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 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 9:02 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT