By Robert Schlesinger |
The House Oversight Committee held a hearing Wednesday to investigate the events that occurred last September at the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where an attack killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The incident has become a raison d'etre for the GOP, which has doggedly tried to gin up interest in what it calls a "cover up" by the Obama administration.
"Benghazi matters. Not just because Americans were murdered. Not just because terrorists attacked a U.S. consulate. But because the White House and the State Department have engaged in misdirection at the highest levels to cover up whatever happened there," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, wrote in U.S. News.
At the hearing, three current State Department employees laid out their version of events. "I found two missed calls on my phone, one from the ambassador and one from a phone number I didn't recognize," said Gregory Hicks, a State Department foreign service officer and former deputy chief of mission in Libya. "And I punched the phone number I didn't recognize and I got the ambassador on the other end and he said, 'Greg, we're under attack.'"
Republicans spent days before the hearing releasing portions of the witnesses' testimony, including the allegation that U.S. troops were prevented from going to aid the consulate after the attack began. (The Pentagon is pushing back strongly on that charge.) U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's response to the attack on the Sunday morning talk show circuit also came under fire. "I was stunned, my jaw dropped and I was embarrassed" by Rice's answers, Hicks said.
Democrats, meanwhile, used the hearing to charge the GOP with playing politics with national security. "Everything that I've seen so far with regard to this investigation shows me that it is a one-sided investigation," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the Oversight Committee's ranking member. "I find it truly disturbing and very unfortunate that when Americans come under attack the first thing some did in this country was attack Americans, attack the military, attack the president [and] attack the State Department," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.
So does the incident in Benghazi constitute a real scandal? Here is the Debate Club's take:
Scott Lilly Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress
Thomas Joscelyn Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Al Cardenas Chairman of the American Conservative Union
Frank Wolf Republican Representative from Virginia
Zachary Pleat Senior Researcher at Media Matters