WASHINGTON - A top Republican senator sparked reactions from both sides of the aisle after drawing a link between the crisis in Ukraine and President Obama's response to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a harsh critic of the Obama administration's foreign policy, posted a string of tweets Tuesday attributing Russian President Vladimir Putin's incursion into Ukraine's Crimea region to "a weak indecisive leader" in Washington:
It started with Benghazi. When you kill Americans and nobody pays a price, you invite this type of aggression. #Ukraine — Lindsey Graham (@GrahamBlog) March 4, 2014
Putin basically came to the conclusion after Benghazi, Syria, Egypt - everything Obama has been engaged in - he's a weak indecisive leader. — Lindsey Graham (@GrahamBlog)March 4, 2014
I think Putin believes Obama is really all talk and no action. And unless we push back soon, the worse is yet to come. — Lindsey Graham (@GrahamBlog) March 4, 2014
Facing a Republican primary challenge, the second-term senator, considered moderate on some issues, including immigration, has echoed calls on the right for greater investigation into the administration's handling of the Benghazi attack, which killed four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador. With the tweets, Graham doubled down on comments he made Monday night in which he called Russia's aggression "a symptom of a greater problem."
"It really in many ways started with Benghazi when our consulate was overrun and our first ambassador was killed in 30-something years in the line of duty," he said during an interview on Fox News. "Three other brave Americans died, and not one person has been held accountable. You are sending absolutely the wrong signal to our foes around the country. And Putin is not going to stop his aggression until he feels the sting."
But some on the right, including conservative blogger Michelle Malkin, took issue with Graham's comparison, characterizing it as an "embarrassment to all who truly care about Benghazi." Malkin maintained her critique in a later tweet, noting that Russia invaded Georgia in 2008.
The White House fired back at Graham for the suggestion that Putin's actions in the Crimea had its roots in Benghazi.
Dan Pfeiffer, White House senior advisor, tweeted that Graham's comments "jumped the shark":
GOP criticism of Pres Obama jumped the shark today when they started saying Benghazi is one of the reasons for what is happening in Crimea— Dan Pfeiffer (@pfeiffer44) March 4, 2014