Washington Monthly - September/October 2015 - 14

five U.S. ambassadors were murdered by militants and terrorists in places like Lebanon, Guatemala, and the Sudan. None of those losses, which occurred under presidents of both parties, was seen by the public or in Washington as a grievous insult to America generally, or through a partisan filter, or as evidence of systematic failure by the U.S. government requiring root-tobranch investigations with presumptions of perfidy at the top. Rather, they were treated the same way Chris Stevens's murder (the first of a U.S. ambassador since 1979) should be seen: as brave diplomats killed in the line of duty. The third effect of the hostage crisis was to make politicians and the State Department so paranoid about security that they turned U.S. embassies into fortresses and put tight restrictions on the movement of staff. This has certainly saved American lives. But it's also made it much harder for our diplomats to do their jobs-a point t hat t he foreig n We need more Chris Stevenses correspondent and in our diplomatic corps. The former Washington Monthly editor RobRepublicans in Congress, by ert Worth made in obsessing over Benghazi, are the New York Times Magazine in 2012. As doing everything they can to a foreign corresponmake sure we have fewer. dent myself in the mid-1990s I remember senior U.S. forTo understand that, I think you have to eign service officers expressing envy at go back to the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. my ability to travel to wherever the acThose who lived through that era can re- tion was and interview people-an absolutely vital way of learning what's hapcall not just the nail-biting drama of those pening on the ground that they could no 444 days but also the sense of national longer do without heavy security, or, in effrontery-Ted Koppel's famous nightly ABC News show about the crisis was tell- many cases, at all. A reporter friend of mine in Sarajevo in 1995 who later served ingly entitled America Held Hostage. The hostage crisis had three lasting ef- as a USAID officer in Pakistan used to fects. First, because it happened on Jimmy complain to me that he felt like a prisonCarter's watch, in the midst of a presiden- er in the embassy in Islamabad, unable, tial race, and ended at the very moment really, to do his job effectively. Ambassadors make the calls on diploRonald Reagan was sworn into office, the matic security matters in their domains, crisis validated Republicans' inner sense so they have more leeway to decide where, that they and only they could be trusted to protect America's security. Second, the cri- when, and how they travel. But the pressis turned the general subject of the safety sure on them from their staffs and Washof U.S. diplomats into a political and ideo- ington not to take chances is intense. Chris Stevens famously pushed back logical issue in a way it never had been. In the eleven years prior to the hostage crisis, against that pressure in 2011 when, as Republicans posing more than 160 questions about Blumenthal's relationship and communications with the Clintons, more than fifty about the Clinton Foundation, and only four about security in Benghazi. The committee looks also to be the source behind the New York Times' catastrophically inaccurate front-page story in July alleging a criminal referral to the Department of Justice about Clinton and her emails. The committee's leader, Republican Representative Trey Gowdy, has said that the committee's report won't be completed until (surprise, surprise) 2016, in the middle of the presidential race. In the rich history of Washington scandal mongering, we have seen few investigations more cynical and nihilistic than this one. Still, I don't think naked political expediency sufficiently explains the bottomless well of outrage that Benghazi has stirred up among base Republican voters. 14 September/October 2015 U.S. envoy to Libya, he was the U.S. government's main interlocutor to the rebels who ultimately overthrew Moammar Ghadhafi. Stevens, who spoke the Libyan dialect of Arabic, lived openly in Benghazi with minimal security. His actions during that period became legendary among U.S. diplomats. It was an act of patriotic bravery, repeated a year late when, as ambassador, he returned to Benghazi, knowing as well as anyone the poor security situation there. We need more Chris Stevenses in our diplomatic corps. The Republicans in Congress are doing everything they can to make sure we have fewer, even if that isn't their intention. K-12's coming fiscal cliff When our son, the second of our two kids, graduated from high school this past June, my wife and I realized that he wasn't the only one making a transition. For us, two decades of intense involvement with the public school system was abruptly ending. No more dropping kids off at school every morning (my job). No more volunteering in the library (her job). No more parentteacher conferences, football games, talent shows, art fairs, and spring fund-raisers with moon bounces. From now on, the only time we are likely to set foot in a public school is to vote. My wife and I are later-stage Baby Boomers, born in 1958, near the generation's peak birth year. So our various life milestones tend to have oversized ramifications. In this case, the ramification to worry about is that as our kids leave the nest and we move toward retirement, our generation's support for the public schools will decline. That's certainly the historic pattern. Numerous studies show that as the proportion of the older people in a community increases, support for school bond issues and per-pupil spending decline. This is especially true among whites when the percentage of nonwhite students entering the schools grows, which is exactly what's happening now. Combine that with the fact that my lateboomer generation's children are Millennials, who came of age in the ravaged post- Great Recession economy and are delaying

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