Nobody will be held accountable for the September 11th Benghazi attack. That’s the abbreviated conclusion to the expansive testimony Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. Indeed, in claiming to take personal responsibility, Clinton has apparently redefined what “responsibility” means.
The level of responsibility taken is simple enough to tally. Not a single senior official was fired for the Benghazi tragedy nor did the Secretary of State resign. On the contrary, Clinton goaded the Republicans in the Senate with a tour-de-force political performance of obfuscation, misdirection, and convenient lapses in memory and judgment. Senate Democrats, on the other hand, practically waved Hillary 2016 placards.
This was entirely predictable. Anyone who has worked for a large federal institution knows there are endless ways to evade accountability in the flabby folds of bureaucracy as long as the political winds are on your side.
Clinton knows this as well as anyone. She held up the ponderous processes of the organization she runs as a shield. Oh no, of course she couldn’t talk to the Benghazi survivors in the aftermath of the assault—that would interfere with the FBI. Why that is true, and why the FBI would care, the Secretary of State never explained.
When is doubt, the Secretary hid behind processes and procedures that a member of the White House cabinet could cut through with a phone call. Clinton spoke of the supposedly non-partisan Accountability Review Board (ARB) as though it were the sacrosanct judgment of the Almighty. Why should we believe they were not affected by the intense politics surrounding this debacle? Who picked them again?
Clinton even had the gall to mention budget constraints for leaving an Ambassador and three other Americans with completely inadequate security in a warzone.
The State Department, by Clinton’s own admission, has nearly 70,000 employees. That’s a lot of salaries, but apparently not enough to give an Ambassador and the immediate cadre around him decent protection in a country teeming with terrorist militias.
Of course, the most punitive measures were handed to officials lower than Clinton on the chain of command. She let America know these officials were placed on administrative leave – and that the ARB mavens set the level of failure at assistant secretary level and below (one can almost hear the bleating of scapegoats).
In case any Americans sitting at home still had any confusion about what “responsibility” means in the State Department, Clinton explained exactly where the bar is set. “Unsatisfactory leadership” is not grounds for breech of duty, according to the ARB. What that means in this case is that no matter how bad certain civil servants were at their jobs they won’t get fired. You have to willfully break rules and probably the law for that to happen. Administrative leave is the worst you face.
A few GOP Senators tried to pry away new information from the Secretary. But Clinton came ready for battle and parried most of the more probing questions. Despite her histrionics, however, there were a few worthwhile moments that reminded the American people of the answer to answer Hillary’s own question– what difference does it make? An enormous one.
How could cables from a U.S. Ambassador requesting additional security go unanswered? How could Libya not receive special State Department attention? Why didn’t the administration have any military assets available for seven hours? Why did senior Obama officials blame an obscure video for days after the attack?
We did not get answers to these questions, and we aren’t going to. There was perhaps some small measure of satisfaction seeing Clinton dodge these difficult questions. But Democrats will renew the push to put Benghazi behind us. And Clinton’s testimony will likely appear as part of a reflective, self-gratifying chapter in the inevitable autobiography she will write between now and her run for the presidency.
Now that Clinton is on the way out from Foggy Bottom, we must face a bitter truth. The Obama administration lied about the circumstances surrounding the murder of four Americans during the height of an election season, and they got away with it. The American people had a chance to hold Obama accountable at the ballot box, and they failed to do so. There will likely be no real accountability on Benghazi.
Perhaps the next time the American people have a chance to vote, they will decide that failures of leadership and duty that result in the deaths of Americans serving their country must have consequences beyond the rhetorical.
Buck Sexton is a regular panelist on ‘Real News’ on TheBlaze TV weekdays 6-7pm EST