The Obama administration and the Democrats from the beginning have treated Benghazi as an inconvenient political problem that demanded something far less than candor. They persist in that view.
But, as the Wall Street Journal points out in an editorial, what happened that night in Benghazi and Washington and the aftermath includes "details that ought to concern Americans who care about political accountability."
As noted yesterday on the blog, the Select Committee's Report on Benghazi reveals the startling news that on the day after the attack that claimed the lives of four Americans, including the first U.S. ambassador slain in the line of duty since 1979, President Obama skipped his daily briefing.
The manner in which former secretary of state Hillary Clinton acquitted herself that night, however, is at this point of more significance than what President Obama did or didn't do since she has a very good shot at being our next president. Thus this is of especial interest in contemplating the future leadership of the country:
We also learn that on the day of the attack, in a 5 p.m. meeting that included Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Mr. Obama said the U.S. should use all available resources. After that meeting, Mr. Panetta returned to the Pentagon to discuss what military resources were available. The Defense Secretary then issued an order to deploy military assets to Libya.
But nothing was sent to Benghazi, and nothing was even in route when the last two Americans were killed almost eight hours after the attacks began. The holdup seems to have been caused in part by something else we learn from this report: a 7:30 p.m. teleconference of Defense and State officials, including Mrs. Clinton.
Ostensibly they were sharing intelligence and coordinating responses. But they debated whether they needed Libya’s permission to deploy American troops to defend endangered Americans, whether Marines should wear uniforms or civilian clothes, and so on.
On whether we needed permission from Libya to rescue Americans under attack, refresh my memory–was there a government in place Libya just then? There was a government of sorts, yes, but an intervention, for which Mrs. Clinton was a key proponent, had replaced the evil but stable government of Gaddafi with an evil and unstable no man's land. Libya was mostly chaos and an arms dealers' bazaar. So, by all means, get permission.
The report reveals that the Marines changed clothes four times that night. The halting of the mission to try to help our people under attack seems to have come from the State Department.
Mrs. Clinton was at the crucial meeting where decisions that would govern the administration's response to the attack and aftermath were formulated. A cover up began while the attack wasstill in progress:
Even more telling: Though there was no evidence linking the Benghazi attacks to a YouTube video mocking Islam, of the 10 “action items” from the notes of that meeting, five referred to the video.
Mrs. Clinton referred to the video more than once in her public statements. At 10:08 p.m. on the night of the attack, she issued a public statement on Benghazi: “Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.” She repeated the point the next day at the State Department.
That’s not what she was saying in private.
. . .
The tragedy of Benghazi is that four brave Americans in a dangerous part of the world lost their lives to a determined and deadly enemy. The scandal of Benghazi is that instead of leveling with the American people, Mrs. Clinton and others who knew better opted for a more convenient—and corrosive—spin.
In thinking about Mrs. Clinton's conduct that night, the most significant night of her public career, a refrain from a hymn by James Russell Lowell keeps recurring in my mind:
Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.
Theologically, the hymn is bunk–we get lots of moments to decide.
But, as a statement of what happens in public life, it's pretty good.
Mrs. Clinton faced a "once to every man and nation" moment that night. She blew it and then tried to cover up her failure. Falsehood triumphed in the aftermath of the attack.
So far she has paid no political price and Democrats continue to dismiss questions about her conduct as politically motivated. After all, lies are the standard operating procedure in the Obama administration.
PS. I urge you to read the report. It presents a bleak picture of how contemporary Washington functions. Mrs. Clinton was not the only high-ranking official who appears to have been derelict that night. Here is a vignette:
The Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff typically would have participated in the White House meeting, but did not attend because he went home to host a dinner party for foreign dignitaries. [pg. 107]