Saturday November 24, 2012

Alden Graves

There has been a lot of huffing and puffing over the prospect of the United States ambassador to the United Nations being appointed as Secretary of State following Hillary Clinton's departure. That isn't to say that, despite our newly unveiled bipartisan atmosphere in Washington, Mother Teresa wouldn't have encountered resistance if Barack Obama nominated her to symbolize Genuinely Nice People in the world.

The bipartisan spirit, tromped into dust by keepers of the Gingrich legacy, has cautiously re-emerged in the wake of the elections. It is heartening how conciliatory Newt's progeny can be when there is no other option.

Susan Rice's cardinal sin, it seems, was going on talk shows in the days following the assault on the American consulate in Benghazi and repeating the government's official fabrication that the motivation behind the attack was an anti-Muslim video that made "Plan 9 from Outer Space" look like a serious work of art.

Right from the start, the government was fairly certain that the attack on the consulate that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others was an act of terrorism. If an official cover-up was some kind of revelation to you, I hope you enjoyed your extended visit to Pluto. You can understand, however, why officials wouldn't jump at the prospect of immediately calling it by the second favorite word in the conservative lexicon of everyday button-pushers. ("Terrorism" still trails "taxes" by a significant amount, but it bumped "God" down into third place some time back.)

Still, the video excuse was clumsy and transparent.

David Petraeus, the former head of the CIA, reportedly testified to the terrorism factor at a congressional hearing last week, arriving on Capitol Hill in a black limo with tinted windows and three men who looked like extras in "The Godfather." The members of the committee treated Gen. Petraeus with some deference because: 1.) Politicians approach generals with more reverence than they would a piece of the Original Cross and 2.) This particular general has been through a lot lately.

In their never-ending game of one-upmanship, the FBI identified him as the heartthrob enmeshed in a particularly tacky episode of "Real Housewives of the CIA." And, let's face it, at this point Petraeus has very little to lose by being honest.

The Obama administration pulled the same kind of stunt when a raid by Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. Spin merchants pushed a scenario that had the al-Qaida leader shielding himself with his wife rather than being shot down on sight, which they obviously felt would offend delicate American sensibilities. The government seems to get its inspirations from bad movies and we, like star-struck audiences, are prone to buying the lies that dovetail nicely with our national delusions.

The Republicans saw the murderous assault in Libya as a chance to make some political hay before the presidential election. If Mitt Romney hadn't made that fact so blatantly obvious when he was exploiting the deaths, it might have gotten him a few more votes. A sticking point, of course, was the GOP's questionable assertion that something like Benghazi couldn't ever happen under their watch. They were going to accomplish that admirable goal by tough talk and by cutting the budgets for security to American outposts.

Better security, half the cost, and an even better show of stunned grief for the next group of victims. Guaranteed.

Mr. Romney got so much flack for his self-serving ploy that he didn't even have a chance -- at least to my knowledge -- to say that maybe he wouldn't cut the security budgets after all. You know, the way that FEMA didn't look so bad after Sandy ravaged the East Coast.

The phenomenon of treating the American public as if it was a massive group of pre-schoolers is hardly a new one. The indignity expressed by the GOP over the failure to protect the consulate and Mr. Obama's extreme makeover of the reason for the attack conveniently omitted any mention of the fact that Republican warriors under the command of Flyby W and his nightmare brigade of neocons suckered us into a catastrophic war in the Middle East after 9/11 under the guise of saving the world from Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, devices that remain elusive to this day. The war, however, continues.

So, let the bureaucrat who hasn't looked after his own butt cast the first disparagement.

Speaking of whom, John McCain is trying to reestablish his position as the country's biggest sore-loser after Romney's defeat, bipartisan spirit or no. McCain doesn't think Rice, who has a BA from Stanford, is a Rhodes scholar, and holds Ph.D and master's degrees from Oxford, is very bright. Senator McCain, you may recall, is the guy whose own cerebral luminescence told him that Sarah Palin was his ticket to victory in 2008.

McCain thinks that the Benghazi incident requires a full congressional committee investigation. Take a wild guess as to who he wants to head it up.

It could be a lot worse, folks. This might have happened a decade ago, George W. Bush might be lobbying for John Bolton as Secretary of State, he would probably be confirmed, and the planet would be a smoking cinder a month later.

Alden Graves is a columnist and reviewer for the Banner.