The McCain Backpedal on Benghazi Begins

Last updated on February 8th, 2013 at 02:24 am

Asked about Senator Reid’s brutal letter to him in which Reid denied McCain’s calls to head a special committee to investigate Benghazi, McCain said at a press conference at the Halifax International Security Forum, “I’m concerned about four Americans who died. Their families need to know the circumstances, why it happened, how it happened, and where responsibility lies. That’s all. That’s all that we’re seeking. We’re not seeing a confrontation with anyone. We’re not trying to quote ‘take on anyone.'”

McCain claims that he knew better than the entire intelligence community (also known in Republican circles as “the administration” now) and thus he is not taking back his criticism of Susan Rice. The Senator said, “No, because I knew it was a terrorist attack from the beginning. People don’t go to spontaneous demonstrations with mortars and RPGs.”

To date, no one has asked McCain how he can “know” with such certainty what happened in Benghazi when he was not there, and when he clearly did not read the intelligence reports sent to him that Rice based her comments on, or attend the briefing in which he could have more fully informed himself.

In McCain world, it was simple; he knew because there were mortars and RPGs there. And yet, it was not so simple. Shocking, I know. There were actually two attacks, and the intelligence community seems to think at this point that they may have been two separate attacks – perhaps one spontaneous and one planned or some combo thereof. Furthermore, Petraeus suggested that Rice’s talking points were the unclassified version of what happened, something McCain should have grasped for obvious reasons since he claims to be an expert at national security. Perhaps he expected us to send a cable to the suspects on day one.

But never mind McCain’s big talk on RPGs (you have to feel for the guy, clinging to his days as The Military Guy), what is really important here is that he now says he is not seeking a confrontation with anyone.

From lies and calling for a Watergate-esque investigation to “We’re not trying to quote ‘take on anyone,'” McCain is backpedaling. Not so fast, Senator.

Remember when then Republican presidential candidate McCain told us that we should not have a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, because “we are succeeding.” It was at that time, in 2008, that Susan Rice, as Obama’s senior foreign policy adviser, sent reporters to a conflicting McCain statement from 2004, wherein he admitted that if the sovereign Iraqi government asked us to leave, we would have to abide.

McCain also joked in this same interview that rising cigarette exports to Iran might be a good way of killing them, “Maybe that’s a way of killing them. I meant that as a joke.”

Those were the good old days. McCain is now in full “suspend fictional Watergate Importance” mode. Perhaps that, too, was a joke.

The question we must ask ourselves is what next? Oh, but Sunday looms! We can’t have Sunday shows with McCain carrying neo-con water for the hawks. Any bets on whether the media will ask Senator McCain upon what evidence he based his allegations that the administration lied to the public on purpose? A statement that was in line with the unclassified (important note there that the Senator may wish to ponder) assessment of the intelligence communities is not a lie. New information is not a lie or a cover up.

The cover up would be if we were not told about the new information.

There are questions, but the questions are not why didn’t the intelligence community know what John McCain’s gut told him or what Mitt Romney wrongly claimed within hours of the attack or why did the intelligence assessment shift as new information came in. Those are the wrong questions. The real question here is, why is John McCain making incendiary, misleading claims with no evidence, and why does he think that he knows more than the intelligence community about an event at which he was not present.

One of those killed in the Benghazi attacks, Glen Doherty, was a colleague of one of PoliticusUSA’s writers, Ms. Leah Burton, at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. He was also a highly decorated former Navy SEAL. On behalf of those who knew of his important work at MRFF where Doherty fought for freedom, respect and religious tolerance, we urge McCain and the Republicans to cease obstructing intelligence and clarity on these tragic attacks with their non-stop attempts to muddy the waters. If McCain and the Republicans would get out of the way, we might actually get some answers.

McCain’s attempt to use these tragic deaths to attack “the administration” is grossly offensive and transparently craven, as is his pretense that he is doing this on behalf of the families and friends who lost their loved ones. Rather, McCain acts in his own self-interest, replete with the bitter sour grapes of a sore loser. His behavior on this deeply sensitive matter is harming his alleged purpose, not helping.

Sarah Jones

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