The Politics of Benghazi

The terrorist attack on the United State’s Libyan Embassy in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 has continually received substantial news coverage and national attention. The attack, which killed three servicemen and a diplomat, has generally been concluded to have been poorly handled by the Department of State. The Department of State has been evaluated as making a significant error in not securing the compound effectively despite warnings of increasing safety concerns. However, to our current knowledge, U.S. intelligence had very little warning of the attack and could only act minimally once the attack began. Another claim, is that the Obama administration did not fully satisfy post attack questioning. Press coverage, particularly on Fox News, as well as questioning by members of Congress, have been trying to uncover explanations for the attack and poor post attack follow-up. Seventeen months ago, and $4.5 million tax dollars previously, the House Select Committee on Benghazi was formed by Republican House members, in which several House Democrats joined following weary deliberation. The committee has since interviewed C.I.A. operatives, many individuals from the Department of State, and soon, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The committee has also scheduled hearings from two speechwriters and one technology employee in charge of Hillary Clinton’s email server. During the past few weeks, it was revealed by House Majority Leader and former House Speaker candidate Kevin McCarthy, that the Benghazi Committee has been useful in decreasing Clinton’s popularity in the polls.

Over the weekend, Major Bradley Podliska alleged that he was fired as a staff member of the Republican led Benghazi congressional committee due to his refusal to focus on former Secretary of State and presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton’s email account. Major Podliska’s comments were made following former House Speaker nominee Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Major Podliska’s assertions has been vehemently rebutted by South Carolina Representative Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the Benghazi committee. As of Monday October 12, Podliska and his lawyers issued a Cease-and-Desist letter to Rep. Gowdy claiming that he violated confidentiality in the midst of the committee’s and Podliska’s legal mediation process following his firing. The New York Times, who first broke the story, elevate the importance of Podliska’s remarks within their article, “Clinton Emails Became the New Focus of Benghazi Inquiry.” Fox News, on the other hand, seeks to disregard Podliska’s comments in their article “Gowdy: Fired Benghazi Panel Staffer Decided to ‘Run the Press’ After Failed Effort to Get Money.” An explanation for their disregard could be due to Fox’s attachment to the Benghazi investigation, whose belief of the committee has been ample.

The Fox News article, with no known author, concentrates solely on Rep. Gowdy’s response to Podliska’s allegations, besides a brief comment from Rep. Elijah Cummings listed as a “top Democrat” on the committee. Podliska is alluded to only through summarization and through Gowdy’s perspective. Fox’s timeline of events lacks detail and depends on Rep. Gowdy’s series of comments regarding Podliska throughout the course of the weekend. Character assassination is mostly present, and is begun by Rep. Gowdy’s assertion that he never met Podliska, but he knows through his fellow committee members that they were concerned about his own efforts to concentrate on Secretary Clinton. It later states however, that Podliska “has never mentioned Clinton” in the time frame of his pre-firing, post-firing, and subsequent legal mediation with the committee. Rep. Gowdy then goes on to claim that Podliska’s relationship with the press began following the denial of a cash settlement during the mediation process. The article then proposes, that House Democrats have garnered Rep. McCarthy’s and Major Podliska’s comments as fuel to dismantle the committee. Following Rep. Gowdy’s first set of quotations, a brief sentence is allotted to the individuals who perished in the attacks. However, after this brief recognition, it reverts back to Rep. Gowdy’s attack on Podliska’s character by restating his motives and the committee’s reasoning behind his firing. The article ends with a final comment reiterating the purpose of the committee.

The New York Times article by Eric Lipton, Noam Schreiber, and Michael S. Schmidt, concentrates not on Rep. Gowdy’s rebuttal, but on Secretary Clinton’s emails which have become the focus of the Benghazi committee. The article’s timeline centers on Podliska’s comments as insightful in detailing the efforts of the committee and its inner workings. Unlike the Fox article, the authors encompass and summarize every source present so far, as well as the history of the committee’s formation. While a few quotations are from Rep. Gowdy, in regards to his responses to Podliska’s allegations, they center around Secretary Clinton’s emails stating, that Rep. Gowdy believes the Secretary of State’s emails are absolutely necessary in providing insight into the diplomatic situation previous to the attack. However, Secretary’s Clinton’s emails were not previously deemed to be important until a State Department official revealed she had been using her private email account. Interestingly, they also include comments made by Podliska regarding the acknowledged inefficiency of the committee’s progress. He states that committee members and their staff had “Wine Wednesdays” and a “Gun-Buying Club” while work was postponed as other staff members searched 50,000 articles by hand. The article infers that the Republican leadership refocused their approach toward the emails and its potential to damage Secretary Clinton’s polls, but allowed Rep. Gowdy to offer a legitimate front, to in other words, “kill two-birds with one stone.”

Essentially, the reporting of Podliska’s allegations and the committee’s heightened interest into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email, point toward two different conclusions. The New York Times inferred that the email scandal has repurposed the goal of the committee. Fox infers that Podliska has undermined the committee’s true function and believes his insights are entirely uninfluential to the committee’s findings. In considering both perspectives, I would agree that both articles point toward the possibility that the Republican leadership used Secretary Clinton’s emails alongside the committee’s publicly stated goals. I think it would be naive not to believe Rep. McCarthy’s assertions. Whether or not Podliska’s allegations are true, McCarthy’s comments provide a direct line of evidence to the committee’s double purpose, at least within the Republican leadership.

The Fox News Article

The New York Times Article

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The Politics of Benghazi

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