As was true the first time she issued a mea culpa over Benghazi, in no way will she accept actual responsibility for what happened replete with specifics about her own failings. That could damage her presidential prospects. A vacant buck-stops-here statement, by contrast, will enhance them because the American public likes when its politicians engage in pantomimes of leadership. She might not have taken any political risks to prevent the attack in Benghazi but, damn it, she’ll pretend to take one now by showily accepting the blame on television in full knowledge that there’s no political risk to her at all in doing so. That’s what real leaders do.
And thus was the box checked:
As I have said many times since September 11, I take responsibility. Nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger, and more secure.
Taking responsibility meant moving quickly in those first uncertain hours and days to respond to the immediate crisis and further protect our people and posts in high-threat areas across the region and the world. It meant launching an independent investigation to determine exactly what happened in Benghazi and to recommend steps for improvement. And it meant intensifying our efforts to combat terrorism and support emerging democracies in North Africa and beyond.
So you see, “taking responsibility” in this case is actually just a pretext to list all of the things she did right afterward, not to revisit her and her underlings’ shameful negligence (which, naturally, was without consequences) on Chris Stevens’s security despite many, many warnings from the embassy beforehand about how conditions were deteriorating in Benghazi. This isn’t unlike being asked during a job interview to name your biggest weakness and answering, “I try too hard.” And she won’t be called on this at today’s hearing; her old colleagues in the Senate are too chummy with her to press hard, which is why Susan Rice was bludgeoned for weeks while her boss endured nothing worse than some grumbling about her making sure to testify after she got out of the hospital. The only Republicans who might really challenge her are Rubio and Rand Paul, neither one of whom served with her and both of whom are no doubt eager to build goodwill among grassroots conservatives ahead of 2016 by taking on a Clinton for being weak on national security.
Anyway. She went on to say this, too: “Benghazi didn’t happen in a vacuum. The Arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security forces across the region. And instability in Mali has created an expanding safe haven for terrorists who look to extend their influence and plot further attacks of the kind we saw just last week in Algeria.” The NYT has an intriguing report this morning on just how expansive that new safe haven might be. Pay attention to it, because if America eventually gets dragged deeper into Mali — as the French hope — this may be one of the justifications The One eventually offers:
Several Egyptian members of the squad of militants that lay bloody siege to an Algerian gas complex last week also took part in the deadly attack on the United States Mission in Libya in September, a senior Algerian official said Tuesday.
The Egyptians involved in both attacks were killed by Algerian forces during the four-day ordeal that ended in the deaths of at least 38 hostages and 29 kidnappers, the official said. But three of the militants were captured alive, and one of them described the Egyptians’ role in both assaults under interrogation by the Algerian security services, the official said.
If confirmed, the link between two of the most brazen assaults in recent memory would reinforce the transborder character of the jihadist groups now striking across the Sahara…
But the Algerian official did not say why the captured kidnapper’s assertion — that some fighters had taken part in both the Benghazi and Algerian attacks — should be considered trustworthy. Nor did he say whether it was obtained under duress.
Smells fishy. The jihadis in custody have an incentive to claim responsibility for Benghazi — killing an American ambassador adds to their post-hostage-crisis “glory” — and the Algerians have an incentive to trumpet it because it buys them extra political cover in how they handled the crisis. But like I say, if the U.S. is drawn in further in north Africa, which may be happening as we speak, you’ll likely hear this floated as one reason why. And yes, that’s the height of irony given that the earlier U.S. intervention in Libya contributed to jihadis running loose with fresh new weapons across the region.
question challenge: Name Hillary’s biggest achievement as Secretary of State. We’re going to hear a lot starting two years from now about how her diplomatic accomplishments are another big feather in her presidential cap. Which accomplishments, exactly? Per Michael Kinsley, flying lots and lots and lots of miles around the world doesn’t count.
Clinton on bad information vs. spontaneous outbreak in Benghazi: “What difference does it make?”
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) January 23, 2013
Update: Via the Daily Caller, here’s Hillary in “What difference does it make?” mode, just in case you were under the mistaken impression that this hearing was about getting to the bottom of what happened.
Update: Read Tom Joscelyn on why there may be something to the Times report about Benghazi jihadis being involved in the Algerian hostage crisis. There’s no reason to believe that the Algerian attack was “local”; as acknowledged by Hillary herself, one very hard reality of post-Qadaffi north Africa is that borders aren’t much of an impediment to jihadis.