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PRUDEN: Running out the clock on Benghazi

- The Washington Times - Friday, December 21, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There's no mystery about why Hillary Rodham Clinton spends so much time on airplanes to dreary places that everybody else avoids like the plague (or the stomach flu). The climate anywhere is better than in the comfortable ineptitude of Foggy Bottom.

The report of an independent panel inquiring into what happened in Benghazi blames the State Department bureaucracy essentially for not having a clue about what was going on in Libya. A panel of diplomats would never say anything like that, but the message written between the lines is plain and clear.

The panel blames intelligence officers — i.e., the CIA — for relying too much on "specific warnings" of imminent attacks, waiting for the details of the enemy's game plan, and ignoring what should have been telegraphed from the seat of their pants. Everyone in Libya knew that the militias were all over the eastern part of the country, having already shot up a British diplomat's motorcade and set off a bomb outside the American mission in Benghazi. The evildoers were looking for evil to do. The Americans were the obvious targets.

A lot of people at Foggy Bottom were apparently busy with morning and afternoon siestas. The panel specifically blames the State Department's Diplomatic Security Bureau and the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau for failing to pay attention to what was going on around them:

"Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels with two bureaus [resulted in security] that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place."

Well, duh. Anyone reading the newspapers or watching television, despite the mainstream media's determination not to go after the story, knew that much. The panelists did not address the politics of the disaster, or why President Obama and his administration have worked so hard to avoid talking about their bungling and ineptitude, or their subsequent attempt to cover it all up with self-righteous blather.

Forgotten in all this is the obscure and infamous homemade video that nobody saw, mocking the Prophet Muhammad. Mr. Obama, Mrs. Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice all got on television as often as they could to blame the video for the attack on the consulate in Benghazi. You might have thought the video was about to ignite World War III. Nobody in the administration wants to talk about those lies and evasions now.

The latest evasion is what happened to Mrs. Clinton's emphatic assertion, after the row raised by the many skeptics willing to believe their own eyes and ears, that "I take responsibility." She did not explain what she meant. But taking responsibility requires more than just saying she takes responsibility. Mrs. Rice was then chosen to walk the plank that Hillary had so cleverly avoided. Having women available to take the heat is a tempting prerogative for this president. When Mitt Romney brought up Benghazi in the familiar timid and ham-handed way in the second presidential debate, Candy Crowley, the moderator, ran the usual media interference for Mr. Obama.

Mrs. Clinton, who no doubt has answers to more questions than anyone else — since she is paid to run the State Department — then disappeared. She had more important things to do in Lower Slobbovia. When she returned to redeem a promise to testify before Congress about how the Benghazi debacle happened, she fell ill with the belly bug, no doubt acquired in Lower Slobbovia, a common malady of diplomats suddenly on the spot. Then she fell and got up with a knot on her head. It's not clear just when Hillary fell, whether before or after the belly bug bit. (We wish her a full and speedy recovery, by the way. Belly bugs are no fun and taking a lick on the head isn't, either.)

She says she can't wait to reschedule an appearance in January before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. But by then, with a little luck, we'll be talking about her successor, probably Sen. John F. Kerry, the famous Vietnam War hero, Francophile and keen windsurfer.

Delay and obfuscation have marked the Obama administration's reaction to the Benghazi debacle since Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens first begged for the help that never arrived. Four Americans, including the ambassador, paid for the timidity and ineptitude with their lives.

The president and his minions were desperate to run out the clock in October, struggling to stumble across the goal line. Now Hillary is desperate to stall, even if it means an occasional bump on the head, until her successor takes over. The public may never get the promised explanation. Until then, we're entitled to think the worst. We'll probably be right.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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