Dana Milbank: Tarnishing the memory

September 13, 2013 

Here's a hot new entry in the "Is nothing sacred?" category:

Conservatives used Sept. 11, that most somber day for the nation, as yet another occasion to condemn President Obama.

Rather than join in the bipartisan ceremonies marking the 12th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, they rallied on the West Lawn of the Capitol, carrying signs that said "Impeach Obama" and, over a cartoon of the president trampling Uncle Sam, "Americans Don't Support Terrorists or Their Minions."

On the other side of the Capitol, conservative leaders joined the eccentric Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, at what was supposed to be a "memorial service for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and 2012." But the 3,000 who perished in 2001 got just a few passing references at the 35-minute event.

The "primary purpose" of the gathering, in the words of organizer Jerry Boykin, a retired Army general, was to remember the four men who were killed in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, in an attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost there. More to the point, the conservatives had assembled to blame the Obama administration for the deaths and to demand further investigation of the resulting "scandal."

One might dismiss the partisan antics of those tarnishing the solemn anniversary. But some of the most prominent figures in the Republican Party joined in marring the memorials with Benghazi politics.

While Gohmert and friends demonstrated, House Speaker John Boehner issued a statement saying that the "administration hasn't been upfront with the American people or this Congress" about Benghazi. "Republicans will not stop until we get to the truth."

Rep. Darrell Issa of California, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, issued a Sept. 11 press release announcing that he will resume his Benghazi inquiry next week. Other officials released statements or issued tweets stirring up the scandal. "Scant justice from Obama White House one year after Benghazi attacks," was the offering from Sen. Marc Rubio (R-Fla.).

Important questions remain about the Benghazi tragedy, although investigators haven't found anything that could have been done that day to save the four men. Still, even if all the allegations are true and Benghazi is a scandal waiting to explode, couldn't the protests be held on another day?

Sept. 11 is supposed to bring the nation together. The terrorists who killed Americans in Benghazi last year recognized the symbolic importance of 9/11. Can't Americans?

Apparently not -- or at least not those waving tea party flags outside the Capitol on Wednesday. The Patriots4America-S.O.S. rally program listed three congressmen among the speakers. Temperatures in the 90s caused participants to seek shade away from the lectern -- to the frustration of Todd Cefaratti of TheTeaParty.net.

"If you love America, come up and join the crowd here," he called to those in the shade. About 80 did, but about 50 others remained. They must hate America.

"There's so many scandals, we can't keep up with them," Cefaratti lamented. "This event's on Benghazi, but as you know there's the NSA scandal, there's Obamacare, the IRS scandal … We've got petitions on all of these."

There were no petitions at the other event but participants did release a letter, signed by former Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey and others, demanding a "select committee" to investigate Benghazi.

Gohmert criticized Obama for not keeping Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi in power. "Without Libya falling, our four heroes we honor today would still be alive," he reasoned.

And how would Gohmert honor the four men? "It's time to have the select committee," he said.

Fox News' Chad Pergram asked how they would pay for the new committee. "They'll be able to find the money," West assured him.

Right. Not enough money for food stamps or the troops, but plenty for another investigation. What a fine way to remember the spirit of Sept. 11.

Dana Milbank, Washington Post Writers Group; danamilbank@washpost.com.

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