It wasn't quite the "October Surprise" Republicans feared, but on Tuesday Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton threw herself under the bus on behalf of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, whose ham-handed handling of events in Libya have damaged their re-election bid.
"I take responsibility," Clinton told CNN in an interview while on a visit to Peru. "I'm in charge of the State Department's 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts. The president and the vice president 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."
Clinton's admission of responsibility, while potentially getting Biden off the hook for the incredible answers he gave in his debate with GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, doesn't shed any additional light on what are clearly multiple failures of U.S. intelligence and security in Benghazi. And it doesn't do anything to resolve the issues raised by the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
It was September 11. That part of the world has been in turmoil for months. Why wasn't something expected? Why were no plans made? Why wasn't additional security laid on as a matter of course? Why didn't anybody consider that something might be in the works?
Simply accepting responsibility, while often lauded as a brave thing to do in the political world, is not enough. For a failure as pronounced and as tragic as this, there must be consequences. One that might be appropriate would be for Clinton to resign, even though that would be damaging to Obama's re-election prospects. Another would be for Obama to fire her—again unlikely, because of the impact it would have on the election. First things first, after all.
Conservatives are not taking the status quo lying down. One group, ForAmerica, has launched a campaign urging people to contact the president and ask him to fire Clinton.
"Thursday night, Vice President Biden shocked the nation when he asserted that Secretary of State Clinton, for weeks, failed to inform the White House of the serious security deficiencies in Benghazi," ForAmerica Chairman Brent Bozell said in a release. "Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden and the White House continue to lay this mess at the feet of Hillary Clinton. She has been unable to produce any answers to the satisfaction of the families whose loved ones were killed in Benghazi, or the American people," Bozell continued, making it "incumbent upon President Obama to fire Secretary Clinton."
The group has a petition and a video it is sharing through social media platforms but it is important to acknowledge that Clinton is not the only one whose hands are dirty. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice—who as a senior official in Bill Clinton's State Department was infamously ineffective in preventing the Rwandan genocide—propagated the fiction that the assault on the U.S. consulate in Libya was a riot gone wrong rather than planned terrorist attack. She was one of many who continued to do so long after it became clear even to casual observers that there was much more going on than the American people had initially been told. Also worth noting is the continued absence from the discussion of National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, who has been eerily silent for some time.
It's clear the administration—including the president—was caught by surprise by what happened in Benghazi. There's just no excuse for that. An admission of responsibility is a weak response to this most tragic failure in U.S. foreign policy, one that places an unerasable blemish on Obama's record. More is called for.
- Read Ilan Berman: Defense Budget Cuts Will Hurt American Strategic Planning
- Read Heather Hurlburt: Obama, Romney Must Stop Politicizing Terrorist Attack in Libya
- Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy