GOP criticism of Khattala's capture hits level of pure silliness

There seems to be no good news from the White House that cannot be reinterpreted as bad by conservatives. This anti-Obama negativity among Republican politicians and right-wing media is so predictable and reflexive that it has become comical.

This Obama-can-do-no-right contrarianism has attained a new comedic level following the announcement that one of the suspected leaders of the attack on the American Consulate and CIA station in Benghazi, Libya, has been captured by U.S. Delta Force soldiers and FBI agents. Rather than cheering the news, reaction on the right has been anything but celebratory.


Ahmed Abu Khattala, a local militia leader and Islamic militant, had openly bragged about his role in the mob assault that led to the murder of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans on Sept. 11, 2012. He gave interviews to Western media. He did not bother to hide, apparently assuming he was protected by the chaos in Benghazi.

But Khattala was being watched. Late Sunday night, when Khattala took a drive along a dark stretch of desert highway, an American drone had him in its sights. The commandos closed in, took him into custody and delivered him to the New York, a U.S. warship stationed in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast.

President Obama had pledged that perpetrators of the deadly Benghazi attack would be brought to justice. Republicans had been urging him to keep that promise. Yet when the White House announced the capture, there were few, if any, voices on the right giving credit to the president. Indeed, there has been nothing but criticism and second-guessing.

In a blog post for MSNBC, Steve Benen came up with a list of the top 10 talking points conservatives have come up with to denigrate the arrest of Khattala. Among the goofiest assertions is the charge that the capture was timed to boost Hillary Rodham Clinton's current book tour. As Benen said, "It's hard to know how to respond to such obvious nonsense, but to believe that U.S. Special Forces, the FBI, and the White House hatched a military mission, months in the making, to help a former Cabinet official on a book tour seems rather delusional."

Just as delusional is the contention that the commando raid was planned to distract attention from the IRS "controversy" (a bogus scandal that has seized the attention of almost no one outside the paranoid hothouse of right-wing radio). There were also those who blamed Obama for taking too long or failing to nab more suspects or playing politics with the whole thing.

Arizona Sen. John McCain and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio criticized Obama for not sending Khattala to detention and a military trial in Guantanamo. This is a strange gripe, not only because McCain had called for closure of the Guantanamo prison camp back in 2008, but because hundreds of terror suspects have been successfully convicted in civilian courts while very few of the cases against internees at Guantanamo have been resolved. But that's the kind of pertinent detail that eludes Rubio, whose thoughts on foreign policy seem to be gleaned from a Cliff's Notes version of a Dick Cheney speech.

It has long been obvious that conservatives are unwilling to give Obama a shred of credit for anything good that happens on his watch. In a partisan political world, of course, it is perfectly normal for the opposition party to be grudging in praise, but, with their frantic rush to find something bad to say about Khattala's capture, Republicans have gone far beyond serious skepticism and have attained a state of perfect silliness.