Tuesday, July 17 , 2018, 6:33 am | Overcast 65º


Michael Barone: Clinton Paying Price Now for 2012 Benghazi Lies

Nothing new there. Nothing to see here. Time to move on for good.

That was the attitude of most in the mainstream media toward the 11-hour questioning of Hillary Clinton by the House Select Committee on Benghazi.

It was not the prevailing attitude, as I remember, toward the hearings of the Senate Watergate Committee or the impeachment debate at the House Judiciary Committee (on whose staff Clinton served) 40-something years ago.

Of course there were different motivations at work. In 1973 and 1974, many in the media wanted to see Richard Nixon disgraced and removed from office.

In 2015, however, many in the media don't want to see the only plausible candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination disgraced and rendered unelectable.

This year, all the committee's Democrats decried the hearing as a waste of time and a squandering of taxpayer money. Four decades ago many  (but by no means all) Republicans made similar complaints about the Watergate and impeachment hearings.

In both cases, the purpose of the inquiry was legitimate, but the focus of both inquiries, on a president or might-well-be-president, inevitably had a political dimension.

And in both cases, despite claims of partisan witch hunts, the committees unearthed legitimately revealing material that the target sought to keep secret. The Watergate committee discovered the Nixon tapes. The Benghazi committee discovered Clinton's home-brew email system.

That is not to say that the committees did not go down some blind alleys. Republicans peppered Clinton with questions about why Ambassador Christopher Stevens's pleas for more security in Libya were denied.

It's plausible that such pleas might not reach the secretary of state, and the decisions, obviously wrong in hindsight, were the sort of mistakes that, alas, government officials make all the time.

Thus in retrospect, Bill Clinton surely wished he had ordered an attack on Osama bin Laden when he was spotted on camera, and George W. Bush surely wished he had taken actions that might have prevented the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Bush and almost all Republicans wisely refused to heap blame on Clinton, and almost all politicians, except Donald Trump, have not heaped blame on Bush.

Contrary to the media narrative, the Benghazi committee did produce some news. As Rep. Jim Jordan noted, on Sept. 11, 2012, the night of the Benghazi attacks, Clinton emailed her daughter that "two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an al-Qaida-like group."

That's also what she told the Libyan president that evening and the Egyptian president Sept. 12.

But in a public statement on Sept. 11, she blamed a spontaneous protest of an anti-Islam video. She blamed the video again on Sept. 12 and Sept. 13.

The father of one Benghazi victim relays how Clinton told him that the administration would arrest "the filmmaker who was responsible for the death of your son."

She made no public protest when Susan Rice, then ambassador to the United Nations, blamed the video for the attacks on five Sunday interview shows Sept. 16. Nor did she demur when President Obama was still decrying the video in his speech to the United Nations Sept. 25.

On the night of the attacks, Clinton remained at home and did not contact Defense Secretary Leon Panetta or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Around 10 p.m., she did call Obama, who remained in the White House that night and flew off the next morning to Las Vegas for a campaign event.

Did they agree to blame the attack on a spontaneous protest of an anti-Islam video? We don't know and probably never will, but it's certainly possible.

Last week, Clinton had no plausible answer to Jordan's question about the discrepancy between what she said privately and publicly except to unconvincingly cite "confusion."

Certainly there was a political motive for the video lie. Obama was seeking re-election on a platform of, in Joe Biden's words, "Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive."

The Benghazi attack undercut the narrative that al-Qaida was on the run. The video lie tended to sustain it at a crucial moment.

Nothing is free in politics, but there is some question as to when you'll pay the price. Obama paid no price in 2012: He was re-elected.

But Hillary Clinton, rated dishonest and untrustworthy by most voters after the Benghazi committee unveiled her private emails and spotlighted her video lie, is paying a price now.

Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. Click here to contact him, follow him on Twitter: @MichaelBarone, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >