Empty chair alert: Hillary “takes responsibility” for Benghazi
CNN reports that Hillary Clinton, who has been milk-carton material since the collapse of the Administration’s false narrative on the Benghazi consulate attack, popped up in Peru to “take responsibility” for embassy security:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday tried to douse a political firestorm around the deadly assault on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, saying she is responsible for the security of American diplomatic outposts.
“I take responsibility” for the protection of U.S. diplomats, Clinton said during a visit to Peru. But she said an investigation now under way will ultimately determine what happened in the attack that left four Americans dead.
Ah, that fabled “investigation,” whose only certain outcome is that its uncertain outcome will not be revealed until sometime after the election.
CNN rather absurdly summarizes the hot water bubbling around the Obama Administration as follows:
The Obama administration has been heavily criticized after Vice President Joe Biden said during last week’s vice presidential debate that the White House did not know of requests to enhance security at Benghazi, contradicting testimony by State Department employees that requests had been made and rejected. After the debate, the White House said the vice president did not know of the requests because they were handled, as is the practice, by the State Department.
This controversy did not begin when Joe Biden lied through his Cheshire Cat grin during the vice presidential debate. Volleys of heavy criticism had been slamming into the Administration for weeks. That’s why Angry Joe made his bizarre attempt to blame his and Obama’s failures on the intelligence community, and directly contradicted State Department testimony.
And the initial White House response, from spokesman Jay Carney, didn’t build a “firewall” between the White House and State Department; Carney said Biden “was speaking directly for himself and the president,” meaning the “White House” is an organism distinct from Obama and Biden. The post-debate firewall surrounded the Oval Office, not the White House.
Clinton said she wants to “avoid some kind of political gotcha” during the election. That’s what the Obama Administration has been reduced to: claiming that valid questions about their dereliction of duty, and repeated lies directly into the faces of both the American people and the families of the Benghazi victims – asked during the one chance American voters will get to decide if this gang should be in charge for another four years – are just a silly Washington game. Apparently Hillary Clinton decided to avoid that game by making her statement from Peru. And Obama’s crew are the ones who behave like this is all a game, which ends when someone in the Obama inner circle – but never the Empty Chair himself – says “Okay, you got me.” Then the cards are reshuffled, and the game begins again.
There are actually two related controversies swirling around Benghazi: the shockingly poor decisions about consulate security, with protection actually reduced as hundreds of violent incidents boiled through the streets of Benghazi; and the Administration’s blatantly false narrative about a “spontaneous video protest” spun out of control, pushed by Obama and his people for the better part of two weeks, even though everyone knew it wasn’t true on the morning of Day One after the attack. Hillary’s new spirit of “taking responsibility” didn’t extend to the cover-up. She just blew that off:
Clinton also sought to downplay the criticism that administration officials continued to say the attack was a spontaneous product of a protest over an anti-Muslim film, a theory that has since been discarded. In the wake of an attack, there is always confusion, Clinton said. But the information has since changed, she said.
The secretary of state also described the desperate scene in the State Department during the hours of the attack on the night of the assault. It was an “intense, long ordeal” as staff tried to find out what had happened.
No, the “information” did not change. No one ever really thought it was a spontaneous protest. That might have been one long night at the State Department on September 11, but it was one night. On the morning of the following day, State and the U.S. intelligence community had absolute confidence they faced an organized terrorist attack – indeed, one of the most sophisticated assaults ever launched against an American diplomatic facility – and absolutely zero reasons to think it was a protest against a YouTube video that got out of hand.
The Administration hasn’t been forthcoming with updates as new data poured into their brain trust. They haven’t been rushing before the cameras every day with news updates, doing their best to keep Mr. and Mrs. America up to speed. Everything we know about Benghazi has been dragged out of them, by investigative reporters like Eli Lake at the Daily Beast, and Congressional investigators. If Republicans had not won control of the House in 2010, the American people would have far less information about the deadly “mistakes” made by the Administration during the weeks before the attack.
Hillary Clinton thundered about That Damned Video quite a bit, but she was much quicker than anyone from the White House to talk about an “attack.” Her statements didn’t mutate in response to any “new information,” not the way the White House narrative kept shifting as reporters dug up more proof that there was never a “protest” outside the consulate in Benghazi, and no one – from the Libyan government to American intelligence officers – ever thought there was.
