Analysis: Republicans on Benghazi

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., questions Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., questions Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

As Republicans grilled Hillary Clinton on the Obama administration's response to Benghazi in congressional hearings Wednesday, they repeatedly hit on a talking point that doesn't seem like it'd do them a lot of good: It's been four months. "Here we are, four months later, and we still don’t have the basic information," Sen. John McCain told Clinton Wednesday. "I’m not trying to be obnoxious here, I’m just trying to get the answers I believe the American people deserve to hear. It’s been four months,"Sen. Ron Johnson told a Milwaukee radio show after he and Clinton had a testy exchange. "More than four months later its unacceptable that the State Department has made it so difficult" to conduct oversight, Ohio Rep. Steve Chabot told Clinton. Clinton will have to respond later in writing, because Chabot used up all of his time with his statement. But they all raise a good question: What have we been debating for four months?

"The media has moved on," Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf lamented on the House floor, separately from the hearing, on Wednesday. Despite the frenzy of coverage of the Clinton hearings, he's mostly right. But that has at least something to do with the confused case Republicans have made in arguing that the Obama administration did something wrong in Benghazi. Initially, it was that President Obama supposedly apologized to the terrorists. This was the thrust of Mitt Romney's statement, issued hours after the attack, that Romney himself came to regret. This charge was mostly discarded. Then the focus was that Obama didn't call the attacks terrorism until two weeks later, a complaint Obama deflected during a presidential debate, when Obama demanded moderator Candy Crowley "check the transcript" of his Rose Garden speech the day after the attacks and he did use the word "terror," although rather obliquely: "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation..."

So, take three: Republicans moved on to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice who said on five different Sunday shows that the attacks were inspired by protests in Cairo over an anti-Islam video. This charge was stickier, and cost Rice the Secretary of State nomination. But Rice's scalp did not end the Benghazi debate. In Wednesday;s hearings, Republicans had tough questions for Clinton, even if they didn't always allot enough time for her to answer them. Benghazi is still a rallying call for conservatives. But what do they think is the scandal?

Read more at The Atlantic Wire

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