Rep. Darrell Issa has a story and he’s sticking to it.
The San Diego County Republican again said he is right to claim, repeatedly, that an al-Qaida affiliate was involved in the assassination of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012.
“It was accurate. There was a group that was involved that claims an affiliation with al-Qaida,” Issa said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last Sunday. No matter that New York Times reporters spent months interviewing Libyans with direct knowledge of the attack and fingered likely perpetrators, notably an eccentric and mentally unstable local thug.
The report illustrated the journalistic value of expending shoe leather and talking to knowledgeable people rather than bloviating on cable television and in one-sided congressional hearings.
David D. Kirkpatrick, the reporter who led the effort, dismissed the notion on “Meet the Press” that al-Qaida was responsible for the attack, “if, by al-Qaida, you mean the organization founded by Osama bin Laden.” The reporters found ample evidence the attack was sparked by a bizarre film that insulted the Prophet Muhammad and inflamed passions throughout the Middle East. The question of responsibility and motive was relevant in 2012, when Republicans hoped to persuade the public that al-Qaida was alive and well, thus weakening President Barack Obama’s standing after bin Laden’s killing and administration claims that the terrorist group was greatly weakened.
The question will be relevant in 2016. Republicans assume Hillary Clinton will run for president and intend to raise questions about her competence, given that she was secretary of state at the time of the Benghazi attack.
There is blame to go around. A terrible lapse in security left the consulate vulnerable, and the U.S. military and CIA failed to come to Stevens’ rescue.
Stevens also understood the risks, writing in his diary five days before the attack: “Me targeted on a prominent website (no more off-compound jogging).”
Issa should take time to reflect. He holds an important position as House Oversight Committee chairman. But he squanders it with bombastic claims and quick conclusions, exemplified by his stubborn adherence to his partisan view of the vicious attack on the consulate in Benghazi.