Hillary Clinton Must Answer for Benghazi

If Hillary Clinton hopes to be president, she must make time to explain what happened in Libya.

By + More

It's almost as if many in the mainstream press wish we could switch temporarily to a monarchy. That way we could coronate Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and assure her role as our next leader and be done with it.

Just weeks after the 2012 election, many in the chattering class already have her down as president-in-waiting. Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich says it would be "virtually impossible" for her to lose the Democratic nomination in 2016 should she run, and Republicans would be "incapable" of competing against her in the general election.

But before we measure the drapes and size the crown, there is the not-insignificant matter of Benghazi to consider. The Secretary of State has acknowledged she is responsible for the safety of the diplomats in her employ and has "accept[ed]"—whatever that means—the findings of an independent panel that looked into the attacks that left four Americans dead, including high-ranking diplomat Christopher Stephens.

[Take the U.S. News Poll: Should Hillary Take the Fall for the Benghazi Attack?]

Yet, so far, she has studiously avoided direct questions on the issue. The first time she was to appear before Congress to explain State's conduct during the attacks, she begged off because of "extensive travel," an excuse anyone in her position could use at essentially any time. The second time, we're told she became ill, passed out, hit her head, and sustained a concussion.

The Obama administration—now more or less bound to the Hillary '16 bandwagon—has tried its best to distract. Last week, it tossed Susan Rice—designated successor to Hillary at State and close personal friend of the president—under the bus for her unfortunate role in delivering misinformation on Benghazi earlier this fall on the Sunday talk shows.

That clears the field at State for Sen. John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, who is sufficiently removed from all things Benghazi to also avoid answering the tough questions.

[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

But it does not clear up the matter of Benghazi. At some point—adoring press notwithstanding—those questions must be answered. The report points directly to failures at State. It questions deployment, communications, security, continuity and, in the classified version, the leadership that left those four Americans beyond rescue in the most hostile of environments.

Explaining those failures is not the job of deputies. It requires, as Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican from Florida and chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, said, "a public appearance by the Secretary of State herself."  Otherwise, "[i]t looks like avoidance of responsibility to preserve her own political viability," said Investors Business Daily, and "one of the most transparent dodges in the history of diplomacy," according to the New York Post.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

If Hillary wants to be president—and all indications are she does—it's fair to wonder why she can't find time in her schedule to appear before Congress and set this to rest. Would it expose fissures between her and the president? Were there larger failures that would hurt her 2016 prospects? Did Rice know more than the administration claims when she went on the Sunday talks?

Whatever … four Americans lay dead because of these failures, and most of the media seems entirely comfortable with this being swept under the rug. Unless Republicans want to see Gingrich finally get a prediction right, they need to keep the heat on.

  • Read Peter Roff: President Obama Wants To Go Over the Fiscal Cliff
  • Read Susan Milligan: Daniel Inouye Knew the Senate Was Bigger Than He Was
  • Check out U.S. News Weekly, now available on iPad.