Hillary Bobs and Weaves
Feb 4, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 20 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
Although Clinton says she never saw reports contradicting Rice’s version of events, she testified that she was careful never to blame the video for the attacks in -Benghazi. “With respect to the video, I did not say that it was video from—that it was about the video for Libya. It certainly was for many of the other places we were watching these disturbances.”
That’s parsing that would make even her husband blush. In a statement she put out on the evening of September 11—“Statement by Secretary Clinton on the Attack in Benghazi”—she denounced the assault and the video. “I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. . . . 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.”
Three days later, at the solemn ceremony for the arrival of the caskets of the slain Americans, she said: “This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in -Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with. It is hard for the American people to make sense of that because it is senseless, and it is totally unacceptable.”
Clinton’s current position, if we take her literally, seems to be that the protests and attacks on our embassies throughout the region came in response to the video, but the attack in Benghazi did not. Let’s take Clinton’s parsing at face value and assume that she intended to separate the Benghazi attacks from the violence elsewhere triggered by the video. If she wasn’t linking the attacks in Libya to the video, she was one of the only Obama officials who didn’t do so. Why? By her own account, she hadn’t seen any of the reporting that contradicted the administration’s early claims about those attacks—made by everyone from Susan Rice to Barack Obama.
It seems unlikely that we’ll get answers to these questions. The establishment media coverage of Clinton’s testimony ranged from fawning to fulsome. CNN’s Soledad O’Brien apparently wasn’t bothered by Clinton’s inconsistencies, but she excoriated Senator Ron Johnson for having the audacity to ask about them. NBC News summarized her appearance this way: “Speaking of Clinton’s performance, all of her political strengths were on display. She was prepared. She was tough when she needed to be. She was deferential when she wanted to be. And she displayed both raw emotion and a sense of humor. It’s also worth noting that she’s stronger today—politically—than she was four years ago. . . . But politically, her performance yesterday is enough to quiet any nervous Nellies in the Democratic party that she isn’t ready for what will inevitably be a rough and tumble campaign should she embark on it.”
But before we put the Benghazi story to bed, it’s worth noting that Republicans in Congress are not satisfied, and many of them are angry. The administration, its claims of transparency notwithstanding, has refused to provide congressional oversight committees with many of the documents they requested. In particular, the White House has told congressional investigators that it will not provide any documents related to the drafting and editing of the much-disputed “talking points,” despite the fact that the administration has offered five different explanations of how those talking points were put together, then changed to omit references to al Qaeda.
The media may not have much interest, but confirmation hearings for John Brennan, the president’s nominee to head the CIA, will soon provide senators an opportunity to grill him about the administration’s inconsistencies and continuing lack of transparency. If they use it well, the Benghazi scandal may yet grow to adolescence. Either way, Republicans owe it to the public, and particularly the families of the deceased, to demand answers.