Posted on | January 23, 2013 | 20 Comments
Kinda half-watched this morning’s Senate Benghazi hearings, mainly wondering what was up with those big ugly glasses Hillary was wearing. My favorite part was when she got irritated with Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who was trying to pin her down on why the administration spent so long pushing the bogus “protest” talking points:
SEN. JOHNSON: Yeah. The point I’m making is a very simple phone call to these individuals I think would have ascertained immediately that there was no protest prior to this. I mean, this attack started at 9:40 p.m., Benghazi time, and it was an assault . . . Why wasn’t that known? And again, I appreciate the fact of the transparency of this — of this hearing, but why weren’t we transparent at that point in time?
SEC. CLINTON: Well, first of all, Senator, I would say that once the assault happened and once we got our people rescued and out, our most immediate concern was, number one, taking care of their injuries . .. getting them into Frankfurt, Ramstein . . . to get taken care of, the FBI going over immediately to start talking to them — we did not think it was appropriate for us to talk to them before the FBI conducted their interviews, so — and we did not — I think this is accurate, sir — I certainly did not know of any reports that contradicted the IC talking points at the time that Ambassador Rice went on the TV shows.
And, you know, I just want to say that, you know, people have accused Ambassador Rice and the administration of, you know, misleading Americans. I can say, trying to be in the middle of this and understanding what was going on, nothing could be further from the truth. Was information developing? Was the situation fluid? Would we reach conclusions later that weren’t reached initially? And I appreciate the –
SEN. JOHNSON: But Madam Secretary, do you disagree with me that a simple phone call to those evacuees to determine what happened wouldn’t have — wouldn’t have ascertained immediately that there was no protest?
I mean, that was — that was a piece of information that could have been easily, easily obtained –
SEC. CLINTON: Well, but Senator, again –
SEN. JOHNSON: — within hours, if not days.
SEC. CLINTON: Senator, I — you know, when you’re in these positions, the last thing you want to do is interfere with any other process going on. . . . Now, we have no doubt they were terrorists, they were militants, they attacked us, they killed our people, but what was going on and why they were doing what they were doing is still — is still unknown.
SEN. JOHNSON: No, no, no, no, I’m — I — again, we were misled that there were supposedly protests and then something sprang out of that, an assault sprang out of that. And that was easily ascertained that that was not the fact –
SEC. CLINTON: But could — but, you know –
SEN. JOHNSON: — and the American people could have known that within days, and they didn’t know that.
SEC. CLINTON: And — with all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans.
SEN. JOHNSON: I understand.
SEC. CLINTON: 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? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.
Well, gosh, I can think of a few reasons why it matters. First, it mattered enough for the Obama administration to send Susan Rice to five different Sunday talk shows to insist that the sacking was a spontaneous demonstration of anger over a months-old YouTube video, while saying that there was “no evidence” that it was a terrorist attack. On one of those appearances, the president of Libya told US audiences the exact opposite — that it was the work of terrorists and that they had a pretty good idea of who they were. If it didn’t matter, what was Susan Rice doing when she tried pushing that meme, which the White House had to abandon within days as leaks within State and CIA made plain that there was no demonstration?
It also matters because Barack Obama at the time had been bragging about crippling al-Qaeda while on the campaign trail. That false narrative made it seem as though State and our intel community couldn’t have possibly known that the sacking would have occurred, and got blindsided by a grassroots reaction to the video. Instead, it turned out to be a planned terrorist action about which the US embassy in Libya had warned State for months, repeatedly requesting more security.
Ed, remember (a) it’s only a “scandal” if Republicans do it, and (b) only “humorless, angry opponents of the President” care about Benghazi.