May 7 2013
If the greatness of a secretary of State were measured in miles traveled, Hillary Clinton would be right up there with, say, Dean Acheson, Harry Truman’s great secretary of State. But miles traveled is not how success is measured—or, depressingly, maybe it is now.
Mrs. Clinton has done everything possible to distance herself from Benghazi, the attack on an American diplomatic property that took the life of the first ambassador slain in the line of duty in three decades (along with three other Americans). It now appears that, at the very least, when the former Secretary of State welcomed the caskets of the slain to Andrews Air Force Base and blamed a scurrilous video for the “demonstrations” in Benghazi, she knew better.
Think about this: the former secretary of State appears to be distancing herself, indeed pleading ignorance, from one of the most important developments on her watch. Steve Hayes of the Weekly Standard had a masterful piece on how the talking points on the attack delivered on television by Ambassador Susan Rice were changed. It looks like the changes protected two people: President Obama and then-Secretary Clinton. Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post writes:
The biggest unknown is whether the “building leadership” in the State Department who objected to the initial talking points included anyone on Clinton’s immediate staff. (One presumes that nit-picking over wording would not have risen to Clinton’s level.) Certainly, someone senior made a call to the White House that resulted in quick action. …
[Secretary Clinton then] also stressed [when testifying before Congress that] it was an “intelligence product” and said she was not involved in the “talking points process” and she “personally” was not focused on them — odd locutions that leaves open the possibility that she was aware of the internal debate at the time.
Others might find it hard to believe that the secretary wasn’t intimately involved, if only via intermediaries, in drafting the talking points on which her political future might hinge. The public has a right to the truth—one because, the truth is preferable to falsehood and two because Mrs. Clinton plans to run for higher office. In a column on the “Ghosts of Benghazi” Mona Charen writes:
When Secretary Clinton testified before Congress on Benghazi (and ran circles around the questions), she referred repeatedly to the “ARB,” the accountability review board, to prove that her department had been blameless in failing to provide additional security to the consulate and in handling the aftermath. But that piece of the wall is now in danger of coming loose as well. State’s inspector general is investigating the ARB and may inquire as to why the secretary of state herself, among others, was never interviewed during its investigation.
Secretary Clinton’s demand “What difference does it make?” deserves a reply. The public deserves to know if the mistakes the administration made — conceptual, tactical, or both — contributed to the deaths of four Americans. The public also deserves to know whether the president and his agents audaciously and brazenly lied about a national-security matter for political gain.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., deserves immense credit for pursuing Benghazi in the face of administration stonewalling. The administration attempted to birtherize Benghazi—i.e., make it appear that whoever raised questions was not respectable. But Issa persevered. Let’s just hope that the House members don’t waste tomorrow’s hearings by grandstanding and speechifying instead of asking good questions.