Yesterday was a very interesting day. The President vetoed the Defense Authorization Budget. The U.S. military assisted the Kurds in rescuing up to 70 prisoners, or rather hostages, from an ISIS prison in Iraq. The Kurds were worried that these hostages were going to be murdered and requested assistance. All of the hostages were rescued, and some ISIS fighters were captured. Unfortunately, one American Serviceman was killed during the raid. He is the first American killed in Iraq in over four years.
Also yesterday, Paul Ryan officially announced that he will be running for the office of Speaker of the House. He apparently made enough concessions to the wacko fringe of the party to ensure he would get the title. It isn’t any wonder that Ryan gave any concessions, after all, he is just as wacko as they are. I love the idea that he “wants family time” even after becoming Speaker of the House, but is totally against paid “family leave” for the rest of Americans. But, that is how conservatives think. They are far more important than you are.
Normally, either of these three stories would be the headline story on any other day. But, also yesterday, the Select Committee on Benghazi questioned former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And, as we all know, that is far more important, at least to Republicans, than the other three stories. I was somewhat busy yesterday, so I did not watch the entire 11 hours of testimony. I did watch about 7 hours of it.
I could go on about how this hearing proved that this committee is nothing but a partisan game to try to hurt Clinton and her Presidential aspirations. How stupid most of the questioning from Republicans actually was. Or, how the only member of the committee who actually wanted to know what has happened since, and asked pointed questions about that was Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat. But, that would be about as redundant as most of the questions posed to Ms. Clinton by the Republican side of the aisle.
No, instead I want to discuss the absolute ignorance that these people seem to have about how a department in our government works. These are all sitting members of congress, and they should have at least a basic understanding about how a department operates. From their questioning, they proved to me they have no clue.
I was in the U.S. Coast Guard for 20 years. During my time, I served in a few posts that made me work with other agencies including the State Department. My rating in communications made that a necessity at several places I was stationed. So, let me fill you in on how things really work and the total lack of knowledge these people have.
The committee members on the Republican side constantly peppered her with questions about email. In today’s world, many people think that the government only operates email to get things done. That is a false assumption. Email service is too unreliable to serve as primary communications for a world-wide operation. No, other means of communications, more secure and more reliable are primarily used to communicate with the “bosses.”
So, this rampant hounding about emails and who had and who didn’t have Clinton’s personal email address is not only futile, but it is totally misleading. Government departments use varying methods of communications. Some are secure for classified messages, and others are open for unclassified material.
Ambassador Stevens would have had access to these more reliable communications whenever he wanted to contact the Secretary. Suggesting that he would have used email, especially in an urgent situation is ludicrous. No one in his position would have tried to reach his boss via email. They would use the more reliable and secure communications methods available.
There were several attempts to pin her down about whether or not security concerns reached her desk. They tried to imply that she “didn’t care” about her employees because not all of those requests reached her desk. All government agencies, including the military, have departments. These departments have department heads. It is the responsibility of those department heads to make decisions on requests from the field.
That is normal practice. As we put it in the service, you give people the responsibility and the “authority” to do the job they are required to do. There is no place for “micromanagement” in agencies this large. If a department head feels something needs to be “sent up the chain” that is what they do. If not, they handle it on their own. If the people in the field disagree with that decision, they are free to move it up the chain by themselves.
If Ambassador Stevens felt that he needed something and was refused at the department head level, he would surely have gone up the chain himself. He did have direct access to the Secretary for just that purpose.
This type of set-up is necessary and common in government agencies. There are two basic types of employees at the State Department. One is appointed officials, like the Secretary of State. The others are career professional employees. These professional employees are experts in their fields. They are relied upon by the appointed employees to do their job and make the correct decision.
We know that some mistakes were made. Unfortunately, mistakes are part of life and sometimes those mistakes result in tragedy. But, there is a big difference between mistakes and dereliction of duty or incompetence. You don’t “fire” employees because they make a mistake, as the Republicans on the committee kept asking about who was “fired” after the incident.
The previous eight committee hearings and the independent review conducted all cleared everyone of incompetence or dereliction of duty. So, why should they have “fired” anyone? They shouldn’t have and they didn’t. There have been corrections made based on the recommendations of that review panel. As a result, our diplomats are safer than they were before Benghazi.
That does not mean they are totally safe and nothing like this will ever happen again. It means that we must learn from things that happened in the past, and not make the same mistakes again. But, that doesn’t seem to matter to the Republican side of the committee.
At one point, one Republican cited an uptick in violence in Libya in the four months prior to the attack. She used that information to suggest that we should have “pulled out of Libya” so this wouldn’t happen. Well, we have seen a huge uptick in “domestic violence” in this country in the last several months. What does she propose doing about that?
They don’t even understand how budgets work. At one point, it was criticized that $20 million dollars had been used to help Libya upgrade their security to help protect our officials. The wondered why that money wasn’t used for security at the compound. They apparently haven’t heard about how the budgets are compartmentalized.
