Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Aftermath ... Benghazi, The Great Debate, and Hurricane Hillary

Monday night, suddenly and without warning,  Hurricane Hillary hit every shore of the United States from a location in Peru.
On CNN to Elise Labott:
QUESTION: You say you don’t want to play the blame game, but certainly there’s a blame game going on in Washington. In fact, during the presidential debate, Vice President Biden said, “We didn’t know.” White House officials calling around saying, “Hey, this is a State Department function.” Are they throwing you under the bus?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, of course not. Look, I take responsibility. I’m in charge of the State Department, 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts. The President and the Vice President certainly wouldn’t be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals. They’re the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs and make a considered decision.
That this came the night before a presidential debate some thought significant.  Others considered it high time someone in the administration stepped up with a definitive statement of responsibility.   The probability that this issue would arise in the debate the next evening loomed, and many expected Mitt Romney to be the one to inject it.  That is not, however,  the way the debate rolled out.  It was a question from the audience that brought up the topic, and in his response,  Romney focused not on the secretary of state or responsibility,  but rather on the president, the White House, and their remarks on the cause.
Hmmmmmm ... some of us thought Romney might take this opportunity to grandstand - make a "buck will stop with me" sort of statement.   He did not.  Instead he remained locked on  the confusion that emanated from the White House for weeks following the Benghazi attack.  
Just when it appeared that Hurricane Hillary was not going to hit Long Island, the moderator chimed  in.
CROWLEY: Because we're - we're closing in, I want to still get
a lot of people in. I want to ask you something, Mr. President, and
then have the governor just quickly.
Your secretary of state, as I'm sure you know, has said that she
takes full responsibility for the attack on the diplomatic mission in
Benghazi. Does the buck stop with your secretary of state as far as what went on here?
Aha!   Now that was along the lines of what we expected from Romney.   It provided Obama the opportunity for this response.
OBAMA: Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job. But she works for me. I'm the president and I'm always responsible, and that's why nobody's more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I do.
The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime.
And then a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families.
And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the Secretary of State, our U.N. Ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own, governor, is offensive.  That's not what we do. That's not what I do as president, that's not what I do as Commander in Chief.
Wait a minute. What was that?  Someone was playing politics?  Where did that come from?  Who said anyone was playing politics?  Romney did not.   In fact he did not take this bait .  He never mentioned the secretary of state at all!  Oh wait!  Someone had ... earlier in the day.  It came from the Obama camp.
By Justin Sink - 10/16/12 05:00 PM ET

Obama campaign traveling press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that Hillary Clinton's statement Monday night that she was taking responsibility for the attack on the American diplomatic mission in Libya was "absolutely not" a political move to shield the president.
"President Obama takes responsibility for the safety and security of all diplomats serving overseas," Psaki told Fox News. "Secretary Clinton, of course, has a great amount of responsibility as Secretary of State and she was doing interviews yesterday as she often does on the first day of a foreign trip and said, 'Look, we do own, the State Department does own decisions around funding for diplomats.' ”
 Read more >>>>
So for weeks no one in the administration accepts responsibility for whatever security lapses might have failed to sustain two stations in Benghazi and their occupants (arguably perhaps nothing and no force could have held off that attack).  The Secretary of State steps up to the plate and says it is her department, they are her people and her structures, and she is responsible for them.  The administration's reaction, rather than taking a positive and supportive stand,  is negative - a denial.  She is not playing politics. First from Psaki, then from Obama, and a little while ago Ohio State Senator Nina Turner.
There is something  disingenuous in the denial.  First Psaki, then Obama:
"President Obama takes responsibility for the safety and security of all diplomats serving overseas," Psaki told Fox News.
"Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job. But she
works for me. I'm the president and I'm always responsible...."
Arguments about what precipitated the attack aside,  if  Obama accepts responsibility, why did he not say so until after Secretary Clinton did so?  In fact, why did he send a spokesperson out to say it before we heard it from him in the debate last night?
There is a ring of familiarity to this.
  • 2008 primary debates:  Hillary got the hard questions first, and Obama's frequent refrain was "Senator Clinton is right about that."
  • 2009: HRC holds a town hall meeting at the State Department (February, I think).  Someone asks if she would consider extending benefits to domestic partners of employees.  She promises to look into it.  In June, she comes back to the LGBT association at the department and announces that they studied the possibility, found it doable, and were going ahead and extending the bennies.  Months later Obama does the same at the White House.
  • Earlier this year Joe Biden said he has no problem with gay marriage.  First everyone freaks.  There's old Joe again shooting his mouth off.  Second some wonder how  Joe cane so definitive on tis issues while Obama claims to be evolving.  Days later, Obama finally evolves.
This is a pattern.  Yes, we knew about this well before Obama was nominated in 2008.  At the time, many of us thought this indicated a lack of imagination and absence of  real plans.  Today, it indicates something even more serious,  a Commander-in-Chief who not only leads from behind, but leads only on second thought.  And he is out there right now asking for your vote.  As Uppity Woman has been reminding us lately, you coulda had a V-8.

We continue to accord Mme. Secretary a standing ovation for her courage, maturity, and professionalism in stepping up on this.  Someone had to,  and,  as you said, Mme. Secretary, it is your department.  Until you said it, apparently the president forgot the hierarchy. 

FTR Mr. Obama: You do not write her paycheck.  The American people do.  She works for us, not for you.  Very interesting phraseology in contrast to what she said about State Department staff.
Look, I take responsibility. I’m in charge of the State Department, 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts.
She knows for whom she and they work.

The transcript of the debate is available here.