January 30, 2013
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Senate and House hearings on the terrorist attack on Benghazi, Libya, did not throw much more light on the affair or its aftermath. There was plenty of heat, though.
Clinton's totally inappropriate sarcasm and theatrics in response to a line of questioning by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., will undoubtedly be the quote that stands out from the day:
"With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?" The difference between organized terrorism and random mayhem, nothing less.
After waiting four months after the terrorist attack, through a presidential election, a delayed publication of the Accountability Review Board's report, and Clinton's health troubles, Congress's patience was not exactly rewarded. By squeezing the two hearings into one marathon day, Clinton managed to deprive members of the Foreign Relations and Foreign Affairs committees of time to do more than scratch the surface.
Clinton denied having had any knowledge of the requests for additional security from Ambassador Christopher Stevens, shifted blame for the security inadequacy to the "security professionals" and fudged the issue of the false narrative created in the aftermath of the attack by the Obama administration.
This is not to say that there were no other memorable moments, though. Clinton testily demonstrated the considerable temper for which she was famous during her days as first lady in the White House.
To Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who wanted to know why she had not seen Christopher Stevens' disturbing cables on the lack of security, Clinton snapped, "1.4 million cables come to us each year, all of them addressed to me."
And she told Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., that she did not go on television to discuss the attacks because she doesn't really enjoy Sunday talk shows.
Clinton amazingly told Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., that she was not asked to speak to the ARB, and would have been "happy" to do so. And Clinton contradicted the congresswoman when she asked why no one at State had lost their job after the Benghazi debacle, saying that four people actually were dismissed. Soon thereafter, Clinton then contradicted herself by revealing that they are actually on administrative leave, with full pay.
Those interested in the state of U.S. Middle East policy and efforts to reach out to the Arab publics through U.S. international broadcasting and public diplomacy will find of particular interest Clinton's reply to a question from Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., on how future attacks could be prevented.
Clinton stated, "We cannot retreat from ... these Arab Spring regimes. We need to do a better job, a counter-narrative to the extremist, jihadist narrative."
She correctly bemoaned the fact that the U.S. government has "abandoned broadcasting to the Middle East," and stated that the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which is responsible, is "a defunct agency." Why Clinton herself, who has a seat on the board, has never done anything about this deplorable state of affairs remains one of the many questions the hearings left unanswered.
Rife with inconsistencies, inaccuracies and bluster, Clinton's performance left a great deal to be desired. Not only that, but the American public is no closer to knowing what the Obama administration is doing to bring to justice the killers of the four brave Americans who lost their lives in Benghazi on 9/11.
- Helle C. Dale is the senior fellow in public diplomacy studies at The Heritage Foundation.
First moved on McClatchy Tribune newswire.