Saturday, November 25, 2017


Hi, I'm back. Thank you again, Yastreblyansky, Tom, and Crank, for smart posts while I was away.

Today I come back to a good New York Times story with a naive lede:
Of all the State Department employees who might have been vulnerable in the staff reductions that Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has initiated as he reshapes the department, the one person who seemed least likely to be a target was the chief of security, Bill A. Miller.

Republicans pilloried Hillary Clinton for what they claimed was her inadequate attention to security as secretary of state in the months before the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Congress even passed legislation mandating that the department’s top security official have unrestricted access to the secretary of state.

But in his first nine months in office, Mr. Tillerson turned down repeated and sometimes urgent requests from the department’s security staff to brief him, according to several former top officials in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Finally, Mr. Miller, the acting assistant secretary for diplomatic security, was forced to cite the law’s requirement that he be allowed to speak to Mr. Tillerson.

Mr. Miller got just five minutes with the secretary of state, the former officials said. Afterward, Mr. Miller, a career Foreign Service officer, was pushed out, joining a parade of dismissals and early retirements that has decimated the State Department’s senior ranks.
If you believe that Miller "seemed least likely to be a target" of downsizing because his area of concern was one that Republicans saw as tragically neglected by Hillary Clinton, with the result being Benghazi, then you don't understand Republicans at all.

It isn't just that Republicans are hypocrites. We see that every time they propose a tax cut under a GOP president that will drastically increase the national debt after spending years whining about debt when a Democrat is in the White House. No, it's more than that.

Precisely because they've spent so much time talking about Benghazi, Miller was an easy cutback target. Benghazi gives them a whataboutist Get Out of Jail Free card if their calculated indifference to security at diplomatic outposts has tragic consequences. The Trump administration could lose hundreds of people in an attack on a diplomatic property, and all the Trumpists would have to say is "BUT BENGHAZI!!!" They've persuaded millions of Americans that Benghazi was a bloodbath of 9/11 proportions, so those Americans will automatically believe that whatever just happened, Benghazi was immeasurably worse.

It's possible that no calamity on Trump's watch will have negative consequences for him, because he's persuaded his voters that the last eight years were a nightmare hellscape that has no precedent in American history. Trump and his cabinet officers can pretty much do what they want.

In the future we'll remember Tillerson the way we remember Donald Rumsfeld -- as an arrogant narcissist CEO who wants us all to know he has Big Ideas, and who measures his success by how many career officials he pisses off. I don't understand the psychopathology of people like this, but they do rise to the top in Republican administrations, don't they?

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