Clinton's defense

Hillary Clinton effectively responds to Republican critics of Benghazi attacks.

January 24, 2013 

That Hillary Clinton, the former first lady who drew special scorn from Republicans during her White House days, has done a widely admired job as secretary of state is maddening to some GOP members of Congress. But their politically motivated attacks on Clinton this week were met by the secretary with a forceful defense of her actions in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

This was a foolish and wasteful battle for Republicans to wage, and in Senate and House committee meetings Clinton responded clearly, honestly and confidently to her critics.

In recent weeks, those critics, whether the outlandish conservative commentators on radio and television or those in Congress, have claimed everything from a coverup to the ridiculous assertion that Clinton, who suffered a fall and then a blood clot, was suffering from “Benghazi flu” in an effort to avoid testifying. And after all that buildup, Republicans learned the bitter lesson of the old saying, “Be careful what you ask for.”

Seeking causes

The attack has been labeled terrorism, but United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, going on information she had gotten immediately after the attacks, said the attacks in which U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed might have resulted from a protest over an anti-Islamic video. That discrepancy brought a cacophony of partisan shouts that the Obama administration was covering up its failure to guard against terrorist threats in Libya.

In response, Clinton defended the efforts that had been made to support a relatively new government in Libya. It also should be noted that Congress cut recent State Department requests for funds to support better diplomatic security.

Clinton cut through the blame game. At one point during the Senate hearing she asked with exasperation: “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?”

In other words, the important thing now is to go forward, and to take from the Benghazi tragedy lessons as to how to more effectively protect American personnel in hostile places around the world.

Courage in service

As Clinton has previously noted, ambassadors in such locations go in to serve in the knowledge that they will be in harm’s way. Those such as Stevens who take on these tasks are patriots whose roles involve risks and courage.

Obviously, that doesn’t mean they should simply take their chances. They need extraordinary protection, and of course the State Department must deliver it.

Clinton was rightly offended at any implication that she was somehow unaware of the danger and unconcerned about the suffering that the families of these Americans had experienced and are still feeling.

“I stood next to President Obama,” she said, “as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews (Air Force Base). I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters.”

Clinton’s appearances came down to her assurances that security was a top concern, was being reviewed and actions would be taken to prevent the bloodshed in such attacks in the future. That is a clear, concise position for her to take.

Republicans will continue to drag the Benghazi issue out for as long as they can, outrageously implying that the secretary of state is engaged in some kind of conspiratorial coverup. That cynical view is hardly a constructive one, and it prompts a cynical response: These people are doing everything they can to avoid facing Hillary Clinton at the polls in 2016.

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