Via the Examiner, I told you Team O would be all about blame-taking today now that Hillary went ahead and did the heavy lifting. Watch Jen Psaki’s interview with an appropriately skeptical Shep Smith below. She mentions Clinton’s responsibility up front and then State’s responsibility again later in the span of a minute, just to make sure you understand that O’s taking only symbolic blame here, not actual blame. Aren’t you impressed with what a loyal, stand-up, take-charge leader he is, hiding under his desk for five weeks until he and Hillary finally decided it was time for some “buck stops here” theater? You’re a regular Harry Truman, champ.
I’m serving you this as an hors d’oeuvre for the debate since it’s one of two subjects over which Mitt and O are guaranteed to clash. (The “47 percent” is the other, of course.) Expect Romney to tell Obama to man up and come clean about what he knew; expect Obama to hem and haw and then perform some “buck stops theater” himself, secure in the knowledge that he’ll be bombing jihadis in Libya soon and, well, voters have short memories. Here’s a new quote from Hillary in her interview with ABC today that I wouldn’t mind seeing Romney follow up on:
Clinton also said that the United States had been aware that militants were regrouping in Libya and that they would attempt to re-establish bases.
“We also knew, aside from individuals and groups, there were so many militias that have formed and so many weapons,” Clinton told ABC News Monday. “It was something we were focused on.”
Her decision does two things. One, it takes some pressure (but not all; Obama is still the president, and national security starts and ends with him) off the president and shifts it over to Foggy Bottom.
Second, when Republicans attack the administration now, they also will have to go after Clinton more directly, which is a dicier political proposition than taking on Obama. Clinton is arguably the most popular member of the president’s cabinet. Earlier this spring, her approval rating stood at a remarkable 65 percent in a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
There are other reasons Clinton can afford to do this. Not only is she the top of the paper chain at the State Department, she also is pretty much bulletproof on Capitol Hill. There hasn’t been any real clamor for her to testify, or otherwise be chastised.
Issa and the Oversight Committee have a responsibility to Stevens and other diplomats in the field to follow this investigation to the end and figure out what led to the security breakdown around him, but I’m sure no one’s relishing grilling the only member of the administration who’s still liked by a heavy majority of Americans. (McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte released a joint statement last night all but congratulating her for her “laudable” willingness to accept responsibility, in fact.) That’s why I lean towards Shep’s theory that O and Hillary acted in concert to roll out the “buck stops here” two-step between them rather than the cloak-and-dagger theory that Hillary acted on her own initiative in order to put Obama on the spot. The fact that State was responsible for Stevens’s protection means the buck stopped with her whether she wanted to acknowledge it publicly or not. Better then to acknowledge it, graciously receive the obligatory media praise whenever a politician accepts blame, and trust that no one except maybe Andrew Cuomo is going to make her pay for it.
Two clips for you, the first of Psaki and Shep and the second, via RCP, of Obama ducking a question about whether Hillary’s to blame for Benghazi. Maybe if the reporter had worked for an august publication like “Us” magazine, he would have gotten an answer.