Without approval, in this case from Congress, you cannot move money around the various compartments. It is the responsibility of the host government to provide security for our embassies and consulates. There is a bucket of money to be used to help them do that. The money for the compound comes out of a different “bucket.” That is the “bucket” that Congress has failed to increase year after year. In the year leading up to the attack, the State Department asked for $300 million increase in this part of the budget. Congress disapproved that money.
To drive that point home, one Republican claimed that the changes and upgrades at the compound were “paid for out of petty-cash” and should be considered “temporary.” If that $300 million had been approved, the State Department would not have had to pay for upgrades out of “petty-cash.”
We live in a very dangerous world. There are crazies around just about every corner. This is true internationally as well as within our own borders. How can someone even suggest that we “run away from danger?” Especially when that person is a member of a political party that constantly talks about American Power and American Exceptionalism. What about “leading from the front” that they also are fond of saying. How is running away because there is violence in an area “leading from the front?”
Sorry, but all the hearing yesterday proved was that the Republicans on this committee have no clue how the real world operates. It also proves that they have no clue how government agencies operate. They showed up with their “talking points” and shouted into the cameras for personal gain back home. They did nothing to shed any new light or any new information about what happened that night.
Even Trey Gowdy couldn’t answer a simple question after the marathon was over. One reporter asked him, on camera, what new information he learned today. He stumbled around and finally said, “I’ll have to look at the transcript to see if there was anything new.” After 11 hours of testimony, he needs to look at the transcripts to see if any new information was presented. Meaning, nothing new came to light.
If you really want to know just how bad yesterday’s hearing was, I went to foxnews.com this morning to see how that wonderful propaganda machine would spin the hearing. There was not one single story on the front page that even mentioned the hearings. That tells me there was nothing to talk about or they would have been all over it like flies on shit.
Yesterday we were subjected to 11 hours of sheer boredom. That boredom was occasionally interrupted by stupidity. Like when Clinton was asked “were you home alone all night?” I have witnessed a number of congressional hearings in my lifetime. It started for me with the Impeachment Hearings of President Nixon. I watched the hearings about Iran-Contra scandal. I saw the hearings when 250 Marines were killed in Lebanon by a terrorist truck bomb. I saw the impeachment hearing for Bill Clinton.
I must admit, that even the impeachment hearing for Bill Clinton was far less politicized by the committee members than what I saw yesterday. Yesterday I witnessed a bunch of politicians asking meaningless questions all the while claiming to “get to the truth.” I still don’t know what “truth” they are trying to get to, and apparently neither do they.
Since they don’t seem to know what “truth” they are trying to get to, it must be assumed that this is nothing but a political stunt just like several members of their own party has said it was. At the very least, don’t you think that someone on that panel should know how the government agencies actually work? Shouldn’t someone on that panel have an understanding of “macromanagement” which is used in all agencies of the government?
If anyone on the panel had any knowledge of this, maybe we would have heard some intelligent questions. But then, that would mean doing some homework. That would mean putting aside your political agenda in favor of intelligently looking at what happened.
I have no doubt that yesterday’s 11 hour marathon was solely intended to “wear down” Ms. Clinton hoping for that “gotcha” moment. It didn’t happen. The conservatives have been licking their chops for months over this particular hearing. But, it was so bad, even Fox News didn’t put it in a headline this morning.
Sorry Mr. Gowdy, your committee is a sham. It is serving absolutely no purpose of any consequence that will actually help the government. It is a political witch-hunt for the sole purpose of making someone look bad. Your panel’s questioning yesterday drove that home quite nicely.
Oh, I know the conservatives will not let go of this bone. They already believe that they proved Clinton was corrupt. They believe that the majority of Americans don’t see through their sham. Some people have called this committee a charade. I won’t. In order for a charade to work, it needs planning. You must convince people that what you are saying is the truth even though you know it is a lie.
This committee has no plan. It has no goal other than politics. It has no leadership. As a result, it is not a charade, because it has no intelligence. It is merely a sham and it is time for it to go away. If the Speaker of the House had any courage, he would pull the plug on this fiasco. But no one ever accused John Boehner of having any courage.
As a result, we will continue to see this mess go on, and on, and on. Probably right up to the election in 2016. We will see continued “selective” leaks from the Republican side to attempt to “hurt” Ms. Clinton. We will see more of the same and nothing will be done of any use.
The Congresswoman from Indiana seems to think that since Ms. Clinton didn’t fly to Libya immediately and hug the survivors, she didn’t care about them. In my opinion, it is very clear that the Republicans on this committee are the ones who don’t care about the survivors or the families of those we lost. If they did care, they wouldn’t be playing political football with the memory of their sacrifice.
The career professionals who serve our country are brave, dedicated individuals. They serve our country, not in the name of money, but in the name of love of one’s country. They risk their lives in many areas of the world, and they understand the risks they are taking. What transpired yesterday was an insult to their bravery and their dedication.
The Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for their performance yesterday. But, since they aren’t, we should shame them for it instead. Our dedicated government workers deserve at least that much.
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