Editorial | Graham’s Benghazi Alarms More About Publicity Than Public Concern

02/20/2013 5:10 PM

03/05/2013 10:02 AM

Dead horse, meet S.C. Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Clearly, a number of things went horribly wrong at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed in a pair of terrorist attacks on U.S. compounds.

In the aftermath, necessary and urgent questions were raised about the security of our diplomats, including what should have been done differently and what will be done in the future to avoid a repeat of such a tragedy. Learning from our mistakes is the first step in not repeating them, and the resulting probes into State Department policies for diplomatic security and the specific failures in Benghazi should help our leaders be ready for the next attack.

Our own Sen. Graham played a prominent role in determining what went wrong in Benghazi and what needs to change, and his efforts in that vein are to be commended. But lately he has moved from seeking real solutions to frustrating, obstructionist hectoring and browbeating on the flimsiest of pretexts.

We’re no longer hearing about practical and actionable solutions to preventing future deaths. Instead, he’s been busy holding up needed confirmations of Defense secretary and CIA director – positions particularly important as we continue to fight the war on terror that prompted this incident – so he can force answers to such trifling questions as who the president called on the night of the attack.

Why? Because Graham says that if the president had made a phone call he might have been able to save the lives of two of the Americans because he might have been able to speed up the military response, presumably simply through the power of his voice. Nevermind that the secretaries of State and Defense, as well as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and CIA director, were already scrambling to save our citizens. If the president had picked up the phone and called – who? – to repeat what one of his experts were already saying, perhaps we would have saved lives? Right. And we’ve got a bridge to sell you, Sen. Graham. On the other hand, perhaps it was a good time for the president to trust in the deputies he had put in place to oversee such contingencies rather than spend his time micromanaging in the midst of a fast-moving crisis.

It’s hard to see what worthy goal Graham is hoping to achieve with this repeated badgering. It certainly no longer seems to be finding ways to improve the safety or security of our diplomatic persons overseas. That’s simply not been a consideration in his most recent outbursts of righteous indignation. Instead, he and his hawkish comrade Sen. John McCain now seem to be interested simply in raising their own profiles and getting more TV time by spreading hazy insinuations of some sort of presidential coverup. Both are working overtime to try to figure out some way to pin this terrorist attack on the president and make it Barack Obama’s personal fault that Americans died.

We’ve been impressed in the past by Graham’s willingness to work across the aisle, to compromise and by his common sense, particularly on foreign relations issues. So at the risk of being overly cynical, Graham’s recent and repeated tossing of red meat to the most die-hard, conservative, Obama-hating wing of his party smells less like a true concern of his and more like a calculated move to shore up his base ahead of his re-election campaign next year. Perhaps we’re wrong about his motivations, but that wouldn’t change the fact that he’s simply wasting our time and his.

This horse has been beaten to death, senator. Time to jump on a new one.

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