MSNBC's Bashir: Conservatives 'Shamelessly Exploit' Benghazi Attack; Yet Bashir Covers Up Key Facts in Process

In an interview segment with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) on his October 15 program, MSNBC's Martin Bashir alleged that conservatives are "shamelessly exploit[ing]" the deaths of Amb. Chris Stevens and three other Americans who were killed in the September 11 terrorist strike on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Bashir insisted that the family members of the slain are "all" tired of politicians trying to make hay out of the matter, citing the reaction of Amb. Chris Stevens's father as evidence that the families of the are all peeved at Republicans and generally trusting of the Obama administration.

Perhaps Bashir just disregards the sentiments of Ms. Pat Smith, whose son was killed in the 9/11 anniversary attack. Smith has been interviewed by Anderson Cooper, where she complained that she believes that the Obama administration has NOT been forthcoming with answers to her questions. Reported the Huffington Post (emphasis mine):

On the eve of the one-month mark since her son's death in a terrorist attack on a U.S. consulate Libya, Pat Smith demanded the answers she said she'd been promised by President Barack Obama and other top administration officials.

Sean Smith, a computer specialist, was one of four Americans killed during the Sept. 11 assault on a U.S. compound in Benghazi. Days after the attack, Smith's mother attended a ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, where she cried on the shoulder of Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as they honored her son and vowed to give her information on his final hours.

In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper on Wednesday, however, Smith claimed these promises hadn't been kept.

"I told them, 'Please don't give me any baloney that comes through with this political stuff. I don't want political stuff. You can keep your political, just tell me the truth -- what happened,'" she said. "They haven't told me anything. They're still studying it. And the things that they are telling me are just outright lies."

Smith said that the pride and comfort she felt at the reception has faded in the month since her son's death, as she continues to look for a more detailed accounting of how and why the attacks took place. She also told Cooper that she'd confronted the president directly on that day, explaining to him how upset she was.

"I told Obama personally, I said, 'Look, I had him for his first 17 years and then he went into the service, then you got him,'" she recounted. "I said 'You screwed up, you didn't do a good job, I lost my son.' And they said, 'We'll get back to you. We -- I promise, I promise you. I will get back to you.'"

Together Bashir and Rep. Cummings, the ranking member of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, tag-teamed to offer excuses for Obama administration regarding security failures at the Benghazi compound. Cummings, for example, criticized his committee's chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) for having "voted in 2009 to get rid of 300 embassy security positions." What's more, Cummings added, the "Republican Congress has cut some $500 billion from the request of the president for embassy security and for facilities."

But to borrow from Vice President Biden, that claim is sheer malarkey, says the Heritage Foundation, poring over budget line items to prove it (emphasis mine):

In terms of people, the budget justification reported that Worldwide Security Protection had slightly fewer positions budgeted (1,777 in FY 2011 versus 1,707 in FY 2012) and Embassy Security, Construction and Maintenance had the same number of positions budgeted (1,014 for both years).

In its budget request for FY 2013, the Administration requested significantly more funding for embassy security—mostly through the Overseas Contingency Operations budget—but retained the same number of positions, apparently on the assumption that security staffing was adequate. Regardless, that budget, even if approved in its entirety, would have entered into effect after the events in Libya.

It is tempting to look for a scapegoat for the tragic events in Libya. However, if one exists, the overall budget for embassy security is not it. Funding for that purpose has risen sharply over the past decade. Moreover, the State Department has considerable latitude in allocating security funds based on current events and intelligence on possible threats. Why that latitude was not applied in Libya deserves further scrutiny.

Suffice it to say, Bashir did NOT raise these facts to Cummings, nor this item which was in the news from Chairman Issa on Sunday, as reported by Politico:

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) says the State Department is sitting on $2.2 billion that should be spent on upgrading security at U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide, but the Obama administration will not spend the funds.

Issa made his comment during an appearance on CBS's "Face the Nation" to discuss the recent attack in Benghazi, Libya, that left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, held a highly partisan hearing on the incident last week.

Issa claims the State Department will not spend the already approved funds because they didn't want to the appearance of needing increased security.

"The fact is, they [the State Department.] are making the decision not to put the security in because they don't want the presence of security," Issa said. "That is not how you do security."

Bashir doesn't have to agree with Issa's statement, but it would have been good journalism to at least ask Cummings about it, which, of course, he failed to do, because this segment was not an exercise in journalism but rather in GOP bashing. Here's just one of Bashir's partisan applause lines from the softball interview:

And to add further fuel to this fire of hypocrisy, we now have Dick Cheney complaining about a cover-up at the White House. I mean, as I said to one of my colleagues earlier today: excuse me while I throw up.

Just ten minutes before Bashir went on air today, Reuters -- no conservative rag it -- reported an exclusive that gave a fascinating look at an earlier incident at the consulate. Entitled "U.S. officials unhappy with handling of Benghazi suspects in April attack", it delved into a bombing attempt that illustrated the fragile security situation on the ground:

(Reuters) - State Department officials suspected that two Libyan guards hired by its own security contractor were behind an April incident in which a homemade bomb was hurled over the wall of the special mission in Benghazi, according to official emails obtained by Reuters.

But the men, who had been taken into custody the day of the attack, were released after questioning by Libyan officials because of a lack of "hard evidence" that could be used to prosecute them, the State Department emails show.

"Amazing," wrote Eric Nordstrom, then the regional security officer with the U.S. Embassy in Libya, describing the obstacles in prosecuting the suspects.

The April 6 incident involving an improvised explosive device (IED) was a troubling precursor to the September 11 attack on two U.S. government compounds in Benghazi, which killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

U.S. authorities initially said last month's attack occurred spontaneously after protests in the region against a film that lampooned the Prophet Mohammad, but now say it was a pre-planned attack by local militants with possible connections to al Qaeda.

Nordstrom testified last week at a congressional hearing that a string of security concerns before September led officials on the ground in Libya to repeatedly ask for enhanced security, requests that were denied by officials in Washington.

The April attack illustrated concerns among some U.S. officials in Libya that hiring local residents for embassy guard duties could in itself raise security issues.

With episodes like today's interview with Cummings, it should be abundantly clear to MSNBC viewers that Martin Bashir is not in the least digging doggedly for the truth on the Benghazi fiasco, but rather participating in partisan spin for the Democrats and against Obama's critics.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters