Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the bucks stops with her when it comes to who is blame for a deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
"I take responsibility" for what happened on September 11, Clinton said in an interview with CNN's Elise Labott soon after arriving in Lima, Peru for a visit. The interview, one of a series given to U.S. television networks Monday night, were the first she has given about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Clinton insisted President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are not involved in security decisions, Clinton said.
"I want to avoid some kind of political gotcha," she added, noting that it is close to the election.
A few thoughts:
- I assume this is a Janet Reno-style taking of responsibility, in which the head of the bureaucracy in question takes "responsibility," but doesn't actually have any accountability afterward. There was a time, not even that long ago, when someone responsible for a mess of this political magnitude would resign. No sign of that happening. I would remind my readers that Les Aspin, Clinton's original secretary of defense, resigned after the Black Hawk Down episode in Mogadishu. But that's not how we roll any more. For what it's worth, Donald Rumsfeld stayed on after Abu Ghraib, although he did offer his resignation twice. It will be interesting to see what Clinton does now.
- You should assume that Clinton is falling on the sword because she's calculated that it will do less harm to her long-term prospects than to pass the buck upward to the president. I also assume the Clinton intends to have a role in politics in the future.
- There's one question that remains unanswered, however -- who directed Susan Rice to go on the Sunday chat show circuit and blame the attack on the YouTube video? Did Clinton? Did someone else in the White House? If I am not mistaken, the Ambassador to the U.N. is these days a cabinet-level position and Rice reports directly to the President, not through State. If Rice made the decision to make these assertions herself, she either (a) did not know the truth 5 days after the fact or (b) knew it and told the country something that she knew not to be true. Either way, her position is untenable. This question needs to be resolved, and quickly.