A little over a month ago we were treated to Mitt Romney’s ill-timed condemnation of the Obama administration for their handling of the Cairo and Benghazi uprisings, the latter of which resulted in the murder of our Ambassador Chris Stevens. Romney’s political posturing in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy received bipartisan criticism and rightfully so. In the weeks following, various conflicting reports flowed from Washington concerning what actually happened in Benghazi, Libya. By the time this week got underway, conservatives even had me angry at the administration. I wondered why UN Ambassador Susan Rice “lied” on the Sunday political talk shows saying that the Libyan attack was prompted by an offensive YouTube video when by then it was clear we were dealing with a premeditated terrorist attack.
I’m actually surprised at myself for not seeing the Republican hand wringing over Benghazi for what it was, pure and simple election year posturing, exploiting a tragedy for political gain. What woke me up? Namely a couple of New York Times articles that make it clear the situation on the ground in Libya was far more subtle than we were previously being led to believe.
To Libyans who witnessed the assault and know the attackers, there is little doubt what occurred: a well-known group of local Islamist militants struck the United States Mission without any warning or protest, and they did it in retaliation for the video. That is what the fighters said at the time, speaking emotionally of their anger at the video without mentioning Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or the terrorist strikes of 11 years earlier. And it is an explanation that tracks with their history as members of a local militant group determined to protect Libya from Western influence. – Election-Year Stakes Overshadow Nuances of Libya Investigation
The facts appear to point to an attack that was planned in advance, but not far in advance. There was no peaceful protest that grew out of control or was hijacked by extremists but the extremists did claim that the YouTube video motivated them. As is often the case, the truth is a muddy mix of facts that those with an agenda cherry pick from. And it must be acknowledged that the Administration, not wanting to emphasize a connection to established terrorist groups, cherry picked the YouTube video motivation. But they did not outright lie in doing so. Republicans, licking their lips that al Qaeda might indeed have flexed its muscles again, have stretched the truth:
Is it fair to link the Benghazi attack to Al Qaeda?
Only very indirectly. Ayman al-Zawahri, the leader of Al Qaeda, had called on Libyans to avenge the killing of a Libyan-born Qaeda leader, and American intelligence officials have said they intercepted boastful phone calls after the assault from the attackers to members of the Qaeda affiliate in North Africa, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. – Clearing the Record About Benghazi
As usual, folks have rushed to judgment on Libya. I say let a proper investigation run its course and don’t concern yourself with coming up with an answer by November 6 in the hope of influencing an election.
Lesbians (and folks with other preferences)
I’ll be honest. I support LGBT rights but it doesn’t get my heart pumping as much as some other issues do. So I was surprised to be emotionally moved by a video put out by the Obama campaign featuring Jane Lynch, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Billie Jean King, George Takei, Wanda Sykes, Zachary Quinto, and Chaz Bono. They described the pain of growing up different and the validation they felt due to several pro-LGBT developments under the Obama administration. Among other things, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the President’s endorsement of gay marriage gave the LGBT community a huge sense of progress.
Now I will be the first to admit that Obama’s saying he was alright with gay marriage was a clear election year pander. Sometimes a pander can move the ball forward. More importantly, the video got me thinking about Mitt Romney. Not since the days of George Wallace have we had a party platform and a candidate so intent on denying people’s rights.
I agree with the celebrities in the video that the Obama administration has taken several important steps in making this a more inclusive society. We cannot allow a Romney administration to take us backwards.