Sunday, January 26, 2014

Beirut to Benghazi: Scarborough's Selective Memory

Before going off to work in the morning, I often watch Morning Joe, hosted by Joe Scarborough. Joe, a former Republican congressman from Florida, is cool. He plays guitar and had a band when he was younger, he taught high school for awhile, he's got some wit and spontaneity. He can "dance."

The best part about his show is, although Joe's a conservative, he brings in guests with other points of view, including some left-of-center voices such as Eugene Robinson and Howard Dean. The show "airs" on MSNBC from 6-9AM weekdays.

Last Friday (24 January 2014) Joe and his guests were discussing President Obama's apparent unwillingness or inability to go out schmoozing with other politicians in the Washington social scene. Joe seemed quite convinced this was the problem with Obama. If he could just go out after work and yuck it up with conservative senators and representatives, he could get a lot more of his agenda passed.

His guests pushed back: it won't work, there's more partisanship, positions have hardened, compromise is a "dirty word," times have changed, it's a different world.

This is not an exact quote but Joe's response was something like "No, No! It's not a different world!....It was just as bad back when I was in!"  He was a bit loud and his guests didn't interrupt as he made his impassioned plea.

I wish Joe would have used some examples, instead of just his passion, to convince us that the political discourse is no more partisan now, than it was in, say, 1983. He could have compared Benghazi with Beirut. I wish he could have described how Democrat presidential hopefuls leaped at the opportunity to blame President Reagan for not preventing the bombing of the Marine barracks that killed 241 Americans. But, he couldn't. Because none did.

Reagan had been warned ahead of time of the vulnerability of the Marines' situation. His Secretary of Defense, Weinberger, said this:
"They had no mission but to sit at the airport, which is just like sitting in a bull's-eye," Weinberger said. "I begged the president at least to pull them back and put them back on their transports as a more defensible position."
Joe might have described how  Congressional investigations were launched by Democrats to get to the bottom of the Marine barracks attacks, just like Republicans held committee hearings on Benghazi.  But he couldn't. Because there weren't any.

Reagan appointed a military commission to investigate the bombing and the final report blamed a faceless "military chain of command."  Reagan, the "Teflon" president, was home free.

Contrast that with the Senate  and House investigations of the Benghazi attack, an issue Scarborough and other Republicans continue to raise with the hope of discrediting Obama and Hillary Clinton, or countering any alleged wrongdoing by Republicans. 

Back to the "Obama's not a schmoozer, therefore he's not a successful President" criticism. Seems to me, what Joe is really saying is,  Republicans don't read, they need their vanities stroked, are impervious to reason, and only got into politics with hopes of going to Washington to party in the White House.

Guess we can't expect them to remember much.

Further reading from Pew Research:
Partisan Polarization Surges in Bush, Obama Years

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