Last night, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took (pretty much symbolic, showy) responsibility for the security failings during the terrorist attack in Benghazi that resulted in the death of four Americans. As for who approved Ambassador Susan Rice’s talking points for a string of Sunday-show appearances five days after the 9/11/12 attack in which she infamously insisted the whole thing was the spontaneous result of outrage over an internet video (even though we now know that intelligence officials knew it was a coordinated, pre-planned attack within 24 hours), Clinton maintained that you’d have to ask Ambassador Rice herself, via the WFB:
QUESTION: Who briefed Ambassador Rice that day? Did you sign off on that briefing and those speaking points?
SECRETARY CLINTON: You would have to ask her.
QUESTION: You didn’t speak to her before that appearance?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, but that – everybody had the same information. I mean, I’m – I have to say I know there’s been a lot of attention paid to who said what when, but I think what happened is more important. We were attacked, and four brave Americans were killed. Others were injured. Dozens had to fight for their life and had to get evacuated. Everybody in the Administration had – has tried to say what we knew at the time with the caveat that we would learn more, and that’s what’s happened. So I think that – I’ve seen it before not just in respect to this. I think it’s part of what the fog of war causes.
The WaPo did ask U.N. Ambassador Rice about why she stuck to the spontaneous, non-premeditated storyline days after the intelligence community classified the not-a-random-riot as an act of terrorism. Her answer? Because that’s the information with which the intelligence community provided her. Uhm…what the what?
The administration’s characterization only days after Rice’s TV appearances that the assault in Libya was a terrorist attack has raised questions about why she attributed the incident to a protest that officials now say did not take place. Republicans have pressed for answers on whether she simply went too far in her assessment or was reading from an administration script that was designed to protect President Obama’s record on national security in an election year.
In an interview Monday with The Washington Post, Rice said she relied on daily updates from intelligence agencies in the days before her television appearances and on a set of talking points prepared for senior members of the administration by intelligence officials. She said there was no attempt to pick and choose among possible explanations for the attack.
“Absolutely not,” Rice said. “It was purely a function of what was provided to us” and had been given to Congress the day before.
Call me cynical, but somehow I’m not convinced that absolutely nobody from the president’s political camp nudged her in a certain direction in spinning this for the public. For goodness sake, the president of the United States stood up in front of the General Assembly of the United Nations more than two weeks later and proceeded to spend half of his speech criticizing a few individuals’ impetus for posting a mean video (“the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” Obama munificently told the august body), while taking it pretty easy on — oh, you know — just violence and terrorism. Somebody still has a lot of explaining to do; we’ll see if we can glean anything from Romney’s plans to ask Obama to “man up” on the Libya attack during the debate tonight.