What Motivates John McCain on Benghazi and Susan Rice? (Updates)

UPDATE III:

Andrew Rosenthal at the New York Times also ‘takes note’ of how Republicans (I would be more specific and call it the ‘Benghazi Desperados’) have “applied standards to Rice, the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, that they would never apply to a Republican administration official, and never have.” Rosenthal rightly adds parenthetically, “Where was their outrage when Secretary of State Colin Powell sold the United Nations a barrel of snake oil to justify the invasion of Iraq?”

What is truly shabby and unfortunate about this entire episode is that in their Jihad against Rice, these few Republicans have not only sabotaged Susan Rice’s nomination to become the next Secretary of State, but, as Rosenthal says, they “ have also obscured the real issues surrounding the attack on the American mission in Benghazi on Sept. 11 — during which Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others were killed — in favor of an endless discussion of what Ms. Rice said on a Sunday morning gab show five days later.”

Read more here.

UPDATE II:

Scott Shane over at the New York Times, I believe has gotten it right.

He says:

More than 10 weeks later, the four pallid sentences that intelligence analysts cautiously delivered are the unlikely center of a quintessential Washington drama, in which a genuine tragedy has been fed into the meat grinder of election-year politics.

And suggests:

In the process, the most important questions about Benghazi, where Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Sept. 11, have largely gotten lost: Were requests for greater security for diplomats in Libya ignored? Even if Al Qaeda’s core in Pakistan has been decimated, what threat is posed by its affiliates and imitators in other countries where they have taken refuge? How can crucial diplomacy be conducted amid the dangerous chaos that has followed the toppling of dictators across the Arab world?

Amen! Those are the issues we should be examining. Those are the questions we should be asking.

And, yes, if Susan Rice misspoke, if the talking points were altered or parsed, if she emphasized the wrong aspects of the attack, it should affect her political career according to the extent of her botched performance. But let us first address the causes for and the main actors in this tragedy, the prologue, not the bit actors in the epilogue.

UPDATE I:

Wow! Jon Stewart, last night, said it all so much better — and with much more humor and sarcasm — than I ever could:

…rewind to a decade ago, Stewart said, when McCain and Graham supported American intervention in Iraq and even defended former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s erroneous claims of weapons of mass destruction in that country.

Watch the video here

Original post:

It is normally very difficult — perhaps impossible — to divine what motivates people to do or say certain things.

I say “normally” because there are times when figuring out people’s motives is a piece of cake.

Take for example John McCain’s courageous — heroic is a better word — conduct while a Prisoner of War in Hanoi during the Vietnam War.

Clearly, strong patriotism and a deep love of country were some of the values that motivated the Senator to honorably and heroically endure and survive those long, torture-filled years.

But recently, especially in the aftermath of the attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi — an attack that tragically claimed four American lives — McCain’s performance has been puzzling, if not disappointing, as he has politicized the attack and has gone after United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice in a very personal and vicious manner.

Some say it is bitterness, sour grapes after his 2008 presidential election loss against Barack Obama. Perhaps.

One of our contributors says, “McCain has become a case study in lingering bitterness as he morphed from outspoken maverick to cranky old conservative with a hair-trigger temper.”

Some have suggested that his demands for a special Watergate-like select committee to investigate Benghazi (there are several other investigations already ongoing), stem from the fact that, in January, the Arizona senator will lose his seat as the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, due to term limits.

Thus, unless the Senate creates a brand-new select committee with extensive authority to investigate Benghazi — a committee where McCain would probably be the ranking member — the Senator could very well fade into oblivion, perhaps as the ranking member of the Indian Affairs Committee.

Some have suggested an even deeper, more “sinister” motive — albeit a little less narcissist on the part of McCain, because it is “for the Party.”

By demonizing Rice and effectively sandbagging her Senate nomination for Secretary of State — “Borking” her, oh sweet revenge! — Obama’s hand will be forced and he may nominate Sen. John Kerry for that position. Should this happen, voilà, Kerry’s Democratic Senate seat is suddenly vacant and vulnerable.

In a special election, Republican Scott Brown would have a fair chance of winning that important Senate seat. Rachel Maddow, for one, believes that this whole fight over Ambassador Rice is “all about the numbers” and an important factor in the Benghazi-Susan Rice “affair.” According to the The New York Times, “Several senators, including Mr. McCain, said they would prefer Mr. Kerry and predicted that he would sail through a confirmation hearing.”

It is an interesting theory. However, we are straying from individual motivation, John McCain’s, into the territory of group psychosis — the Republican Party’s.

Thus back to John McCain’s motives for his Benghazi witch-hunt and his Susan Rice obsession.

In all fairness to the Senator, we should not overlook that his motives and intentions may be as pure as the driven snow in Arizona.

His concerns for truth, transparency and trustworthiness on the part of any administration, whether Democratic or Republican, and for the integrity of their staffs and of their nominees for critical positions in our government are unimpeachable, as evidenced by the following actions:

When he vigorously opposed the case for going to war against Iraq, because it was based on faulty intelligence and concocted under false pretenses. A war that killed, not four, but more than four thousand of our troops.

When he aggressively challenged and demanded investigations of the fabricated intelligence information about Iraq’s military (WMD) capabilities that was provided to Colin Powell and which the general presented to the UN Security Council in February 2003.

When he uprightly blocked the confirmation of National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice — who had made a false and public case for the Iraq war based on misleading information — as Secretary of State in 2005.

When, once the scope of the shenanigans leading up to and occurring during the disaster that came to be the Iraq War became crystal clear, McCain consistently and tenaciously pushed for special select committees to investigate the reasons for such gross malfeasance and deception at the highest levels of our government.

We may never know what motivates this “Maverick,” but we can make some assumptions that will be called reasonable or outrageous, depending on the views — and sometimes the (political) motives — of those who make such judgments.

On the other hand, today, a reporter, far from conservative, in a newspaper — also, far from conservative — has formed some opinions that may give this story — as they say — more legs, as she asks:

Are the Republican senators unreasonable? Or is the secretary of state-manqué undiplomatic? Did the senators sandbag Susan Rice? Or did Rice further inflame a tense situation? Is it a case of shooting the messenger and playing politics? Or is national security dangerously infected with politics?

Of course, included in “the Republican senators” is John McCain.

Maureen Dowd’s questions and opinions will probably change the political “Benghazi-Rice” landscape somewhat. But,in this writer’s opinion, motives are difficult to change, retroactively.

  

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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