The dramatic arrest of a suspect in the 2012 Benghazi attack announced Tuesday morning would seem to be cause for celebration for all Americans, as the tragic siege of a U.S. diplomatic outpost in the Libyan city claimed the lives of four Americans, including the United States ambassador.
But as the day went on, it became clear that not everyone was applauding the capture of alleged Benghazi ringleader Ahmed Abu Khattala by U.S Special Forces and the FBI.
In fact, many prominent Republicans were quick to claim that President Barack Obama ordered the arrest of Abu Khattala simply to distract public attention from — something.
What the arrest was intended to distract from was not specified the by the suspicious Republicans who went on the record questioning the Benghazi arrest. For many, Benghazi itself had been the Obama scandal that all other events were staged to distract attention from.
But in this case, even the president’s harshest critics stopped short of claiming that Tuesday’s dramatic development in the Benghazi case was meant to distract from Benghazi.
Former Florida Republican Rep. Allen West, in May, said that the Boko Haram kidnappings of more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria was just the latest event staged as a distraction from Benghazi. “Are we witnessing an Obama ‘Wag the Dog’ moment with Boko Haram in Nigeria? I say yes,” West said.
But on Tuesday, West claimed that the Benghazi arrest was a distraction not from Benghazi, but from unspecified “other nightmares.”
— Allen West (@AllenWest) June 17, 2014
Illinois Republican Joe Walsh questioned whether the Benghazi arrest was timed for the “perfect political opportunity.”
Glad we nabbed a #Benghazi suspect, but the timing is questionable. Did they let him wander, waiting for the perfect political opportunity?
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) June 17, 2014
Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh called the Benghazi arrest a “timely coincidence.” Limbaugh said that the arrest provided Obama “a headline using the U.S. military when he really needs one,” suggesting that the arrest was designed as a distraction from the IRS scandal.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid slammed the Republican response as “pathetic,” and “disgusting,” saying that Republicans were attempting to portray the special forces operation that nabbed Abu Khattala as “no big deal.”
But Tuesday was far from the first time Republican critics of Obama have accused the president of staging a “distraction” from Benghazi or some other scandal. Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz claimed that Obama’s response to the civil war in Syria was a distraction from Benghazi.
Limbaugh, though he suggested on Tuesday that the Benghazi arrest was a deliberate distraction from the IRS scandal, earlier suggested that the IRS Scandal was itself a distraction from Benghazi.
Last October, Republican Senator John Cornyn said that Obama’s attempt to reach a deal on Iran’s nuclear program was a distraction from the rollout of Obamacare. And in May, when the administration released a legally required report on climate change, Fox News personalities suggested the report was timed to distract from Benghazi — and former George W. Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino said she hoped that a meteorologist would confront Obama about Benghazi.
In April, when a woman threw a shoe at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said the incident had been faked, while Limbaugh went a step further, saying the shoe-throwing attack was designed “to make the Benghazi people look like nuts and lunatics and wackos.”