But here Clinton is, “taking responsibility” in a meaningless, symbolic way to protect Obama from criticism. As Buzzfeed recalls, she sternly informed Obama during the 2008 primaries that “strong presidential leadership” requires that the “buck stops in the Oval Office.” But now she’s either volunteered to fall under the fabled Obama bus, or been pushed.
Of course, nothing will actually happen to her – she’s not going to resign. She might cashier an unlucky subordinate or two, however. Blogger Ace of Spades notes that Fox News picked up a statement from Clinton that wasn’t in the CNN story: “The decisions about security aspects are made by security professionals.” A few of those guys might be looking for a new profession by the end of this week.
But for the big shots in this Administration, “responsibility” is a magic word intended to stifle further questions, not a synonym for accountability. We’ve had a few weeks of angry denials and loud insistence that nobody in the Administration did anything wrong, including an effort by congressional Democrats to pin responsibility for the lax security in Benghazi on… Paul Ryan and the rest of his caucus, for supposedly slashing the security budget. Now we’ll watch a few high level cut-outs claim they’re “responsible” for the mistakes they used to say nobody made, but none of them will be held accountable.
Meanwhile, an empty chair rocks gently in the Oval Office, with Hillary Clinton’s name now added to countless others scratched into the armrest. Barack Obama loves to use the power of that office to further his personal agenda, but he has no interest in the duties of the Presidency at all. He’ll probably make some meaningless noises about taking ultimate responsibility during the Tuesday night debate, but it won’t matter. America has already seen that when, to borrow another Hillary Clinton phrase from the 2008 campaign, the “three A.M. phone call” came in from Benghazi, Barack Obama let it go to voice mail. Now he’s trying to forward it to Hillary’s office.
Update: Even the Obama cheerleading squad at the New York Times sees this for what it is: “Mrs. Clinton made the comments shortly after she arrived in Lima, Peru, for a diplomatic visit, and they appeared to be an effort to inoculate President Obama from criticism for any security lapses in Libya as he prepared for Tuesday’s debate with Mitt Romney, his Republican challenger.”
Update: Meanwhile, the Empty Chair weighs in on something much more important than the dead of Benghazi: the Nicki Minaj – Mariah Carey feud. Courtesy of Us Magazine, Obama discussed this vital national security issue with a hip-hop DJ in Miami:
“I think they are going to be able to sort it out, I am confident,” Obama, 51, shared. “I’m all about bringing people together, working for the same cause. I think both outstanding artists are going to be able to make sure that they’re moving forward and not going backwards.”
Obama offered an equally politic response when asked which of the two pop icons is his favorite.
“Mariah, she’s done some events for us, I’ve gotten to know [her] and [husband] Nick [Cannon] and she’s a wonderful lady,” he explained. “Nicki, I don’t know, but I’ve got her on my iPod.”
Too bad those pleas for increased protection from diplomats in Libya didn’t get onto his iPod.
Update: Some observers wonder why Hillary would threaten her 2016 prospects by throwing herself under the bus to protect Obama. Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post sees it the other way around: she thinks Hillary popped out this little late-night squeak of a statement in Peru specifically to sabotage Obama, by ensuring that Benghazi will be prominently mentioned in tonight’s debate:
Frankly, no one believes she is responsible. She gets the gold star for being the loyal underling. And — this is key — the president looks small and weak. The pressure rises on him to shoulder the blame and to explain what occurred. His remaining three weeks of the campaign are spent in a death spiral of scandal. Clinton comes out looking like a rose. The 2016 nomination is hers for the taking. She (and probably Bill) in this version is the ultimate political manipulator, undermining the president by her own act of faux bravery. (From Peru. After the evening broadcast.)
Rubin notes that Hillary’s loyal supporters, who were never all that happy with President Obama, will be enraged by the perception that she was made to “walk the plank for a cowardly president who should have stepped forward to take the blame.” By 2016, only accusations of excessive loyalty to Obama will stick to her, and a good deal of the electorate might be willing to overlook the “sin” of excessive loyalty.