Bridgegate vs. Benghazi
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” opens Charles Dickens’ famous novel, beginning the book’s powerful literary motif of doubles. This week, politics embraced the same thematic element, as the scandal with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called forth memories from Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi episode, despite the vast difference in severity.
When news broke this week that Christie’s aides and political appointees caused traffic problems in Fort Lee, New Jersey as part of a political retribution scheme, the TV talk shows went into a frenzy. The events, dubbed “Bridgegate,” quickly turned into a full-blown scandal. Reporters followed all of Christie’s movements throughout the day, and anchors invited a diverse array of guests to continuously repeat their “analysis” during breaks in the action.
The week’s events reminded of another recent scandal, the Obama administration’s response to the attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Though there are several similarities between the two — for example, both cases involved the higher-ups blaming their subordinates and denying all knowledge of wrongdoing — the leadership displayed after the fact was markedly different.
First, Gov. Christie. In a press conference that lasted over 90 minutes, Christie directly and straightforwardly apologized for the misconduct of his staff, answered seemingly dozens of questions, and still managed to emphatically deny his involvement. Even the Washington Post claimed Christie did “everything humanly possible” to address the crisis, in contrast to the “hide-the-ball behavior of the Obama-Clinton gang, be it in the IRS scandal, the Benghazi debacle or the ‘you can keep your health-care insurance’ ordeals.”
That’s an important point to note. Immediately after the Benghazi attacks, the Obama administration (including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) continued to issue statements apologizing for the United States’ supposed intolerance toward other religions. It was argued, repeatedly, that the attacks in Libya were the result of a protest over a movie that denigrated Muslims.
However, after enduring much criticism from the media, foreign policy analysts, and even foreign leaders, the administration finally withdrew that talking point, acknowledging that the Benghazi attack had in fact been a coordinated terrorist attack. Yet Clinton still blamed faulty “intelligence,” despite the fact that a simple discussion with those at the scene revealed a completely different story.
When evidence then surfaced that the State Department had continually denied adequate security to the Benghazi embassy despite dangerous conditions, a narrative of political motives emerged. The Obama administration was in the midst of a campaign and could not appear weak on foreign policy, which explains the delay in accepting that the attack was in fact terrorism.
But where Christie accepted full responsibility for his staff’s indiscretion, Clinton exploded at a congressional committee hearing, yelling “What difference at this point does it make?”
Imagine if Gov. Christie had offered the same comment. There is no doubt that the media would have crucified him. Yet, for some reason, everyone seems to think Christie’s possible involvement in local traffic jams is more serious than Clinton’s irreverence for attacks that resulted in four dead Americans.
Every headline asks the same question – is Gov. Christie out of the running for 2016? But, mysteriously, the same is not asked of Hillary Clinton. Barbara Walters of ABC News declared her the “most fascinating person of 2013,” and CNN and NBC planned documentaries extolling Clinton’s “intelligence, fortitude, and a deep commitment to bettering the lives of women and children worldwide.”
Doesn’t it seem a bit one-sided?