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Benghazi in the Eyes of Congress: ‘It’s Not Going to Go Away’

"Every day I find out something more horrific": Intelligence and Armed Services committee members talk exclusively to PJM about what's next.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

October 26, 2012 - 3:38 pm
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A member of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees said “it would be a dereliction of duty if we didn’t ask questions.”

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who prophetically yelled “You lie!” during President Obama’s September 2009 address to a joint session of Congress, also told PJM this afternoon he believes the administration is guilty of an “intentional misstatement of the truth.”

Wilson called the “revelation of misrepresentation” in the Benghazi mess a “distorted effort by the administration to distract the American people from the failure of administration policy to address jihadists.”

“From the beginning this has just been a spectacle of obfuscation and distortion,” he said. “I sadly believe it’s an intentional cover-up. I just can’t fathom a level of incompetence to this degree.”

“Every day I find out something more horrific than the moment before. …This is just shocking.”

While the “absurd blaming of this on an obscure video” was happening, the congressman said, “I knew within 15 seconds that it was a celebration of 9/11 by jihadists.”

Wilson noted he has four sons serving in the military and counts on the president “to make every effort for their security.”

“I’ve always felt like national security was the prime function of the national government,” he said, but is “painfully aware” that the issue is polling at minimal levels with voters even in his district who are “rightfully” concerned about jobs first and foremost.

Nunes said he believes more and more people are paying attention to Benghazi because of the growing cover-up.

“But taking the politics out of this, we’ve got a problem here — a big one,” he said. “It has nothing to do with politics.”

Democrats have been accusing the GOP of politicizing the tragedy for election-year gain.

“This isn’t about politics now for those of us on the committee,” Nunes said. “Benghazi is a much larger question. It comes down to: Do you trust this president on foreign policy?”

And that question could come up in close races a week and a half from today, he said.

“Do you really trust this president on foreign policy? Do you trust him on Iran? Do you trust him on Russia when you know what he said to Medvedev?” Nunes said, adding he sees “anecdotal evidence” that foreign policy polling numbers “are going to continue to get worse for president, and it’s his own fault.”

If not for the cover-up, the congressman stressed, voters may have not paid much attention to Benghazi.

“He made it the issue,” Nunes said. “They did it to themselves. Now you’re being to see the emperor has no clothes here because the campaign narrative doesn’t match the facts on the ground.”

What’s especially “ridiculous,” he added, is Obama had a golden chance to “look presidential” if he had come out right away and announced the U.S. had been the target of another 9/11 attack.

“I think this country would have had to rally around him, even Republicans,” Nunes said.

“From the beginning, it seems the president has been more concerned with how the unfolding story of the Benghazi attack would affect his re-election, than in providing the American public and the families of those brave Americans who lost their lives, the truth,” said Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. ”The more we learn about the details of the attack and the response to it, the less the administration’s previous statements square with the facts we now know.”

“I urge the president to stop playing politics and give the American public a full and honest accounting of the facts surrounding the Benghazi attack,” she said.

Wilson said he believes that Obama threw Secretary of State Hillary Clinton under the bus in an attempt to deflect criticism from the White House.

“I think that she was sacrificed,” he said. “I think the intelligence community, including the CIA, was slammed.”

Nunes isn’t inclined to think the secretary was just collateral damage, though.

“Did Hillary really get thrown under the bus or was she part of it?” he said. “I find it hard to believe that she didn’t know about this and wasn’t a part of it.”

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Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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