EDITORIAL: Passing the buck on Benghazi

Administration seeks to avoid political consequences for Libyan policy failures

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is attempting to defuse the growing political crisis over the handling of the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Mrs. Clinton said she was taking responsibility to avoid a political “gotcha.” The Benghazi tragedy was far more than just a “bump in the road,” as President Obama described it. If Mrs. Clinton wants to accept the blame, she also should accept the consequences.

Mr. Obama seems more than willing to let the buck stop with Hillary. The White House at first tried vainly to pin the blame for the deaths on a YouTube video. Mrs. Clinton wrote off this misstep as resulting from the “fog of war” even though the story was concocted entirely in Washington. Now the administration’s invented account has collapsed, and attention has turned to the cover-up rather than the crime.

Responding to a question about Benghazi, White House press secretary Jay Carney said last week that “the buck stops here” was “unartful, made-for-television phrasing.” Nonetheless, Mr. Obama has played the buck-stopper on several occasions. On May 28, 2010, he spoke forcefully on his responsibility for the BP oil spill cleanup. “I ultimately take responsibility for solving this crisis,” he said. “I’m the president, and the buck stops with me.” He made a “solemn pledge” to hold himself accountable.

Mr. Obama used the same expression responding to a previous terror attack. On Jan. 7, 2010, while discussing the failed al Qaeda Christmas Day underwear bomb plot, he said he was “less interested in passing out blame than I am in learning from and correcting these mistakes to make us safer. For ultimately, the buck stops with me.” He added that “as president, I have a solemn responsibility to protect our nation and our people. And when the system fails, it is my responsibility.”

The system clearly failed Stevens and the others slain by terrorism in Benghazi. Yet this time, Mr. Obama is less interested in holding himself accountable. He continues to spike the football over the operation that took down Osama bin Laden, but he claims to have been out of the loop when it comes to Libya. Apparently, he is accountable only for the good news — a dead ambassador is someone else’s problem.

There remains the question of what taking responsibility means. It is not enough for Mrs. Clinton simply to say “my bad” and move on. There should be some consequences for the flagrant negligence that led to the deaths of four Americans, one of whom was the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in 30 years. At least the secretary of state is showing more character than her boss. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Mrs. Clinton said that dealing with America’s crises would “require strong presidential leadership a president who knows from Day One you have to run a government.” She added, “The buck stops in the Oval Office.” Democrats must be wondering if they backed the right horse.

The Washington Times

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