Ahead of Wednesday’s long-awaited hearings at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the Benghazi terror attack of Sep. 11, 2012, Democrats have a clear agenda: protect Hillary Clinton at all costs.
Clinton, the former Secretary of State and likely frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, could be severely damaged by testimony about the attacks, which occurred in part because of security lapses for which the State Department is primarily responsible.
Past testimony about the attacks has also revealed that President Barack Obama did nothing once informed the attacks were under way, and that there was no communication among key members of the administration and military who could have responded.
In her own testimony before Congress in January before leaving office, Clinton was evasive, famously shouting at Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), “What difference does it make?” in reference to the question of who had edited the administration’s talking points to remove references to Islamist terror and emphasize a protest that never happened.
The media applauded her performance, but her outburst left an impression of apathy about the four Americans who were killed that night in Benghazi, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Since the day after the attacks, Democrats and the media have treated Benghazi as an unfair political attack by Republicans, rather than a legitimate national security crisis in its own right.
Media coverage in the fall focused on Republican Mitt Romney’s response to the attacks, rather than Obama’s actions as commander-in-chief. When questions were raised about whether Obama had lied to the public about the attacks, the media covered Obama’s tracks, with CNN’s Candy Crowley intervening in the second presidential debate to defend the president, and CBS News suppressing damning footage of the president until shortly before the election.
With Obama safely re-elected, the goal is now to protect Hillary Clinton. Last week, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) called upon Speaker of the House John Boehner not only to retract, but to apologize publicly for, an inter-committee report that suggested Clinton had ignored requests for additional security in Libya.
On MSNBC, a channel that serves as the mouthpiece for the Democratic Party, Rev. Al Sharpton–who also serves as an informal White House adviser–described the Benghazi investigation as the “new vast right-wing conspiracy,” a reference to Clinton’s claim, as First Lady, that Republicans were merely out to target her husband and that he had not committed any wrongdoing in the Monica Lewinsky affair that led to his impeachment.
Though there are undoubtedly some political motives present, Democrats’ claims are largely a projection of their own political agenda in Benghazi, which has remained consistent from the start: to shield the party and its leaders from responsibility for a major terrorist attack on American sovereign territory.
That agenda far exceeds any pursued by Republicans, whose goals, however political, happen to include the national security interests at stake.
On this past weekend’s Sunday shows, Democrats showed unusual willingness to criticize the Obama administration over Benghazi, acknowledging that the Benghazi talking points had been false.
Yet that willingness to criticize may be a way of inoculating the party against further revelations to come; it may also be easier because new information about the Benghazi talking points has tended to implicate the White House rather than Clinton herself, even if State Department officials have also been listed among those involved.
Clinton’s role in Benghazi is particularly damaging because it risks becoming the signature legacy of her tenure at the State Department. Despite racking up an exhaustive travel record, Clinton had few actual achievements to show for her four years as Secretary of State–a burden as she contemplates her 2016 ambitions.
At least one key witness in Wednesday’s hearing, Mark. I. Thompson, is expected to offer testimony highly damaging to Clinton. He has alleged that Clinton sidelined the State Department’s counter-terrorism operation during the Benghazie attacks: “You should have seen what (Clinton) tried to do to us that night,” he has said, according to Fox News.
Though Democrats seem to have shifted their focus to Clinton’s prospects, Obama himself is not free of the troubles Benghazi presents. Evidence continues to emerge that senior White House officials were directly involved in the manipulation of the Benghazi talking points, suggesting that there had been a deliberate decision to mislead the public.
Obama has yet to explain his own actions–or inaction–during and after the attack. His activities throughout the evening of Sep. 11 are unknown; he flew to Las Vegas for a fundraiser the next day.