On Sunday, several prominent Republicans sought a pound of flesh from the Obama administration over its shifting explanations for the attack on the American consulate in Libya. The conclusion they all came to was that the Obama Administration had committed the same sort of intelligence mistakes as former President George W. Bush did in his handling of the war in Iraq.
“I have seen this movie before,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told CBS’ “Face the Nation,” regarding whether the White House had been too quick to assume that al Qaeda was on the run. “I went to Iraq in 2004 and everybody told me things are going fine, this is just a few dead-enders. Iraq was falling apart, and you couldn’t get the truth from the Bush administration.”
“The Middle East is falling apart, and they’re trying to spin what happened in Libya because the truth of the matter is, al Qaeda is alive and well, and counter-attacking,” Graham said.
Rep. Darrell Issa, whose oversight and government reform committee held a hearing on the Benghazi raid, echoed the theme later in the program.
“This is not very Republican, if you will, but when President George W. Bush went aboard an aircraft carrier and said, ‘Mission Accomplished,’ I listened, rightfully so, to people saying, look, but there are still problems, and they’re still dying,” Issa said. “And quite frankly, things got worse in many ways after that famous statement.”
“We’re going through a ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment,” Issa continued. “Eleven years after September 11, Americans were attacked on September 11 by terrorists who pre-planned to kill Americans. That happened. And we can’t be in denial, particularly when there are compounds all over the Middle East that need to be legitimately protected at a level that security professionals ask for.”
There are problems with all these points. The Obama administration has never said al Qaeda was defeated, the United States’ commitment to Libya is tiny compared to the amount of resources Bush devoted to Iraq and the pretenses for getting involved in each scenario were vastly different.
While there were clearly intelligence failures leading up to the attack, it’s hard to place blame for the absence of additional security. massive amount of bureaucracy didn’t allow for tighter measures to be put in place quickly. And House Republicans pushed a budget that cut funds for diplomatic security, something which Issa had trouble dismissing.
But the similarities between Obama and Bush are still remarkable. Four years ago, Obama ran on a platform that promised an explicit break from Bush’s foreign policy. As he lunges toward the finish line of his reelection campaign, he’s being painted as a continuation of it.