessary! George W. Bush had just signed an agreement, which by all accounts was being followed, with Libya to abolish its nuclear weapons program. If conservatives want to get liberals on board the Benghazi bandwagon, they ought to question the Libyan intervention itself, which has left American prestige badly damaged and Libya a failed state.
Heckuva job, Barry.
Republicans are more than welcome to continue framing Benghazi as a story about a feckless secretary of state who failed to send reinforcements to brave Americans who were murdered due to her negligence. If they want Democrats and others on the American left to join them in indignant rage, they should question Hillary’s role starting the war in the first place.
The problem with that, of course, is that it would open the door to admitting that invading Iraq, and Afghanistan, were mistakes too.