McCain and Company’s Long Delay
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
It became apparent early on that the efforts by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to stall the confirmation of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) as Secretary of Defense would get out of hand. It isn’t just Hagel who McCain is stalling, as slowing the conformation of John Brennan as Director of the CIA is also on his agenda. The reason McCain and his colleague, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have been working to stall these appointment confirmations is so they can get answers on the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi.
McCain has long been demanding answers for the attacks in Benghazi that left four American citizens dead and his forum became the Senate hearings where he was able to question former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, on the subject. However, he apparently did not get the answers he wanted—Clinton never gave up any truly revealing answers in the hearing, so McCain had to seek answers elsewhere. He began to put more pressure on the White House to release more information on the attack, while Graham also picked up the fight, arguing for more information on the attacks. When he told USA Today he would not be willing to let the nomination of Brennan through until he and his supporters received more information, such as drone video and emails between administration officials. While the White House has not been forthcoming about the attack by any means, this political maneuvering by the two GOP senators has now led to the possibility of filibustering the confirmations of Brennan and Hagel, which is unprecedented for nominees of these positions.
McCain and Graham have negotiated and fought their way into a strong position. As a result, President Barack Obama’s administration now has limited options, and the leaking of the drone strike memo does not help their position. Backing the White House into a corner has forced Obama’s administration to offer the information on Benghazi instead of releasing the rest of the legal justifications for the United States’ targeted killings with drone strikes. This refusal to release the drone justification memos contradicts the Obama’s State of the Union promise to “engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.” Senators from both sides of the aisles, such as like McCain, Graham, Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) have commented on the failure to live up to that commitment. They have called for the transparency they deserve as sitting U.S. Senators and believe the drone memos should be theirs to parse through. The drones are a critical part of the anti-terror campaign the United States has embarked upon for the past 11 years and frankly, we don’t know how the program targets suspects. Senators at the very least should be in the loop.
Yet McCain and company do have ulterior motives here. He desperately wants this to become a huge story, much like conservative news networks and commentators like Bill O’Reilly have been looking for Obama’s Watergate. They want something to stick to this administration after the “Fast and Furious” scandal didn’t become that Watergate. Republicans just want Obama to be disgraced.
While McCain has a right to ask for answers and to drag U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Clinton in for hearings, there should be some accountability from him as well. In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Feb. 18, journalist David Gregory pressed McCain on the reasons Republicans still needed more information on the attack, to which he responded, “Do you care whether four Americans died?” McCain, like the administration, needs to accept responsibility when it comes to the loss of American lives. As a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, McCain was never as fervent in getting answers on our major intelligence failure in Iraq. His present questioning is definitely valid, but it rings empty when you consider that while he admitted Iraq was the result of mismanagement and intelligence failures, he never demanded an investigation like the one he is now. It is possible he wants to regain his tag as the maverick in the Senate and he sees this as his ticket to do exactly that. Nevertheless, he’s playing politics with a tragedy, something that happens all too often in Washington, D.C. He, like many that have come before him, has jumped on his political opponent at the first sign of trouble, but the sad truth is that there is nothing maverick-esque in doing this—it’s just business as usual on Capitol Hill.