Over eleven years ago, the United States was attacked in one of the worst attacks to ever occur on American soil. Prior to the attack, we had experienced a bitterly contested election, complete with recounts and court battles. Despite the closeness of the election, and the bitterness felt afterwards, the country united after the devastating 9/11 terrorist attack.
Fast forward to the present day. On the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, America was hit again. This time it was a consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans were killed, including the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens. It was the first US ambassador to be killed in decades. One would think the country would once again unite in light of this tragedy. One would be wrong.
As the fires ignited by the terrorist attackers was still burning, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took the opportunity to criticize President Obama for the Libya attack. Long before the scope of the event was known, or what had even caused it, Mr. Romney decided to try and score political points. It was not yet known that Ambassador Stevens had been killed, a fact that would turn Mr. Romney’s comments into a PR disaster, earning him criticism from both sides of the isle.
That is not the end of the story, however. The Benghazi situation has been a complicated mess. The Obama administration fumbled on dishing out information, releasing bits of intelligence before they were properly investigated. Early on, surrogates such as Susan Rice went on national TV and blamed a controversial anti-Islamic video for igniting protests that led to the attacks. While intelligence officials believe the video may have been a motivating factor, they no longer claim their were any demonstrations in front of the Benghazi consulate.
We now know that the CIA had also set up shop in the area, with their own secret facility less than a mile away. This information was leaked during Congressional hearings. What role that played in the Obama administration’s refusal to release certain details is unclear at this point.
What is clear is that the right wing media has attempted to turn this tragedy into a scandal. It is no secret why outlets like Fox News are attempting to do so. The presidential election is now less than two weeks away, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is currently losing in the electoral college, despite his slim lead in some national polls.
The conspiracy theories have begun to reach depressing lows, with some conservative bloggers and twitter users even suggesting that the administration purposely withheld help from the consulate because they wanted Americans to die. Reasons for this include Ambassador Stevens connection to gun running operations with rebels in Syria. Other conspiracy theories allege that President Obama did not want to admit that terrorists had launched a successful attack on the anniversary of 9/11, and tried to use the anti-Islamic video as a scapegoat. This theory has failed to gain much traction, as President Obama famously pointed out at the second presidential debate that he called the attack an act of terror the day after it happened.
Democrats have long posed this rhetorical question: What would Republicans have said if 9/11 happened under a Democratic president? The Benghazi attack has once and for all answered that question. Democrats lined up behind George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks. Most even voted to give him the authority to use force against Iraq the next year, despite the fact that Iraq never attacked the US and had no ties to the ones who did. In contrast, the head of the Republican Party, Mitt Romney, was lining up to attack the president before the Benghazi attack had come to an end.
There was plenty to criticize President George W. Bush for in regards to the 9/11 attacks. A month before the attacks, the President’s Daily Brief warned that Osama Bin Laden was determined to strike the US. This year it was also revealed that President Bush had received multiple warnings about Al Qaeda, including one that said an attack was imminent. The administration also famously ignored the warnings of Richard Clarke.
No one made these arguments in the days and months after 9/11. President Bush enjoyed some of the highest approval ratings of all time during that period. The media was not digging for a controversy, and attempting to bury him politically.
Things have certainly changed in the years since then. The conservative media has been unrelenting in their attempts to bring down the Obama administration at a time when the nation should be mourning one of its finest public servants. Fox News is one of the biggest culprits, attacking the president over every bit of evidence that has surfaced, and then feigning shock when the rest of the media does not follow their lead. It is the media’s job to find out the truth and report it, not fan the flames of controversy.
The main anchor at Fox News, Bret Baier, is among the guilty. His program, Special Report, is notorious for opening with anti-Obama stories. Baier has done specials on Libya, and has taken to his own Twitter account to push the story. There have been many important revelations in the Benghazi attacks that should be reported, but Baier’s reporting has amounted to hit pieces against the Obama administration.
Moderates and Liberals are not likely to be shocked by the network’s behavior, as Fox News has long been thought to be the propaganda wing of the Republican Party by skeptics. As a frequent watcher of the network, even knowing their conservative slant, I was disappointed in their attempts to politicize this tragedy. The attempt has largely been in vain. President Obama has built up a lot of credibility in the foreign policy department, and the American people have realized that the agenda Fox is pushing does not add up.
American politics have taken a dangerous turn. The hatred between the two parties has grown to a critical level. We have reached a point where any situation, even a tragedy, is grounds for taking political shots. This level of vitriol makes compromise impossible, and has gummed up the works in Washington. George Washington’s warning against political parties grows truer with each passing day.