May 30, 2014
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton erupts at Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) regarding his questioning during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing over whether there were protests in Benghazi, Libya before the deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission.(Getty)
“It is inaccurate to state that every single one of them was influenced by this hateful video."
This statement is part of Hillary's 36 page "fog of war" chapter on Benghazi in her forthcoming memoir, a chapter obtained at least in part by Politico's Maggie Haberman, and it appears to be indicative of how she filled those 36 pages without answering any of the crucial questions about the events of that night and the following day.
This line refers to the killers.
And this line is of course a straw man, easily recognized after the president's straw man Woodstock at West Point earlier this week. It is also "inaccurate to state" that the whereabouts and actions of the president, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense that night are well known or even understood in general outline. That Hillary even bothers to spend time on the laughable "the video made them do it" argument tells us that the chapter is an exercise in space-filling, an effort to appear to be transparent and forthright about the most obvious, tragic failure of her trail of tears tenure at State. This chapter appears to be just another part of the ongoing refusal to come clean about what happened that night both in Benghazi and much more importantly for Hillary's future political ambitions in D.C.
“I will not be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans," Haberman quotes Clinton as writing. "It’s just plain wrong, and it’s unworthy of our great country. Those who insist on politicizing the tragedy will have to do so without me.”
This is a three-part lie: It is not "just plain wrong" to demand answers from those in charge that night, it is not "politicizing" to hold those people to account for their failures, and the investigation into Benghazi will indeed involve Clinton whether or not she agrees to be questioned about her collapse that night. This risible attempt at a "pre-emptive strike" on the subject will not work, not when the event it seeks to exile from the national debate involves the death of an ambassador and three other Americans at the hands of terrorists and not when her failure to anticipate the attack and her collapse in the face of it goes to her central claim of competency to be president.
When Hillary sits down with various journalists, they should all bear down on what did she know and when did she know it; what did she do and when did she do it --in the weeks and months before the attack and the night of the attack. They should press again and again --patiently and respectfully-- for detailed answers on chronology and specifics.
"It is our job to figure out what happened."
That is what then Secretary of State Clinton told Senator Ron Johnson immediately after her infamous "What difference at this point does it make?" outburst that defines her failure at State.
That is in fact the job of every journalist who gets to ask a question of the would-be president. None have dared tried yet, but eventually someone will, and if no one does, Hillary will ask for the country's votes without ever having given an account of her actions or her non-actions. Perhaps she can bluff, bluster and bully her way to the Oval Office but the country does not seem to be in the mood for another era of dodges, half-truths, and false outrage over being asked not only legitimate but absolutely essential questions.
Hillary's 36 page leak won't put out the fire and it won't stop the questions or the commentary. Only the detailed truth would do so, and given Hillary's adamant refusal to provide that, we can assume the truth is even more damaging than her continued stonewalling.
You don’t hear R2P bandied about much anymore. Not with more than 50,000 civilians having been slaughtered in Syria’s civil war, unprotected in any way by the United States. Nor for that matter do you hear much about Libya, now so dangerously chaotic and jihadi-infested thatthe State Department is telling Americans to get out.
And you didn’t hear much of anything in the West Point speech. It was a somber parade of straw men, as the president applauded himself for steering the nation on a nervy middle course between extreme isolationism and madcap interventionism. It was the rhetorical equivalent of that classic national security joke in which the presidential aide, devoted to policy option X, submits the following decision memo:
Option 1. All-out nuclear war.
Option 2. Unilateral surrender.
Option 3. Policy X.
The isolationism of Obama’s telling is a species not to be found anywhere. Not even Rand Paul would withdraw from everywhere. And even members of Congress’s dovish left have called for sending drones to Nigeria, for God’s sake.
As for Obama’s interventionists, they are grotesquely described as people “who think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak” while Obama courageously refuses to believe that “every problem has a military solution.”
Name one person who does.
“Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force?” Obama recently and plaintively asked about Ukraine. In reality, nobody is. What actual earthlings are eager for is sending military assistance to Ukraine’s woefully equipped forces.
That’s what the interim prime minister asked for when he visited here in March —and was denied. (He was even denied night-vision goggles and protective armor.) Two months later, military assistance was the first thing Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s newly elected president, said he wanted from the United States. Note: not boots on the ground.
Same for Syria. It was Obama, not his critics, who went to the brink of a military strike over the use of chemical weapons. From which he then flinched. Critics have been begging Obama to help train and equip the outmanned and outgunned rebels — a policy to whichhe now intimates he might finally be coming around.
Three years late. Qusair, Homs and major suburbs of Damascus have already been retaken by the government. The battle has by now so decisively tilted toward Assad — backed by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, while Obama dithered — that Assad is holding triumphal presidential elections next week.
Amid all this, Obama seems unaware of how far his country has fallen. He attributes claims of American decline to either misreading history or partisan politics. Problem is: Most of the complaints are coming from abroad, from U.S. allies with no stake whatsoever in U.S. partisan politics. Their concern is their own security as they watch this president undertake multiple abdications from Warsaw to Kabul.
What is the world to think when Obama makes the case for a residual force in Afghanistan — “after all the sacrifices we’ve made, we want to preserve the gains that you have helped to win” — and then announce a drawdown of American forces to 10,000, followed by total liquidation within two years on a fixed timetable regardless of circumstances?
The policy contradicts the premise. If you want not to forfeit our terribly hard-earned gains — as we forfeited all our gains in Iraq with the 2011 withdrawal — why not let conditions dictate the post-2014 drawdowns? Why go to zero — precisely by 2016?
For the same reason, perhaps, that the Afghan surge was ended precisely in 2012, in the middle of the fighting season — but before the November election. A 2016 Afghan end date might help Democrats electorally and, occurring with Obama still in office, provide a shiny new line to his résumé.
Is this how a great nation decides matters of war and peace — to help one party and polish the reputation of one man? As with the West Point speech itself, as with the president’s entire foreign policy of retreat, one can only marvel at the smallness of it all.