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Benghazi: A House Divided

Michell Obama as the next Libyan Ambassador

This image and one similar featuring Chelsea Clinton is making the rounds on Facebook. Is it over the line? Or is it a legitimate expression of outrage over the current administration’s misinformation over Benghazi?

Over the last week or so, we’ve learned a lot about what happened in Benghazi during the hours of the attack and several days afterward. We’ve learned that the information coming out of the White House, was not only incorrect, but arguably deliberately so. And now a story that was once being followed only by Fox News and right wing news agencies is being picked up by left leaning news agencies. Even Dianne Feinstein is now critical of how the Obama administration handled Benghazi.

And this represents a conundrum for the dedicated Democrat; how do you respond to a story that makes your president look bad? Do you ignore it? Do you minimize it as something that happened a long time ago? Or do you attack the folks who bring it up, hoping to silence the messenger before they deliver the message?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that avoidance is the sole province of liberal Democrats. There are plenty of conservative Republicans who do the same thing, placing politics above principle. And forgoing principles for political advantage is the real problem.

And I’m not writing a post on Benghazi; if you are interested in the truth, there are plenty of resources on the internet where you can find timelines about what happened when, as well as transcripts of last week’s Congressional testimonies where you can discover the truth for yourself, unfiltered by our news media. I’m not going to rehash all that except to say that there wasn’t much in the testimony that we didn’t already know from other sources. The only difference is that it is now part of the official record and the media is finally beginning to take notice.

What’s more interesting to me is how this divide is throwing the deepening fissure within our country into sharper relief.

Based on what I’ve seen on the internet and the news, the two most popular responses from Democrat politicians is to either attack the Bush administration for things that happened then, seeking to justify the Obama Administration by dragging down the previous administration, or to claim that it is nothing more than a partisan witch hunt being carried out by conservatives in an attempt to smear Hillary Clinton and scuttle her presidential aspirations. Those following the latter course are pursuing a scorched earth approach, sliming virtually anybody who dares to suggest that the Obama Administration was dishonest about what happened, or failed to act in a responsible manner.

And that’s where the picture comes in.

In my opinion, the picture associated with this post goes over the line of decency. While it does make a valid point about the seemingly cavalier way the Obama Administration has dealt with Benghazi, I believe that suggesting that the President’s wife be sent into harm’s way to make a political point is not justifiable.

So why did I post it? Well, my wife was commenting on a Facebook post about Benghazi and voiced the conservative point of view, that we’ve known for a long time that the events in Benghazi were a planned, coordinated terrorist attack, and that the administration was trying to cover up the truth in order to avoid problems during the election. While this point of view has gained credibility based on the memos found by ABC linked above and the testimony in Congress, one liberal commenter then suggested that my wife should be sent to Benghazi on a ‘fact finding mission,’ voicing a sentiment nearly identical to the picture I posted.

Are my personal standards too high? Is this an appropriate comment and the appropriate level of discourse? The comment has been up for several hours with nobody objecting. Have we come to the point where it is okay to wish harm on your political opposites? How far is too far? Is there such a thing as too far?

One of the things that fascinates me about the Civil War is that even though so many people were against the idea of fighting a war, they were unable to overcome the partisan rhetoric on both sides of the debate. Abraham Lincoln said that a house divided against itself could not stand, and he was willing to use the point of a sword to force unity on the house. On the other side of the conflict, Jefferson Davis said that a question settled by violence would remain unsettled and asked only for the Confederacy to be left alone. Firebrands on both sides were eager to stir up a fight, and they got their wish for four bloody years.

Looking at America today, I can’t help but see the similarities. Two sides, both convinced of their righteousness, and both working hard to dehumanize the people on the other side. Am I saying we’re heading for a second Civil War? No, not really, the problems are not as geographically defined as they were back then. But I do believe that, absent some stimulus that gets us off this track of increasing political polarization, we will go through a period of social upheaval and discord that will be almost as devastating to our country as an actual war.

Let me know what you think. Is it too late to move back from the brink? Can we learn once again to disagree without being disagreeable? Can our politicians go back to working for the good of our country instead of the good of their party? Or will politics continue to grow more bitter, more strained, and more divisive?

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