Nobody resigns in disgrace any more. Disgrace may be just as common as ever -- such is the human condition -- but not resignations. Even when they're clearly called for. Rank still has its privileges, especially when it's abused. As when the higher-ups at the State Department failed to protect our best and brightest -- like Ambassador Chris Stevens, a rising star in our diplomatic corps. Along with three other dedicated professionals, he was killed in the terrorist raid on an American compound in Benghazi.
An independent investigation of that bloody debacle was clearly needed. This one was headed by two well-known figures: veteran Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen. After conducting more than a hundred interviews and watching hours of videotapes of the attack, their report confirmed what was already obvious: "systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels" of the State Department.
Early in this scandal, Hillary Clinton said that, as secretary of state, she took responsibility for what had happened at Benghazi. But last time I looked, she was still secretary of state. Conclusion: When some officials say they take responsibility, what they mean is that they say they take responsibility. Nothing else is required of them. Not an apology, not even a full explanation, and certainly not resignation. However much they talk about accepting responsibility for some ghastly failure.
Sidelined by a virus and then a concussion, Secretary Clinton never has testified fully about her role in that bloody debacle. Here's wishing her a full and speedy recovery. She's still got some explaining to do.
Whole layers of the far-flung bureaucracy Ms. Clinton heads failed to foil an attack that should have been anticipated -- and prevented. Any efforts to do so were summed up by this report in two words: "grossly inadequate." Which may be an understatement, considering the extent of the mismanagement at State.
The final report from this independent commission praised our people on the ground in Benghazi, especially the guards who showed nothing but courage in the face of the onslaught.
It was the higher-ups in their distant towers who failed to carry out their responsibilities. Utterly. Despite a series of earlier attacks, despite a clear warning from al-Qaida, and even repeated pleas for more protection from our diplomats in Benghazi, nothing was done. And the slaughter commenced.
Four high-ranking officials at State finally resigned. But only after the report of the investigators was released. Even then, according to the news story, they did so under pressure. And only after weeks of public outrage, congressional fuming, and a continuing stream of misleading statements about the attack and what prompted it from the White House, the State Department (aka Foggy Bottom), and the administration's usual apologists. Its defenders have yet to meet a scandal they can't explain away or, failing that, try to minimize. Even a fatal lack of responsibility, like the one that led to the murderous assault at Benghazi.. .
The list of resignees reads like a Who's Who of State Department officials responsible for security, or what there was of it at Benghazi: the assistant secretary for diplomatic security, the deputy assistant secretary for embassy security, and a deputy assistant secretary responsible for overseeing U.S. diplomatic missions across a whole swath of North Africa -- from Morocco and Algeria to Tunisia and Libya.
But it's still not clear whether these dignitaries will be leaving the State Department or just their current posts. For now, according to the State Department's official spokesman, they're "on administrative leave pending further action.". .
Who knows, the people now being blamed for failing to protect our people at Benghazi may wind up being promoted. The way our ambassador to the United Nations, the Hon. Susan E. Rice, rose through the State Department's ranks after cozying up to one bloody-minded despot after another in Africa -- from Ghana to Ethiopia, Rwanda to Uganda. She seemed unable to recognize genocide on that still dark continent no matter how obvious, and certainly unable to pronounce the word -- lest she offend the genocidal.
Naturally enough, Susan Rice was being talked about not long ago as our next secretary of state -- till she made the mistake of lending herself to the Authorized Version of what had happened at Benghazi: She said it was just an outgrowth of widespread public furor over an amateurish anti-Muslim video made by some fly-by-night promoter in this country. Rather than the well-planned, premeditated terrorist assault it was, perhaps by al-Qaida and/or its affiliates. Much awaits to be revealed -- if it ever is.
Ambassador Rice's story was already unraveling even as she repeated it in one television appearance after another. In the end, rather than risk further embarrassment, the lady had the good judgment to decide she shouldn't be nominated for secretary of state after all.
Now it's said that, as a consolation prize, she'll be this president's next adviser on, of all things, national security. Perfect. There's a term for this kind of thing in Washington: falling up.. .
Once it was said that nothing succeeds like success. But in this administration -- have you noticed? -- nothing succeeds like failure.