1. Though it seems to defy logic, everything is worse than everything in some respect. Benghazi might be worse than Watergate if it had been Mitt Romney who died. The real reason why (some) conservatives think Benghazi has some sort of comparability to Watergate is that in both cases, someone won an election that someone else thought they should’ve lost. By this standard, all politics are as bad or worse than Watergate.
2. Liberals cannot grasp conservatives’ Benghazi narrative because they come up against an incomprehensible claim, and those are hard to hear. What possible reason is there for the alleged conspiracy? What did anyone stand to gain? The answer is “to weaken American power and undermine American security, which is Obama’s goal, of course.” There’s a more credible version of this thesis, which is “Obama let an American die because the Muslim Brotherhood was behind the attack, and he’s trying to make nice with the Muslim Brotherhood, i.e., Egypt.” But that can’t be said out loud because the obvious reason why an American president would want to make nice with the new regime in Egypt is to preserve Israel’s security, which takes the story in the “wrong” direction.
3. A president we have some slight reason to believe harbors Muslim sympathies (by virtue of public statements suggesting as much) receives warnings about a terrorist attack and does nothing. Americans die. Yes, one could characterize 9/11 that way. But would it be fair? Again, “worse than” is relative to a context.
4. For Republicans, the biggest problem with Libya is that it is the best and perhaps the only successful application of the Bush Doctrine thus far. Actually, this is a pretty big problem for Democrats too, come to think of it. Thus, when it comes to Libya, we must all talk about something other than the fact that it is the successful democratization of a Middle Eastern country through the application of American military force, with minimal loss of American life. It must be compared to something that involved no loss of life whatsoever, lest it be compared to Iraq.
5. Libya is just about the best candidate for the epithet “illegal war” I’ve seen in ages. Therefore let’s not talk about that at all (or make sure that the only person who worries about an imperial presidency has absolutely no credibility on that score, say, John Yoo). After all, the one thing that Democrats and Republicans can agree on here is that, you never know, you might want to engage in an illegal war in the future, so it’s best not to paint oneself into any corners.
When I listen to this “conversation” between Democrats and Republicans, I feel like a family therapist at a group session, listening in while the family members vituperatively nitpick at each other about irrelevancies precisely so that the obvious problems that everyone is in denial about never get broached.
The first step to recovery? “We admitted we were powerless over our own imperialism, and that our nation had become unmanageable.”