Political Animal


May 10, 2013 12:39 PM Could Benghazi! Have Been Big 2012 Campaign Issue? Nope.

By Ed Kilgore

With the news that the RNC actually put together a nasty 2012 ad on Benghazi! that the Romney campaign vetoed, you can see the next conservative revisionist theory approaching fast in the rear-view window, can’t you? The incompetent squishes running the campaign of the incompetent squish Mitt Romney threw away the election by failing to deploy this game-changer!

Slate’s Dave Weigel nicely punctures this thought-balloon before it has been fully inflated:

This was never going to work. We learned why not during the election but during the weeks around the George W. Bush Presidential Center dedication. Bush, you’ll remember, was president during the deadliest terrorist attack ever on American soil. Yet Bush’s defenders credited him with Keeping America Safe. How? As Jennifer Rubin put it (though you could quote one of dozens of pundits), “there was no successful attack on the homeland after 9/11” while Bush was at the wheel.
This is mockable (Charlie Pierce calls it “the great mulligan”) but astute. Bush got re-elected on this theory. Americans are fretful about terrorism only to the extent that it might kill them in America. The Bush-era response to terrorism led to two fitfully successful land wars in central Asia, with thousands of military deaths; more relevantly, when we’re talking Benghazi, the Bush years saw 64 attacks of varying scale on American diplomats and embassies. None of them hurt his re-election. A terrorist attack of the same scale in, say, Indianapolis would have. Not overseas.

To put it another way, if George W. Bush got re-elected after disregarding every official and unofficial warning about the consequences of invading Iraq, not just fudging some post-event “talking points” on Sunday shows but lying to the American people and the whole world personally and repeatedly about the justifications for the war and how it was actually proceeding, then the idea that Obama could have been defeated by Benghazi! even if you assume the absolute worst about it is simply ludicrous. But we’re going to hear it anyway.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Peter C on May 10, 2013 1:00 PM:

    They don't care if it makes sense as long as it sounds OUTRAGED! If they are convincingly OUTRAGED, then some people who aren't paying attention will assume that their is a valid reason behind their outrage.

    For the first two or three times, you get a HUGE reaction when you cry 'Wolf!'. It's cheap and astonishingly effective.

    I sincerely hope that we're getting to a point where a rapidly increasing number of us approach everything they say with a healthy dose of skepticism. Arguably, a safe majority failed to believe that Romney was really looking out for the little guy despite his occasionally wearing flannel.

  • FriscoSF on May 10, 2013 1:13 PM:

    DURING the Iraq War ??
    After 'Mission Accomplished' ?
    After 'Heckuva Job, Brownie' ?
    After the Bush Housing Bubble ?
    After the Bush Economic Collaspse ??

    I'll get back to you on that

  • Lance on May 10, 2013 1:15 PM:

    Thanks for this. A great observation.

  • c u n d gulag on May 10, 2013 1:28 PM:

    They're shouting in the echo chambers of their own minds, wondering why no one understands what they think they maybe know.

    Why can't people see that this is, in the words of that loon, Steve King, "...worse than Watergate and Iran Contra - TIMES !!!!"

    I love that his benchmarks for Presidential over-reach, and cover-ups, are two Republican Presidents, and their actions.
    One who was impeached, and the other who should have been.

  • Hyde on May 10, 2013 2:34 PM:

    More to the point, there's absolutely no evidence that the electorate would have turned on Obama even had Benghazi been obvious as a "terrorist attack" all along. There's a long history of just the opposite: the public rallying around the president after a national security-related tragedy, with the post 9/11 afterglow for Bush being the most obvious example. Even Jimmy Carter got a boost from the hostage crisis that lasted for months and helped kill off the Kennedy challenge.

  • jjm on May 10, 2013 2:43 PM:

    Proceed, governor (or "GOP") ...

  • weirdnoise on May 10, 2013 4:15 PM:

    Until they find something like the Blue Dress to wave around, this is all they have.

  • Fred on May 11, 2013 11:17 AM:

    George W Bush got re-elected after ignoring every official and unofficial warning about the consequences of ignoring Osama bin Laden pre 9/11.