At issue: Last weekend at a Republican fundraising dinner, Issa claimed that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta refused to order any U.S. military assets to help defend Americans in Benghazi during the attack. "Why there was not one order given to turn on one Department of Defense asset?" Issa asked.
And as if that wasn't a big enough accusation, Issa then said that he believed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the answer to his question. "I have my suspicions, which is Secretary Clinton told Leon [Panetta] to stand down, and we all heard about the stand-down order for two military personnel," Issa said. "That order is undeniable."
But as Kessler documents, the "stand down" conspiracy theory is complete bunk—there were plenty of DOD orders to respond to the attack. Even Issa's fellow House Republicans on the Armed Services Committee acknowledged that no "stand down" order was given. Obviously, the military response to the attack failed to save the lives of the Americans lost in Benghazi, but that has been obvious from day one. Issa is alleging some sort of conspiracy in which the Defense Department issued orders against even trying—and that those orders were originally given by Hillary Clinton.
Given that the first part of the conspiracy isn't true, the second part can't be true either. But even if the first part were true, the second part doesn't make any sense. As Kessler points out, Clinton didn't have the authority to tell Panetta what to do, especially given that the president had already ordered Panetta to use whatever resources he had to respond. The bottom line, says Kessler, is that no evidence for Issa's theory exists.
More on Issa and Benghazi below the fold.
But as they say in those late-night informercials, wait—there's more. Because Kessler gave Issa a chance to respond. And check out the spin his press office tried to dish out:
Frederick Hill, a spokesman for the Oversight Committee, said that Issa was speaking of Clinton and Panetta as “institutional actors” operating at the “highest levels of the State Department and the Department of Defense.” He suggested the shorthand of “Clinton” and “Leon” was used because it was easier for the audience to understand than “State” and “DOD.”So Team Issa's spin is that his absurd conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta wasn't actually about Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta, but was instead about the State Department and the Department of Defense? Forgive me, but for the life of me I cannot see how that makes Issa's claims any more intelligible. If you accept his spokesman's spin, then you have to believe Issa was trying to say that Clinton's underlings ordered Panetta's underlings to violate a presidential order—and that Panetta's underlings willingly complied.
There's so much wrong with that it's hard to even argue against it: It's just mountains of bull piled on mountains of bull. It's the kind of story you'd expect from the lawyer of a guy trying to get out of a pinch for auto-theft. But if there's one thing we know about Darrell Issa, it's that he thinks he's the kind of guy who get away with exactly that.