One more fear-mongering diversion sidetracked, but how many more to go?
Another Republican-controlled congressional committee quietly filed the report on its long investigation of the great Benghazi affair late Friday afternoon, when governments everywhere take official actions they hope will be overlooked and forgotten. They had already held up the report until after the midterm election so that it would not give any relief to the president and his party.
After many hours of hearings and reviewing thousands of intelligence documents and interviews, the 12 Republicans and nine Democrats of the House Intelligence Committee unanimously concluded that the Obama administration did nothing wrong at Benghazi and, in fact, many of those involved were heroes. This was the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. embassy in a remote city in strife-riven Libya in which four Americans, including the ambassador, were killed. Seven previous Benghazi investigations had concluded the same thing, but this one was led by the Republican hotspurs.
Benghazi was one of many terrorist attacks on U.S. facilities since the 1980s but it became the greatest conspiracy and presidential failure of the century, worse even than the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon, which followed President Bush’s brushing aside of repeated intelligence briefings that al Qaeda planned an attack on the United States using airliners. (Remember that Dick Cheney insisted to Bush that Saddam Hussein planted the rumors as a diversion.)
The attack occurred two months before the 2012 presidential election and Republicans hoped it gave them a wedge. Conspiracy theories abounded: Obama orchestrated the attack as a September surprise to drive voters to his side; the Obama administration covered up a scandal behind the attacks; the deaths were a botched kidnapping that was to free a U.S.-held terrorist; Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky figured it was a cover-up of a secret U.S. weapons operation authorized by Obama; conservative commentator Pat Buchanan said Benghazi was a far bigger scandal than Watergate and hinted that impeachment was the remedy as it was to have been for his boss Nixon.
Talk of impeachment continued for two years. Here in remote Arkansas, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial page thundered about the Benghazi scandal with regularity, splitting the blame between Obama and his secretary of state, the former Arkansas first lady. Its editorialists and columnists were still averaging a Benghazi diatribe a week through this summer. The upshot of it all was that the president and his party had made Americans unsafe.
A few Republicans will try to keep Benghazi alive for the next two years but predominantly the party says let’s drop it. They have plenty of other ways to keep fear alive, although some of those are weakening, too.
The Ebola hysteria has dissolved from its peak in the weeks before the election. You sense that the public now calmly sees it as far less a threat to their well being than the periodic flu epidemics that kill tens of thousands of Americans.
Only weeks ago, Fox News, the radio talk shows and Republican members of Congress were terrorizing the country with warnings about what Obama was doing to the country by letting American medical workers go to West Africa and allowing them and others to return to our shores. There was Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas broadcasting the theory that Obama wanted Ebola to spread across the United States so that he could issue an executive order assuming emergency powers and maybe cancel the 2016 election. Also, Obama was sending U.S. soldiers to West Africa to intentionally infect them with the virus and persecute Christians back in the U.S. The president’s already low approval ratings sank further. It all fit nicely with the convictions of many Arkansans that Obama had an anti-American agenda that had to be stopped.
The fear-baiting immigrant crisis is, alas, alive and well, although it, too, may be running out of legs. While border crossings have almost stopped under Obama, tea-party Republicans have kept alive the fear that the president was going to reward 12 million criminals who came to the country illegally by giving them amnesty and citizenship. When the president last week lifted, for only two years, the threat of expulsion for some 4 million law-abiding parents of U.S. citizens, even Republican leaders who have championed immigration reform were compelled by the extremist wing of the party to call the president a tyrant who was ripping up the Constitution. There is not even a farfetched case that the president cannot employ the executive power of prosecutorial discretion that the Constitution and the statutes clearly give him.
Even the editorial page of the Democrat-Gazette, which has never found another worthy thing Obama has done, had to congratulate him for doing something the paper had long advocated. The Catholic hierarchy, a persistent foe of the president’s policies, lauded him for doing the Christian thing.
There is still Obamacare, but its days of engendering fear are about over, too. Polls show that Americans by huge margins like each aspect of the insurance reform — its protections for insurance policyholders, its extension of those protections to people with low incomes and, for those who know it, the way it is driving down future health costs and the federal budget deficit.
But the word Obamacare still terrorized people this fall, a carryover from the massive advertising campaign of 2009 and 2010 that there were secret things in the law that would kill them — a government panel would kill old folks when they got badly sick, the government would dictate the doctor everyone saw and the care they received, Medicare would be taken from them or reduced, and the law would bankrupt the country — all bogus.
We have nothing to fear but fear itself, but when another election is around the corner it is usually enough.