October 16 2012

Hillary: The Buck Stops Here. But My Underlings Did It...

Charlotte Hays

What on earth is behind Hillary Clinton’s bizarre and unexpected announcement that she “takes responsibility” for the Benghazi fiasco?

It seems to me that it’s an attempt to say “case closed,” “we don’t need to talk about this anymore, folks” on the eve of the all-important, second presidential debate. Allahpundit seems to think Clinton’s assumption of responsibility will offer the president a moment for a grand gesture tonight:

Fearless prediction: With Hillary having now formally accepted blame, President Above The Fray will magnanimously volunteer at tomorrow night’s debate that, no no, it is with him that the buck ultimately stops. The White House has been holding off on doing that because they’re desperate to frame this as an internal problem at State. Now that Clinton’s gone and done that, Obama can pose as a stand-up guy and loyal boss by symbolically accepting responsibility on behalf of the people who are really at fault.

Mrs. Clinton does bear responsibility for security lapses in Libya. But, as Richard Nixon learned to his historic detriment, it is the cover-up that gets people in trouble. Certainly, Mrs. Clinton is not claiming responsibility for dispatching U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to five Sunday morning talk shows with a bogus story of what happened? Was Mrs. Clinton responsible for the president’s peddling a false narrative that the attack was a mob out of control rather than a terrorist attack on the anniversary of September 11 on his watch?

And really, really, really how much responsibility is Mrs. Clinton taking?

"In the wake of an attack like this, in the fog of war, there's always going to be confusion," Clinton said. "And I think it is absolutely fair to say that everyone had the same intelligence. Everyone who spoke tried to give the information that they had. As time has gone on, that information has changed. We've gotten more detail, but that's not surprising. That always happens."

Actually, the “fog of war” was pierced in this instance to a great extent by modern technology: State Department officials were on the phone with people in the compound as the attack unfolded. They knew in real time that this was a terrorist attack, not a protest against a video that had gone awry. Is Mrs. Clinton saying that she didn’t know the truth when she stood by four coffins of four Americans at Andrews Air Force base and stuck to the phony video narrative? This is difficult to believe.

And did Hillary just say “fog of war?” It’s worth asking: Is there a war on, Hillary? And, if so, with whom? Middle Eastern movie critics or al Qaeda? If the latter, how does this square with the administration’s insistence that al Qaeda is all but vanquished? And, by the way, if Mitt Romney had used the fog of war locution, David Axelrod would be calling him a warmonger.

I’ve been seeing Hillary as inexplicably falling on her sword for a president who defeated her for the prize four years ago and with whom the Clintons have always had an—um—interesting relationship. Carol Platt Liebau, on the other hand, thinks that what Clinton did is likely to help her more than it does the president:  

She ensured Libya and her move would be a major topic at the must-win debate for Obama tomorrow night (eliminating any possibility that extensive discussion of foreign affairs and Benghazi would be deferred for the foreign policy debate);

She raised the question -- which now may be put to Obama -- of whether she should be fired.  If she is asked, of course she may answer demurely that she serves at the pleasure of the President. In any case, he is now hamstrung; if he answers "yes," she should be fired, he infuriates a lot of Dems -- and potentially a lot of women, but if he answers "no," he risks seeming insufficiently upset about what happened to the independents;

She makes the best of a bad situation for herself.  Of course she is responsible for what happened -- at least she salvages some respect for her leadership by at least being willing to admit it (denying it wouldn't help her at all anyway in 2016 if she chooses to run).

Anyone who watched the Clintons throughout the '90's knows that both of them are willing to evade accountability and responsibility to a virtually unbelievable degree if they perceive that doing so is to their political advantage.  It wasn't that she was worn down.  Hillary must have realized that by doing what she did, she at least takes some steps to salvage her own credibility -- while simultaneously heaving Obama and Biden under the bus they were aiming toward her.

Nicely played, no?

And as Allahpundit points out, Clinton only took “symbolic responsibility.” She noted in her statement that the decisions about security were made by “security professionals.”

Ace of Spaces paraphrases:

I'm responsible, but then again, I'm not; the buck stops with me, but not really, it was this low-level political appointee scapegoat who's going to claim he "shielded" me from these demands for additional security on his own authority.

I’m not quite sure Mrs. Clinton’s assumption of responsibility is quite what Harry Truman had in mind when he said that the “buck stops here.”

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