“I had not seen an attack of such ferocity and intensity previously in Libya nor in my time with the Diplomatic Security Service.”
~Eric A. Nordstrom, former State Department official
With less than a month left to go in the election and President Obama being the first democrat in decades to have an advantage in polling among Americans on whom they trust on foreign policy affairs – the Republican party is trying to politicize the events that occurred at the Libyan embassy. I would say this is par for the course for both parties – either party would use the Oversight Committee like a cudgel to beat their political opponents. But this happening so close to the election is disgraceful because it isn’t about the American patriots who died; for them it’s about winning political points and damaging President Obama. So let’s talk about it.
#1 – Republicans have been cutting hundreds of millions out of Obama’s proposed budget for embassy security (source) and that put all embassies at risk.
#2 – The Paul Ryan Budget that every House Republican voted for cut funding to the State Department by 20% (source); that includes funding for embassy security.
#3 – President Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush Jr. and now Obama have all had attacks on embassies under their watch. Under Bush – 7 different attacks took place where people died (source).
#4 – Officials at the State Department did turn down requests for funding at the Libyan Embassy although the Regional Security officer of Libya – Eric Nordstrom – did not believe having additional agents would have prevented the assault (source).
#5 – If you want an unbiased blow by blow on the hearing – you can read this very detailed, informative piece by the NY Times with video etc HERE.
The Hill explains how Republicans continue to cut hundreds of millions off of the budget that specifically goes to security of Embassies HERE:
Democrats enacted $1.803 billion for embassy security, construction and maintenance for fiscal 2010, when they still controlled the Senate and House. After Republicans took control of the House and picked up six Senate seats, Congress reduced the enacted budget to $1.616 billion in fiscal 2011, and to $1.537 billion for 2012.
The administration requested $1.801 billion for security, construction and maintenance for fiscal 2012; House Republicans countered with a proposal to cut spending to $1.425 billion. The House agreed to increase it to $1.537 billion after negotiations with the Senate.
The administration requested $1.654 billion for the State Department’s Worldwide Security Protection program for fiscal 2012. House Republicans proposed funding the program at $1.557 billion. Congress eventually enacted $1.591 billion after the Senate weighed in.
For fiscal 2013, the administration requested $2.15 billion in funding for the worldwide security protection program, a larger increase from the previous year. The House countered with a proposal to increase the program to $1.934 billion.
Soledad O’Brien asks Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) about his votes to cut funding for embassy security; his response “Absolutely”. Congressman Chaffetz is on the Oversight Committee that is trying to blame Obama for the attack in Libya … oh great irony. From CNN HERE:
Later in the interview, CNN Anchor Soledad O’Brien asks, “Is it true that you voted to cut the funding for embassy security?”
Chaffetz answers, “Absolutely. Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have… 15,0000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, a private army there, for President Obama, in Baghdad. And we’re talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces. When you’re in touch economic times, you have to make difficult choices. You have to prioritize things.”
O’Brien responds, “Okay, so you’re prioritizing. So, when there are complaints that, in fact, that there was not enough security, you just said, ‘absolutely,’ that you cut, you were the one to vote against to increase security for the State Department, which would lead directly to Benghazi. That seems like you’re saying you have a hand in the responsibility to this. The funding of the security? How am I wrong?”
The Washington Post points out that under the Ryan Plan that House Republicans unanimously … funding for the State Department would have been cut by 20% HERE:
Ryan, Issa and other House Republicans voted for an amendment in 2009 to cut $1.2 billion from State operations, including funds for 300 more diplomatic security positions. Under Ryan’s budget, non-defense discretionary spending, which includes State Department funding, would be slashed nearly 20 percent in 2014, which would translate to more than $400 million in additional cuts to embassy security.
The Romney campaign argues that such extrapolations are unfair, because Romney and Ryan haven’t specified which programs they would cut and by how much. And that’s the problem: The danger in Romney’s plan is not in the few cuts he has detailed but in the many he has not.
The NY Times gives the background on the House Oversight Committee hearing yesterday HERE:
In his opening statement, the committee chairman, Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California, said that “on a bipartisan basis,” the committee would try to reassure Americans serving overseas that they were protected. He also praised Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for cooperating with the committee.
But the committee’s ranking Democrat, Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, challenged that assertion. In his statement, he said Republicans had withheld documents and had not made witnesses available for interviews. He also called on the House to restore what he said was “hundreds of millions of dollars” it had cut from embassy security financing in recent years.
The squabbling among the committee members at times appeared to overshadow the testimony of the State Department officials called as witnesses. At one point, Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, objected to a photograph that the State Department displayed of the diplomatic mission and the area surrounding it because he thought it was classified.
Mitt Romney has been using one of the victims – a slain Navy Seal – in his stump speech to further politicize this; the Navy Seal’s mother has asked him to stop HERE:
“I don’t trust Romney. He shouldn’t make my son’s death part of his political agenda,” Barbara Doherty told Boston’s WHDH. “It’s wrong to use these brave young men, who wanted freedom for all, to degrade Obama.”
Shortly after, the Romney campaign said they would comply with Doherty’s request.
This is after Romney’s disastrous attempt to politicize the deaths of Americans at the Libyan embassy as events were ongoing. Romney was criticized by everyone including members of his own party for his amateurish attempt to appear presidential HERE in case you forgot how he smirked as he walked off stage thinking he had just won some votes. One of Romney’s aides actually said those 4 Americans would not have died had Romney been the president (source).
To further illustrate how politicized the House oversight committee is under Darrell Issa – one need only look at the first image showing when you go to their YouTube channel. This doesn’t feel very law and justice ish. See it for yourself HERE.
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