The New York Times headline said it all: “House Benghazi Report Finds No New Evidence of Wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton.” The headline doesn’t say there was no wrongdoing, just no new evidence of wrongdoing. Both Hillary and Bill Clinton have a genius for convincing the media that their miscues and coverups don’t matter because they are old news.
For the record, I don’t blame President Obama or his secretary of state for the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. America cannot insert itself into another nation’s civil war without risk. Critics can hit the administration for ignoring attacks that led the Red Cross and Brits to withdraw personnel from Benghazi. Stevens was aware of those alarms, but he courageously chose to stay. If he miscalculated, then it was from a generous impulse to help Libya evolve into a country that serves its people. He paid the ultimate price.
I do blame Obama and Clinton for deliberately misleading the public with their suggestions that an American-made anti-Muslim video sparked the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. They knew better, but two months before the November election, they didn’t want bad news to undermine their claim that al Qaeda was “on the run.” To the administration, these four deaths were first and foremost a political problem. Hence White House aides David Plouffe and Ben Rhoades — not the Department of Defense, CIA or FBI — briefed Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice before she appeared on Sunday talk shows and blamed the video.
I learned from the Republican House Select Committee report released this week about the dysfunctional chain of command. Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued a “clear directive” for a rescue mission that could have prevented the deaths of Woods and Doherty. The rescue effort was anything but fast and furious: “Over 13 hours after the attack began, the first force — the farthest away — deployed.” It took other teams longer to deploy. The report includes recommendations to ensure rescue readiness to better protect U.S. personnel serving abroad. The next president should commit to those recommendations.
Clinton and her surrogates like to complain about the time (two years) and money ($7 million) House Republicans spent on this probe. Of course, things take longer to investigate when officials’ stonewalling jams up the works. If not for this investigation, the public would not have learned that Clinton sent all sensitive government email through a private server in her home.
This week, the Washington Post reported, 160 emails surfaced that were not among the 55,000 pages of emails that Clinton turned over to the State Department, which were supposed to represent all of her official correspondence. If Clinton can find an opportunity to cover up information that does not put her in the most glowing light, she will seize the opportunity with both hands.
The lesson of Benghazi: When the administration should have been pushing for the speedy capture of forces that killed American personnel, its first impulse — Clinton’s first impulse — was misdirection.