Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

GOP using Benghazi to smear

By Donna Brazile, CNN Contributor
updated 6:50 AM EDT, Thu May 16, 2013
Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya, arrives for a House committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, May 8. State Department employees testified about the terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/12/africa/gallery/libya-us-consulate-attack/index.html'>View photos of the attack.</a> Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya, arrives for a House committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, May 8. State Department employees testified about the terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. View photos of the attack.
HIDE CAPTION
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Donna Brazile: Benghazi hearings aimed at hurting Clinton prospects for 2016
  • She says hearings cooked up by Boehner. GOP says not aimed at Clinton, but statements belie this
  • She says Dems excluded from much of probe, including calling witnesses who could shed light
  • Brazile: Facts, truth matter, but hearings aimed at fundraising for 2016 race against Clinton

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pot in America." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.

(CNN) -- For some Republicans, 2016 is 1992: Hating Hillary Clinton is chic again. Only more so, since the former secretary of state is also the partner of and potential successor to the last two Democratic presidents—Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Some of us believe, with good reasons, that the Republicans are "mad-dogging" Hillary Clinton with the Benghazi hearing to damage not only her presidential prospects, but also to damage President Obama's credibility.

Donna Brazile
Donna Brazile

Polls show Obama is trusted more than his Washington opponents, especially on the economy. So, to defeat his economic agenda and substitute their own, which has already lost on logic, they've decided to undermine Obama's credibility and authority.

The Benghazi hearing, which House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, orchestrated and planned for months, is a classic "killing two birds with one stone" scenario for Republicans. Or maybe three: They see an opportunity to smear Obama, sabotage Clinton and fundraise like giddy televangelists.

Benghazi hearing chairman Darrell Issa, R-California, said Clinton is not a target of his committee. That doesn't seem to jibe with statements by GOP Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, among others. And further contradicting Issa's protestation, the National Republican Congressional Committee was boasting that its Clinton/Benghazi fundraising page was the most successful in its history.

CIA role in Benghazi was underreported
White House releases Benghazi e-mails
An American eyewitness in Benghazi

Benghazi is a rather unseemly subject to turn into a political weapon. It's one thing to try to drag the former secretary of state through the mud. But the Republicans are trying to drag her through blood -- blood that's tainted with partisan politics. The Republicans cut the funding for embassy security by $128 million in 2011 and $331 million in 2012. Clinton warned that doing so would be "detrimental to national security." Republicans scoffed then, scream now.

Obama called the Benghazi hearing a circus. He's right. It's not a transparent, due process hearing. Democrats have complained they were excluded from much of the investigations, weren't allowed to call witnesses or to look at documents.

As Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland and ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said Wednesday after the White House's release of approximately 100 pages of e-mails relating to the attacks in Benghazi: "These documents undercut the reckless accusations by Republicans that the White House scrubbed the Benghazi talking points for political reasons and in fact show just the opposite—that the primary goal was to protect the FBI's ongoing criminal investigation and our nation's intelligence operations."

Chaffetz: Obama has explaining to do on Benghazi

A transparent, due-process hearing would call the witnesses who would testify that the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli mistakenly believed Katibat Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi had claimed credit for the attack. The group didn't make the claim and later denied any role. But that was an on-the-ground, in-the-moment embassy mistake. (While no friend of the United States, the Benghazi al-Sharia organization has not, so far, been implicated in terrorist activity.)

It came from mistaken identity: There were two distinct and unrelated Ansar al-Sharia militant groups in Libya. Even Fox News interviewed an expert, J. Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council, who said these groups have no formal affiliation with each other. They are grass-roots up organizations, whereas al Qaeda organizes from the top down.

It is suspected that the Ansar al-Sharia in Derna was involved in the attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans. Its leader is a former prisoner at Guantanamo who was released under the Bush administration and deported to Libya for jail. Gadhafi later released him.

In a transparent hearing we would learn that the Republicans' chief witness, Deputy Chief of Mission Gregory Hicks, was likely, even today, in error about which Ansar al-Sharia was involved. It is the difference between a local militant militia group and professional terrorists.

Hicks clearly was referring to the Benghazi al Sharia when he testified about his concern that Ambassador Chris Stevens was taken to the hospital that the Benghazi group then guarded. But, this week the same hospital was bombed; the rival al-Shaira group in Derna, with al Qaeda links, is a reasonable suspect.

Getting the facts right matters. Getting the truth matters. Posturing for propaganda points not only misleads us, it endangers us. For whatever the Benghazi hearings are about, they're not about learning the lessons from this tragedy and improving securities at American embassies and other facilities overseas.

They are, in fact, a partisan campaign fundraiser for the Republican Party, and not a fact-finding inquiry to help the State Department and military correct their mistakes.

Karl Rove's American Crossroads super PAC has already taken on Hillary Clinton, spending megabucks on a 2016 attack ad that savages her judgments. Some Republicans, to their credit, can't stomach any more from their fellow Republicans.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a Republican, appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation" and said he would have handled Benghazi just as Obama handled it. He added a flat, "No" that he did not think Hillary Clinton would be involved in any kind of a cover-up.

Bill Kristol, conservative editor and commentator, told Fox News Sunday, "I wish the Republicans would just be quiet for a while and that the partisan Republican groups that are fundraising off this would be quiet ... for a while ... and let's find out what really happened."

Amen.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT