Jonah Goldberg

"Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference -- at this point, what difference does it make?"

That was how then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously brushed off the question of when she knew that the attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were, in fact, a terrorist assault and not a "protest" of an anti-Islam video that got out of hand.

Clinton's fans, in and out of the press, loved her defiant response, and they should be ashamed of themselves for it.

What Clinton was really doing there was deflecting attention away from the fact that she lied. We now know, thanks to Wednesday's congressional hearings and reporting by The Weekly Standard's Steve Hayes, that administration officials knew from the outset the video had nothing to do with it. Intelligence sources on the ground in Libya and officials in Washington knew that it was a terrorist attack from the beginning. The video was a "non-event in Libya" according to Gregory Hicks, the man who inherited Stevens' duties after the ambassador was killed by al-Qaeda-linked militants. The false video story was simply imposed from above by Clinton, President Obama and their subalterns.

Let's return to that lie in a moment.

The hearings exposed another lie. Obama and Clinton have insisted that they did everything they could to help the Americans besieged in Libya; they just couldn't get help to them in time.

That's simply untrue.

But even if that were true, it would still be a self-serving falsehood.

If you see a child struggling in the ocean, you have no idea how long she will flail and paddle before she goes under for the last time. The moral response is to swim for her in the hope that you get there in time. If you fail and she dies, you can console yourself that you did your best to rescue her.

But if you just stand on the beach and do nothing as the child struggles for life, saying, "Well, there's just no way I can get to her in time," it doesn't really matter whether you guessed right or not. You didn't try.

The White House and State Department insist they guessed right, as if that somehow absolves them of responsibility. They would have sent help if they could have, they claim, but they simply weren't ready to deploy forces on Sept. 11, the one day of the year you'd expect our military and intelligence agencies to be ready for trouble in the Middle East, particularly given that before his murder, Stevens warned of security problems in Benghazi.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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