Secrectary of State Hillary Clinton was the star this past week when she testified before Congress. The ostensible purpose for her visit to Capitol Hill was to shed some light on why there was no help for the four Americans killed in Benghazi, Libya on September 11th of last year. We still don't know. But the highlight moment was her confrontation with Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin over the tale told by UN Ambassador Susan Rice on the Sunday following the attacks.
Johnson to Clinton: “We were misled that there were supposedly protests and something sprang out of that — an assault sprang out of that. And that was easily ascertained that that was not the fact, and the American people could have known that within days and they didn’t know that.”
Clinton to Johnson: “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans! Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and to prevent it from ever happening again.”
What a moment for Hillary. Members of the left leaning press were ecstatic.
It was refreshing to see someone fire back at the kind of rudeness that has come to typify the new brand of GOP swarming Capitol Hill.
With each of these experiences, Clinton learned the do’s and don’ts of public combat, especially with Republicans. That she gave as good as she got from Johnson bespoke a woman comfortable enough in her own skin and with her considerable stature to tell Johnson to stuff it. Brava!
A beautiful bit of double talk, though. A nonsensical response. What difference does it make, who did it and why — "Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans?" — when our job is to find out who did it and why — "It is our job to figure out what happened and to prevent it from ever happening again?”
Let's leave that aside. The more important questions arose months earlier. Those questions centered around apparent refusals to beef up security at the consulate in Benghazi, even in the face of repeated requests for more of it.
Eric Nordstrom earlier told congressional investigators that he had requested more security but that request was blocked by a department policy to "normalize operations and reduce security resources." Under questioning, though, he said he had sought mainly to prevent any reduction in staff, rather than have a big increase.
How about those words "department policy?" There was a department policy to "normalize operations." Nordstrom went on to say that State Department officers carried out their duties.
"I'm confident that the committee will conclude that Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service and Mission Libya officers conducted themselves professionally and with careful attention to managing people and budgets in a way that reflects the gravity of their task," Nordstrom said.
Nordstrom's testimony squares with that from another State Department official who also said that they had done what they were supposed to do.
"We had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11," said Charlene Lamb, the deputy secretary of state for diplomatic security in charge of protecting American embassies and consulates around the world.
How can one say they had assigned the "correct number of assets" when four Americans wound up dead? There were certainly not enough security forces to protect them or evacuate them. Ah, but they had "the correct number of assets" according to department policy.
Which brings us to the real question. Who made up the policy dictating that the consulate in Benghazi, Libya would normalize operations? We think we know who carried it out.
The highest-ranking official caught up in the scandal, Assistant Secretary of State Eric Boswell, has not “resigned” from government service, as officials said last week. He is just switching desks. And the other three are simply on administrative leave and are expected back.
The four were made out to be sacrificial lambs in the wake of a scathing report issued last week that found that the US compound in Benghazi, Libya, was left vulnerable to attack because of “grossly inadequate” security.
But nobody seems anxious to find out, whose policy was it. In a full day of testimony nobody asked our resurgent rock star Hillary Clinton if she's the one who formulated it. And if it wasn't Hillary, wouldn't it have to have been Barack Obama? Strange that no one cares to know, because if Hillary and her State Department colleagues are to be believed, it was department policy — the one that said normalize operations in Benghazi — that was responsible for four American deaths.
It's no surprise the media couldn't be bothered with asking it. It's done and over now. Hillary's 2016 aspirations remain viable. That's all that really matters, after all.