Michael Bay has apparently made a movie about Benghazi. The man who brought us “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor” and however many “Transformers” movies is using his quick-cut, hyper-kinetic, explosion-heavy filmmaking style – “Bayhem” – to tell the story of the 2012 terrorist attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead. And judging from the trailer for “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” Bay is giving Benghazi the shallow and jingoistic treatment America so desperately craves. The movie is full of men who wear beards and aviators and who stare up at the North African sun while the camera spins around them dramatically. And there are explosions. So many explosions.
“How willing are you to die for your country?” a bearded American hero asks of an anonymous Libyan militiaman. “I’m ready to go right here right now.” Oh god.
“13 Hours” won’t come out for a few more months, so I can’t be sure that this movie will be terrible. That being said, I’m still pretty sure this movie will be terrible. And not only will it be bad, it will add yet another layer of stupidity to the already insufferable and seemingly interminable political fight over the Benghazi attacks.
As a matter of fact, it’s already having that effect. Fox News, which has spent close to three years manufacturing and amplifying spurious Benghazi-related talking points, is giddy with anticipation over the film. Remember once upon a time when literally every conservative pundit and Republican lawmaker was convinced that the Obama administration had ordered military assets to “stand down” and not come to the rescue of Ambassador Chris Stevens? That story originated with a Fox News report that has since been debunked more times than one would think possible. But in the “13 Hours” trailer, a very authoritative actor says something sort of like “stand down” to the actors portraying the security personnel who want to rush to the rescue of the actor portraying Chris Stevens. “The ambassador is in his safe haven,” the person of authority says. “You are not the first responders. You’re the last resort. You will wait.”
The sea sponges who host Fox News’ unjustifiable morning program, “Fox & Friends,” could barely contain their excitement at the idea that this movie would finally show us what really happened in Benghazi and put Hillary Clinton on the spot. “This movie, if it’s really popular, is going to force her to answer some questions,” observed Steve Doocy, who is very stupid. “How difficult might this movie be for the White House or for Hillary Clinton?” Fox News daytime anchor Martha MacCallum asked the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes. “I think it’s a big problem for Hillary Clinton,” he observed. The New York Post’s Kyle Smith – known possessor of good and smart ideas about movies and politics – agreed that the movie will be trouble for Hillary. “Hillary Clinton wants everyone to shut up about the basic intelligence and security failure that was Benghazi, and that it was all, ultimately, her responsibility,” he writes. “’13 Hours’ means Benghazi isn’t going to go away.”
See, here’s the thing – Hillary Clinton already answered questions on Benghazi when she faced down some very angry Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in early 2013. And she’s going to answer more questions on Benghazi this fall when she sits down before the angry Republicans on Trey Gowdy’s House Select Committee on Benghazi. Michael Bay’s Benghazi movie won’t pin her down or cause her any discomfort because it is a Michael Bay movie. It’s entertainment. If you’re counting on the director of “Bad Boys II” to steal the presidential election from the Democratic front-runner, you are going to be very disappointed.
But, they argue, “13 Hours” will keep Benghazi alive in the public consciousness, right? And that’s bad for Hillary because Hillary did Benghazi. That might come close to making sense if the Republican Party hadn’t spent the past three years quite conspicuously keeping the Benghazi issue afloat through a series of fruitless investigations and overhyped congressional hearings. At this point, people are pretty well aware that Benghazi is a thing that happened, and they're also pretty aware that not one investigation has turned up any evidence of a conspiracy or other malfeasance on the part of senior administration officials.
Also, the Bay movie is coming out in January 2016. It seems unlikely that it would be too much of an issue in the Democratic primaries, and it will be out of theaters long before the general election. For a bit of perspective, the actual Benghazi attacks happened two months before the 2012 election, and they didn’t impede Barack Obama’s reelection. So what reason do we have to think that a movie about Benghazi will have any more electoral potency?
This gets to the enduring conservative faith that Benghazi will finally end up being the politically radioactive scandal they’ve all convinced themselves it is. It hasn’t happened yet, but who knows – maybe with an assistance from Michael Bay, this shit will finally get real.