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FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR

This is probably the point where the Hillary 2016 effort…

…will be judged by future researchers to have started to slide off of the beam:

[Hillary] Clinton — how much she knew, when she knew it, and whether she willingly participated in a cover up — was a central theme of the [Benghazi] hearing. And Wednesday, the story did move a large step closer to Clinton. Star witness Gregory Hicks, who was the Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya the night of the attack, charged that Clinton’s key State Department lieutenant and longtime family retainer, Cheryl Mills, made a concerted effort to block him from meeting with a Congressional delegation and that he had never been interviewed by the FBI in connection to the attack. Hicks said that he had been demoted after asking too many questions of his superiors about their response to Benghazi.

Republicans repeatedly raised the fact that Mills, a former deputy White House counsel and Clinton’s chief of staff at the State Department, personally called Hicks to express that she was upset that he had met with Rep. Jason Chaffetz without a lawyer present. So was the fact that administration lawyers had told Hicks and the Regional Security Officer not to speak with congressional investigators, as well as Hicks’ claim that he briefed Clinton the night of the attack and characterized it as an act of terror.

Here’s the problem for Hillary Clinton. Bill Clinton could survive a hot mess like Benghazi. George W Bush, likewise (assuming that he was stupid and/or evil enough to let it get as far as it did; and George W Bush is neither stupid, nor evil). Even Barack Obama is currently surviving Benghazi, largely because he can foist the aforementioned hot mess onto Hillary Clinton. But Hillary Clinton simply doesn’t have the personal charisma (or, in Obama’s case, the public reputation) to disassociate herself from the implications of Benghazi.

And let us establish once and for all what happened. The screwup was in two parts. The first was tactical: the administration made a judgement call on whether or not to (metaphorically) send in the Marines. They decided not to. People died. Did that make it a bad call? Maybe. Maybe not. Sometimes the dice hate you. Maybe if the Marines had been sent in the whole thing would have gone spectacularly pear-shaped and we’d have a hundred people dead, not four. But then again, maybe nobody would have died at all. Generally speaking, it’s a lot easier to justify We don’t throw lives away for no good reason than it is to justify We’d rather let four people die than risk a hundred. Still, it’s a hard call to make when it’s you on the scene.

But the second part of the screwup is less forgivable. The general rule here is Command takes responsibility. JFK survived the Bay of Pigs incident because he embraced that rule. Nixon didn’t survive Watergate because he didn’t. If Obama had said Well, we thought that we had good security up at Benghazi, only we didn’t, so al-Qaeda caught us by surprise and killed our people and that was something that I have to take full responsibility for and I’m never going to let that happen again then… well, he might have lost the election, actually. We didn’t realize at the time, but Obama’s 2012 re-election strategy had pretty much no margin for error. So the administration picked a narrative (it was all due to a YouTube video!) that cynically traded on stereotypes about foreign Muslims and their collective level of impulse control*, and did nothing but push said narrative for as long as they could. Which was, oddly enough, long enough for the election to be over.

And that was last year. But this is this year, and there’s nobody – well, except for the usual 1% fringe lunatics – who seriously believes that the Benghazi attack was due to a YouTube video. And now what’s coming out, and being put in the formal record, is that the executive branch of the government knew that their narrative about what happened in Benghazi was false when they pushed it out, and that we know that they knew this because the people who had survived the attacks told them what had actually happened. And it’s not just the testimony. From National Journal:

Curiously, the Obama administration also won’t talk about the footage that they have from the compound – video that some people who have seen it argue could clear up questions about whether the incident was a premeditated terrorist attack or something less.

As the National Journal then notes, “They just really don’t want to talk about this.” Which is not entirely true; they’ll be happy enough to talk about it if they can pass responsibility off to somebody else… and, hey: here we come back to Hillary Clinton. Who is, again, no Bill Clinton or George W Bush or even Barack Obama when it comes to navigating through controversial waters.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

PS: A lot of people are probably muttering “Operating Fast & Furious” at this point. Reasonable (for given values of ‘reasonable’), although my personal opinion is that despair is a pointless luxury under the best of conditions, which these are not.

*Seriously, is nobody on the Left outraged at the administration’s casual bigotry, there? – That’s a rhetorical question, of course.

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