Power Play

Political Motives Don’t Change Facts in Benghazi Probe

What we learned in Benghazi hearings. Immigration bill starts gantlet run. Plus - The RNC seeks to narrow tech gap.


“I think at about 2:00 p.m. the, 2:00 a.m., sorry, Secretary of State Clinton called me and along with her senior staff were all on the phone. And she asked me what was going on, and I briefed her on developments.”

-- Gregory Hicks, former deputy mission chief in Libya, testifying before the House Oversight Committee.

Democrats and many in the press are shrugging off the revelations in a hearing on the Islamist militant attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi as Republicans “playing politics.”

Yes. And?

Of course the politicians are playing politics. It’s what they do. Democrats who held hearings on Iranian arm deals and Watergate were “politically motivated.” So were the Republicans who went sniffing around Bill and Hillary Clinton’s business dealings.


Defenders of all the administrations reviled the accusers as political hacks, but that didn’t mean that what they found wasn’t true. Reagan shipped arms to the Contras and the Hillary Clinton developed a sudden, temporary and lucrative interest in trading cattle futures. Those revelations were helpful to the party out of power, but that didn’t make them untrue.

We are right to question the motives of anyone making an allegation, and therefore their account of events, but that doesn’t change the facts.

One of the most fascinating facts revealed in Wednesday’s House hearing on the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya is that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was up to speed on the attacks in pretty much real time. She had her 2 am phone call after all. And it seems not to have gone so well.

Clinton stood in front of the caskets of the slain Americans two days later and spoke of “rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with,” but during the attack itself she was getting a briefing on events – events that had nothing to do with, as she said casket-side,  “the tyranny of the mob.”

So why did she say that? Perhaps intelligence contradicted what she had been told by her team in Libya, only to be contradicted again. That’s the Democrats’ own politically motivated telling: that it took weeks for the truth to come out. How does that stack up to the Republican’s politically motivated claim that Clinton was covering herself and President Obama?

Add in the fact that Greg Hicks, the one who was briefing Clinton and begging to send reinforcements and relief to the doomed garrison, says he soon found himself in hot water with Sheryl Mills, Clinton’s top aide. Hicks said Mills was “very upset” with him for talking with congressional investigators about events. Hicks soon found himself demoted.

Hicks’ testimony was that Clinton knew of the nature of the attack in real time, declined an effort to try to provide aid and then, standing before the bodies of those killed, falsely blamed a Web video for mob violence.

It begins to seem that the first political motivation at play here was that of Clinton and Obama not wanting to look like they got caught napping on the 9/11 anniversary.

Republicans have a political motivation to ask. Democrats have a political motivation not to answer. But what of Hicks? There’s been no claim that he is a secret partisan, laying in wait in the famously liberal State Department for 22 years for the chance to zap a Democratic administration. It seems unlikely that he was anything but a company man given his posting to a key position in the country that is the centerpiece of Obama’s foreign policy.

What is being said by Democrats and some in the press of Hicks is that he is “emotional” about the murder of his colleagues, and perhaps not seeing things clearly. (Imagine if Republicans had brushed off Clinton’s bellowed denials at a Senate hearing on the subject as “emotional.”)

But even if Hicks is trying to avenge his slain colleagues for what he sees as indifference and deception by his superiors, that still doesn’t mean his claims aren’t true.

Whatever one thinks of Hicks’ emotional state, what he and his colleagues said on Wednesday was certainly enough to guarantee that there will be more hearings – yes, politically motivated ones – and more facts found.

And that’s pretty much how the system is designed to work. Maybe one day a president’s own party will be the one to initiate an investigation of wrongdoing, until then we will just have to count on the two competing parties to blow the whistle on each other.

And Now, A Word From Charles

“Intimidation is the equivalent of a cover-up.  If you're going to intimidate somebody as a way to shut that person up, you've got to cover up on your hands.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET  at  http:live.foxnews.com.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.