Honestly, did the buck really stop with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Benghazi-gate, or did the buck just stop?
Here's what Clinton said: "I take responsibility. I'm in charge of the State Department's 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts. The president and the vice president wouldn't be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals. They're the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs and make a considered decision."
Stop. Clinton's taken responsibility, she's in charge -- and then she declares that "security professionals" make the decisions? Not only is this a non sequitur, it's nonsense. One thing Americans learned from recent House hearings about the Sept. 11 orchestrated terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya -- which killed four Americans and which President Barack Obama insisted for two weeks was sparked by a YouTube video -- is that the security professional in question, Eric Nordstrom, asked Clinton's State Department for more security and was denied.
Clinton went on to say an internal investigation was under way. And who is leading the investigation? Former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, a noted career diplomat. Part of what he's noted for, however, is sitting on boards of two pro-Tehran groups, the American Iranian Council and the National Iranian American Council, and for meeting with Hamas and promoting negotiations with the Taliban. Perhaps not the most "responsible" choice.
Then again, is "responsibility" Clinton's goal? "What I want to avoid is some kind of political 'gotcha' or blame game," she said. Translation: Taking "responsibility" -- an empty phrase without resigning -- avoids the "blame game" and eliminates the need to air the facts. She continued: "I know that we're very close to an election. I want to just take a step back here and say from my own experience, we are at our best as Americans when we pull together." Translation: I know we're very close to an election, so, as good Americans, shut up already about Benghazi.
The secretary of state took to the airwaves, where CBS brought up U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's five appearances on Sunday talk shows on Sept. 16 to beat the drum that the Benghazi assault began as a "spontaneous protest" over a YouTube video that "spun from there into something much, much more violent." It is now part of the established record that there was no protest outside the consulate in Benghazi, and the U.S. government knew it from the start.
CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan asked Clinton if she approved the message Rice delivered that day.
"I think she very clearly said, 'Here's what we know now, but this is going to change,'" Clinton said, which is not at all what Rice said. "This is what we have at present, but it will evolve -- and the intelligence community has said the same thing." Is that taking responsibility? CBS reported: "Clinton said she did not speak to Rice prior to her Sunday talk show appearances, but added that 'everyone had the same information.'"
Not everyone. The State Department knew right away that 9/11/12 was a quiet day and night in Benghazi until the attack began at 9:40 p.m. But there was another point to make. The secretary of state said: "I have to say I know there's been a lot of attention paid to who said what, but I think what happened is more important."
What was that again? "I have to say I know there's been a lot of attention paid to who said what" -- who said what lies, to be specific -- "but I think what happened is more important." No doubt Bill's hat is off to the little woman -- unless he is the phrase crafter himself!
Clinton also cautioned against making premature assumptions about the security situation at Benghazi as the investigation continues. "I don't want us to reach any conclusions about what we did or didn't do without the full context."
Wait, I thought she already took "responsibility"!
"I understand why people want to ask questions, but I just caution that we need to look at everything, and everything needs to be explained at the same time," Clinton said.
Translation: after the election.
Meanwhile, Clinton said: "I'm not going to get into the blame game."
Such a declaration is always a preface to getting into the blame game. She continued: "I think intelligence is very hard to do, and what we're going to find out as we do this accountability review and we get what will be the best possible chronology, that will be attached to what we knew when, which takes time. I understand the, you know, the anxiety and the desire to try to get answers. Nobody wants to get answers more than I do."
What was that again? "I think intelligence is very hard to do ..."
Intelligence. It's their fault.
And we thought Hillary went noble on us.
(Diana West is the author of "The Death of the Grown-up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization," and blogs at dianawest.net. She can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @diana_west_.)