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No focus on real scandal

Conservatives are masters of manufactured outrage, no doubt about it. But traditionally, their conspiracy theories have at least had some sort of internal logic to them — from Vince Foster’s supposed murder at the hand of the Clintons to Barack Obama’s supposedly forged birth certificate.

And that’s what makes the improvised right-wing freak-out over the Benghazi tragedy so bizarre to watch. To hear Republicans speak, it’s the scandal of the century — but they can never quite put their finger on why.

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“Of all the great cover-ups in history — the Pentagon papers, the Iran-Contra, Watergate and all the rest of them — this ... is going to go down as the most serious, the most egregious cover-up in American history,” said Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe. Former Arkansas governor and failed presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was equally hyperbolic: “[T]his is not minor. It wasn’t minor when Richard Nixon lied to the American people and worked with those in his administration to cover up what really happened in Watergate. But, I remind you — as bad as Watergate was ... no one died. This is more serious because four Americans did, in fact, die.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee is fundraising off the tragedy, claiming that “Benghazi was a coverup. Demand answers.” And conveniently, you can demand answers by giving the GOP money. Meanwhile, a Public Policy Polling survey found that only 23 percent of Americans think Benghazi is the biggest scandal in American history. And if you want a taste of what the right-wing base thinks, look no further than columnist Erik Rush, who wrote, “[G]iven his connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and legendary understanding of all things Islamic, it is possible that President Obama could even have arranged for the assault on the compound without the foreknowledge of his Cabinet.”

Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? So what exactly is it that makes this “scandal” so devastating? As far as I can tell, this is the argument: The morning after the attack, President Obama referred to it as “an act of terror,” when it was ultimately determined to be a terrorist attack.

I wish I was being glib, but there was Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the congressman leading the hearings on the incident, saying on Fox, “An act of terror is different than a terrorist attack.”

Feeling scandalized yet?

If you want a real scandal, how about the lack of adequate security at the compound in Libya? Republicans have systematically slashed the administration’s requests for diplomatic security since taking control of the House. While the State Department requested $5 billion for security in 2011 and 2012, House Republicans approved just $4.5 billion, deaf to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s pleadings that those cuts would be “detrimental to America’s national security.” Unfortunately, she was right.

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a point man in the Benghazi witch hunt, remains proud of his vote to cut that $500 million. Asked in an interview whether it was true that he voted to cut that funding, he responded, “Absolutely. Look, we have to make priorities.”

We now have a clear insight into those Republican priorities: less money for security, but more money to argue that “an act of terror is different than a terrorist attack.” You kind of have to admire the ability of conservatives to create a firestorm from such slim pickings.

Still, no amount of money and hysteria will make that argument sound any less stupid.

Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos (dailykos.com)