Alternate headline: Jake Tapper removed from debate moderator consideration. Yesterday, Jake Tapper discussed with Hugh Hewitt the sword of Damocles hanging over the head of Hillary Clinton as she considers whether (or when) to jump into the 2016 presidential race. Tapper figures that either the Clinton campaign will have to produce a comprehensive explanation of the fiasco in Benghazi and Hillary’s role in it, or get plagued with questions all through the campaign:
HEWITT: I want to get, you’re always show prep for me, Jake. You’re on in the background here, and so you had A.B. Stoddard, Van Jones, and Kevin Madden on today. And you were talking about Hillary. And I think that whenever Hillary comes up, and a partisan like Van, and I’m a partisan for the Republicans, so it’s okay to be a partisan, is sitting there, the question has to be answered by them. Where was Hillary on the night of Benghazi? And what was she doing? Because the Kirkpatrick piece on Benghazi from last week that stirred up everything didn’t even talk about Hillary. How in the world does she run with the Benghazi timeline on the Etch-a-Sketch that’s been shaken?
TAPPER: I don’t — obviously she can’t. I mean, if she makes the decision to run, there will have to be — and I’m sure her advisers know this, they are smart people — there will have to be some . . . questions answered about it, if not in one big, long, meaty piece then I think over and over and over again. I think it is something that there are a lot of questions that remain about it. For me specifically, you know my coverage of Benghazi has focused on the State Department’s refusal to take seriously enough the request for added security from diplomatic and security experts on the ground in Libya throughout the year leading up to the Benghazi attack. So there are a lot of questions, and I’m sure if she runs she’ll have to answer them.
I’m … not so sure. If Tapper represented the average campaign journalist, then I’d agree, but that’s not the reality of either the White House press corps or campaign coverage in general. The latter mostly consists in spot reporting, organizational analysis, and polling data, not lengthy narratives about issues from a candidate’s past. The caveat for Hillary is that she can only point to her tenure at State for any executive experience at all, and the lack of accomplishment in that position makes Benghazi stand out all the more. Any reference to foreign policy will immediately draw attention to the Obama administration’s bad response to the Arab Spring in Libya and the creation of a failed state there, with Benghazi as one of its most deadly consequences.
The strategy will probably be to issue a farcically threadbare “comprehensive” explanation, and then to claim that any questions on Benghazi have already been answered. That’s pretty much what Hillary and the Obama administration have done all along, no?