The big story this evening is that Hillary Clinton has “taken responsibility” for what happened in Benghazi. According to CNN reporter Elise Labott, Clinton said that it is “her State Department”; that the buck stops with her; and that she “take[s] responsibility.”
Similarly, Clinton reportedly told Fox News that she is “responsible for the State Department, for more than 60,000 people around the world.” But she added that “the decisions about security are made by security professionals.”
This statement appears to shift blame to these professionals. And Clinton again invoked them when she said that the June explosion in Benghazi “was taken into account by security professionals as they made their assessments” about what kind of security was required thereafter.
Did the security professionals make “assessments” or did they make “decisions”? It seems to me that Clinton should be making decisions based on the assessments of security professionals. Is that what happened? Until we find out, the matter isn’t closed at Clinton’s end.
In any case, Clinton’s statements will be interpreted, for now, as her taking the blame. Come 2016, they will be re-interpreted as blaming the “security professionals” who let her down.
Does this take President Obama off the hook? No. First, he appointed Clinton as his Secretary of State, in what was probably his most important personnel decision as president.
Second, Clinton did not, and cannot, take the fall for the false statements by the Obama administration about what happened in Benghazi. The State Department, which was following events there in real time, knew that this was a terrorist attack, not a protest. Yet, days after the attack, the administration mischaracterized it as a protest that spun out of control against a movie. That’s on Obama, not Clinton.
Third, Clinton cannot take the fall for our failure, to date, to strike back at those responsible for the Benghazi attack. This too is on Obama.
As the cliché goes, there’s more than enough blame to go around. More than enough to leave Obama culpable even after Clinton’s limited mea culpa.