Republican Critics Say Obama May Have Learned His Lesson on Benghazi

On Iraq, the president earns faint praise from the GOP for protecting American lives.

President Barack Obama makes a statement on the situation in Iraq on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on June 13, 2014.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
June 20, 2014, 1:15 a.m.

Cri­ti­cism of Pres­id­ent Obama’s for­eign policy is roil­ing around the Cap­it­ol, as dev­ast­a­tion and ter­ror quickly creep through Ir­aq and House Re­pub­lic­ans pre­pare for yet an­oth­er in­vest­ig­a­tion of the 2012 at­tack that killed four Amer­ic­ans in Libya. But for all their highly charged rhet­or­ic aimed at the ad­min­is­tra­tion, Re­pub­lic­ans have one point of praise: Obama ap­pears to be build­ing on les­sons learned in Benghazi in work­ing to keep Amer­ic­ans in Ir­aq se­cure.

“What I see is a learn­ing from Benghazi,” Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham told Na­tion­al Journ­al this week, say­ing that the ad­min­is­tra­tion is “ab­so­lutely” do­ing a bet­ter job pro­tect­ing Amer­ic­ans there than they did in Libya just two years ago.

Al­though Gra­ham said that the ad­min­is­tra­tion should have seen the is­sues in Ir­aq com­ing soon­er, he largely praised their re­sponse in try­ing to pro­tect Amer­ic­ans in the coun­try, call­ing it a dir­ect re­sponse to what happened in Benghazi.

“To the ex­tent that they’ve been try­ing to provide some se­cur­ity, you know, try­ing to talk to the re­gion­al play­ers about se­cur­ity is a smart thing to do.”¦ We have a se­cur­ity situ­ation that is really de­teri­or­at­ing by the hour,” Gra­ham said. “So I think they’re try­ing to con­sol­id­ate se­cur­ity and they’re send­ing in people to beef it up, I think they’re reach­ing out to some re­gion­al play­ers, in­clud­ing Ir­an, who have some in­flu­ence…. I think they have learned some les­sons.”

GOP Sen. Johnny Isak­son echoed that sen­ti­ment, though he was less ef­fus­ive than Gra­ham. “I think the de­ploy­ment of the 275 troops to help them is a good idea. We can’t have it one way on Benghazi and have it an­oth­er way on Bagh­dad. State De­part­ment em­ploy­ees are crit­ic­al to our coun­try and they de­serve to be pro­tec­ted,” he said.

Many oth­er Re­pub­lic­an crit­ics of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­ac­tion in Benghazi couched their opin­ions in lar­ger con­cerns about Obama’s for­eign policy and the situ­ation in Ir­aq in gen­er­al. But cri­ti­cism of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s abil­ity to pro­tect Amer­ic­ans abroad has been re­mark­ably ab­sent from Cap­it­ol Hill this week, as mem­bers of the Is­lam­ic State of Ir­aq and Syr­ia have moved closer to Bagh­dad and the thou­sands of Amer­ic­ans at the em­bassy there, some of whom are be­ing evac­u­ated.

“Yeah, sure, I’m glad to do what we need to, im­prov­ing em­bassy se­cur­ity. But that doesn’t in any way ad­dress the prob­lem of what’s go­ing on,” Sen. John Mc­Cain said.

Rep. Adam Kin­zinger, an Air Force vet­er­an and mem­ber of the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, called the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­sponse in Ir­aq “feck­less” over­all, but said that the les­sons of Benghazi did seem to be seep­ing in, in terms of pro­tect­ing the em­bassies.

“I think Benghazi’s ob­vi­ously an idea that you’ve got to keep your people safe,” he said. “Ir­aq is like the most pro­tec­ted com­pound we have…. I don’t have a lot of con­cerns about IS­IS over­run­ning our com­pound. But I think [beef­ing up se­cur­ity there] sends a mes­sage that we’re here to stay.”

Sen. Ron John­son, who serves on the Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, and House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Buck McK­eon said they too are hope­ful that the ad­min­is­tra­tion had learned its les­son. “They’ve sent 275 people there. And I’m hope­ful that’s enough,” McK­eon said.

“They’re cer­tainly say­ing the right things,” John­son said, sig­nal­ing his sup­port for ad­di­tion­al se­cur­ity in the coun­try. “Let’s hope they take the right ac­tions.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert signaled that the ad­min­is­tra­tion may be re­spond­ing ap­pro­pri­ately in this latest in­cid­ent, but that the is­sues at Benghazi will con­tin­ue to be a fo­cus for the party. Gohmert poin­ted to oft-quoted testi­mony former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton gave on wheth­er the Benghazi at­tacks were pre­ceded by a protest. “All I can hear is the former sec­ret­ary of State say­ing, ‘What dif­fer­ence [at this point] does it make?’ Maybe they’ve figured out that it does make a dif­fer­ence,” he said.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 5035) }}

What We're Following See More »
MORE EXECUTIVE ORDERS
Panama Papers Spur White House to Crack Down on Evasion
48 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

In the The White House on Thursday night unveiled a series of executive actions to combat money laundering—"among the most comprehensive response yet to the Panama Papers revelations." The president's orders will tighten transparency rules, close loopholes that allow "foreigners to hide financial activity behind anonymous entities in the U.S., and demand stricter “customer due diligence” rules for banks.

Source:
THE QUESTION
Who’s #NeverTrump Courting as Possible Candidates
57 minutes ago
THE ANSWER

The #NeverTrump movement is now mulling the idea of recruiting a candidate to run as an independent or under a third-party banner. But who might it be? The Hill offers a preliminary list.

  • Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE)
  • Mitt Romney
  • 2012 (and perhaps 2016) Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson
  • Former Marine Gen. John Kelly
  • Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI)
  • Former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
  • South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Source:
362,000 JOBS ADDED
‘Mildly Disappointing’ Jobs Report
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The U.S. economy added 160,000 jobs in April, a "mildly disappointing" result relative to the 200,000 expected, according to the New York Times' Neil Irwin. On the plus side, hourly earnings were up 2.5% from a year ago. But on the other hand, "the labor force shrank by 362,000 people and the labor force participation rate fell by 0.2 percentage points."

Source:
AND VICE VERSA
Plurality of Trump Voters Just Want to Stop Clinton
1 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

"Nearly half of American voters who support either Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump for the White House said they will mainly be trying to block the other side from winning, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Thursday." When Trump supporters were asked to give their primary reason for supporting him, 47% said to block Clinton from winning. In almost a mirror image, 46% of Clinton supporters said they were primarily out to thwart Trump.

Source:
IF HE’LL JUST LISTEN…
Many GOPers Still Think Trump Can Be Brought to Heel
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS
×