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Dems New Benghazi Defense: Blame the Tea Partiers

Who’s responsible for the security failures at the consulate in Benghazi? According to Dana Milbank, the blame lies with fiscal hawks in the House GOP:

For fiscal 2013, the GOP-controlled House proposed spending $1.934 billion for the State Department’s Worldwide Security Protection program — well below the $2.15 billion requested by the Obama administration. House Republicans cut the administration’s request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012. (Negotiations with the Democrat-controlled Senate restored about $88 million of the administration’s request.) Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans’ proposed cuts to her department would be “detrimental to America’s national security” — a charge Republicans rejected.

If Milbank was right, and this was just the predictable result of budgetary constraints, then the State Department had no business keeping an outpost open in a high-risk area, if it knew it couldn’t provide adequate security. The thing is, the State Department didn’t refuse to send additional security because it couldn’t afford it. It refused to send additional security because it said (and continues to say) that the security situation was adequate based on the knowledge at the time. Meanwhile, Ambassador Kennedy said yesterday that he has no faith in the diplomatic security services ever being able to defend against an attack of that level. “Under that kind of lethality, we’re never going to have enough guns,” he said. “We’re a diplomatic service. We are not an armed camp.”

This isn’t to diminish State Department funding, which is very important, but it’s also true that the budget has more than doubled since 2004. The big issue, according to the Government Accountability Office’s extensive report on diplomatic security in 2009, is that the security service’s funding and scope has expanded so rapidly that it’s suffered systematic organizational problems as a result.

Blaming the Republicans for that is a cheap shot, and it shows how desperate Democrats are getting on this issue. The State Department was aware of multiple security breaches and red flags in Benghazi in the months leading up to the attack; House Republicans were not. The Security Department had security personnel on the ground warning that the situation was reaching a crisis level; House Republicans did not. House Republicans have a say in the budget, but the State Department is responsible for how that money is spent. And their spending choices were revealing: Officials increased “danger pay” for security personnel in Benghazi, instead of hiring additional security or sending supplies. The buck stops with the officials who made the security decisions and the commander-in-chief, not the House Republicans.


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