Fear not: GOP scandal machine is humming
Rep. Buck McKeon displayed the probing intellect this week that we expect from a chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
Commenting on Fox News Channel about the prisoner swap with the Taliban that sprung U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the California Republican explained why he plans to hold hearings on the matter. "It really is kind of ironic, because this is kind of playing out much like Benghazi," he said, "where they kind of do or don't do something, and uh, and then kind of come up with a story afterward of why they did or didn't do something. This is really mind-boggling."
So the prisoner exchange in Afghanistan is "much like" the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya because, in both cases, the administration did or didn't do something and then later gave an account of why it did or didn't do that something. Scandalous.
And this is just the beginning of the uncanny similarities. Both events happened — you're not going to believe this — under President Obama! And in both instances, one of the people involved was — yes, you guessed it — Susan Rice! Don't forget that Bergdahl and Benghazi both begin with the letter "B," and although Afghanistan is in Asia and Libya is in Africa, both continents begin with the letter "A."
Now comes word that Hillary Rodham Clinton, blamed for Benghazi, was also behind Bergdahl's swap, which occurred 16 months after she left office. The conservative publication Human Events reports that "Benghazi Clinton has now become directly involved" in the Bergdahl affair. How does Human Events know this? Well, because "Jake Tapper of CNN wonders if Obama was briefing her," the outlet reported.
Voila! Clinton is "directly involved" in the Taliban exchange — because Jake Tapper wondered about it. Actually, Tapper tells me, he wondered no such thing, and the Human Events link provides no evidence. But, by way of confirmation, Fox's Catherine Herridge also found it "noteworthy" that Bergdahl's release came just as the Benghazi excerpts from Clinton's new book had come out.
A bit of idle speculation was all Obama's critics (particularly those at Fox) needed to fire up the Benghazi scandal machine.
"This is a Fox News Alert," Eric Bolling proclaimed at the start of Fox's "The Five" on Tuesday. "The story surrounding the president's deal with the Taliban is huge, Benghazi-huge."
A few hours later, Fox strategic analyst Ralph Peters told Megyn Kelly that "what you just saw and heard was Benghazi 2.0."
Certainly, there are fair questions to be asked about the prisoner exchange. The Obama administration disobeyed the law requiring it to inform Congress 30 days before releasing prisoners from Gitmo. And Rice's televised claim that Bergdahl "served the United States with honor and distinction" was, at best, premature.
But to draw parallels to the Libya attacks requires the type of mental agility that, as the liberal website Media Matters has noted, already has led Obama's accusers to draw associations between Benghazi and the missing Malaysian jet, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's bridge scandal, Yom Kippur and gay football player Michael Sam. How do they do it?
Some allege a conspiracy. Britain's Daily Mail quoted the father of a soldier killed in Afghanistan (allegedly searching for Bergdahl) saying that "it's a big cover-up like Benghazi."
Others claim, as Fox's Greg Gutfeld did, that the Bergdahl release, like the Benghazi response, was intended to alter elections. As evidence, he cited a Rolling Stone article — from 2012.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was one of many to find a link in Obama's claim that "we don't leave our men or women in uniform behind." Said Graham, "It really bothers me when he embraces a military concept called 'We don't leave our people behind' and he won't tell us what he did in Benghazi." (Military officials have said there was no way to get help in time to the two diplomats and two CIA contractors who were killed in Libya.)
Obama's opponents came up with more links than a sausage factory. People in both instances had signed nondisclosure agreements! In both cases, there were contradictory accounts of what happened! Fox's Sean Hannity found a tie between the two in his contention that "we're being lied to an awful lot."
Former congressman Allen West, R-Fla., found the two instances similar because "there is a lot to this whole episode — like Benghazi — that we may never know."
Luckily for West, knowledge is not a requirement. He has already declared l'affaire Bergdahl an impeachable offense.
Dana Milbank is a Washington Post columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Milbank.