“Benghazi has been a four letter word for the left. But it’s not about politics,” said Mark “Oz” Geist and John “Tig” Teagan, two of the security contractors who survived the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in 2012. “It’s about opportunities.”
Patricia Smith, mother of information officer Sean Smith, who was killed in Benghazi, told the crowd—a sizable portion of which, if CNN’s cameras are to be trusted, seemed to be in tears—that she blamed Hillary Clinton for her son’s death. She ended her speech by saying, “Hillary for prison. She deserves to be in stripes.” Immediately after saying that Benghazi’s “not about politics,” Geist and Teagan—who were, it goes without saying, appearing at a political convention—urged the audience to vote for Donald Trump. For Trump and the RNC, Benghazi is about opportunity, but that opportunity is political.
The deaths in Benghazi of four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens, were a terrible tragedy. But what happened that night is still—as Geist and Teagan’s rambling speech attested—somewhat cloudy. The fact that the right’s Benghazi narrative emerged out of a closed loop between right-wing media and the GOP only makes it more confusing to the unconverted. While both the White House and congressional Republicans played politics in its aftermath (that’s what politicians do), the latter struggled to identify a bona fide Benghazi scandal: Last fall’s disastrous hearings were proof that they were grasping at straws. But the failure to identify a real scandal only made the truthers go into overdrive. Surely the lack of evidence suggesting Obama and Clinton’s culpability was proof of an even bigger cover-up and conspiracy than they initially thought!
But without a scandal, Benghazi turned into emotional theater. Without direct proof of wrongdoing, there is only emotion. Both Fox News and the Republican Party have been happy to exploit that emotion for theater for four years now. That’s what we’re getting at the RNC: an hours-long grief pageant.