Fearless prediction: With Hillary having now formally accepted blame, President Above The Fray will magnanimously volunteer at tomorrow night’s debate that, no no, it is with him that the buck ultimately stops. The White House has been holding off on doing that because they’re desperate to frame this as an internal problem at State. Now that Clinton’s gone and done that, Obama can pose as a stand-up guy and loyal boss by symbolically accepting responsibility on behalf of the people who are really at fault.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the bucks stops with her when it comes to who is blame for a deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
“I take responsibility” for what happened on September 11, Clinton said in an interview with CNN’s Elise Labott soon after arriving in Lima, Peru for a visit. The interview, one of a series given to U.S. television networks Monday night, were the first she has given about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Clinton insisted President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are not involved in security decisions, Clinton said.
“I want to avoid some kind of political gotcha,” she added, noting that it is close to the election.
Ace has another quote from her that essentially puts the whole thing off on her underlings, but there’s no link and I don’t see it in the CNN story. No matter, though: She’s not claiming actual responsibility in the excerpt above, just symbolic responsibility as the head of the Department that’s at fault. Given how the public generally respects showy professions of blame, it’s really the easiest thing in the world to make a “buck stops here” statement. The One himself would have done it weeks ago, I’m sure, if not for the fact that he’s caught in an election death struggle and knows the GOP would have hammered him with it. (As I explained above, it’s safer politically for him to do it now that Hillary’s chimed in.) The only way to make a “buck stops here” admission truly meaningful is to put some meat on the bone by identifying and correcting all the things that you’ve done wrong. Has Hillary done any of that yet? What protocols at State are going to change from all of this? Are we finished, at least, with pitiful public groveling to Islamists about how awful and terrible and reprehensible that Mohammed movie that hurt their feelings was?
Here’s the real question: Did Obama put Hillary up to this or did she do it on her own initiative to put O on the spot? As I’ve explained, I think this actually helps him by letting him accept symbolic responsibility while continuing to shunt actual responsibility onto State. But maybe I’m wrong. A friend e-mailed me after I wrote this post on Friday scolding me for thinking that Obama might throw Hillary under the bus rather than vice versa. After all, she’d have an easier time running in 2016 against President Romney than she would trying to succeed a two-term Democratic president. (Although, in that case, why did Bill Clinton give a wildly successful speech for O at the convention?) And as I said Friday, there is political peril for O in having Hillary go first on this. Potentially, he’ll look weak and diffident tomorrow night by following her lead, not loyal and magnanimous — and maybe Hillary knew that when she stepped up. Expect Romney to hammer that point, especially given how much he enjoys playing the Clintons off of Obama. What kind of “leader” says “the buck stops here” only after it’s already stopped somewhere else?
Here’s the vid, via CNN. This will, assuredly, be used against Hillary in 2016 if she runs, but I think she figures that between her high favorables and the fact that the public likes when executives “take charge” by accepting blame or whatever, she’ll be forgiven by voters. Quite possible.
Update: Ace e-mails to say that the Hillary quote in his post came from Wendell Goler on Fox News, who also interviewed Clinton today. They put it up on the screen sometime early this evening.