So "What Difference . . . Does It Make?"

Posted: Jan 23, 2013 7:33 PM

To the extent Hillary Clinton's testimony on Benghazi is remembered, it may be in large part because of this statement:

Senator Johnson: [W]e were misled that there were supposedly protests and then something sprang out of that, an assault sprang out of that and that was easily ascertained that that was not the fact and the American people could have known that within days. And they didn’t know that.

Secretary Clinton: With all respect, the fact is we have four dead Americans was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans. What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator.

"With all due respect" (which isn't much!) there are a few observations that this exchange prompts:

1. Since the early 90's, Americans have been well-acquainted with the Clintons' tenuous relationship with the truth (among Sec. Clinton's past flights of fancy, that she had been named for a famous explorer and that she came under fire in Bosnia).  In Clinton-world, it may make no difference that Americans were systematically misled by their government about the cause and circumstances of a catastrophic security failure and terrorist attack -- even when the truth was readily ascertainable (and perhaps known by at least some of those promoting an erroneous version).  

2. Clinton's frustrated question lets slip the familiar liberal contempt both for members of the other party and for the "regular Americans" they represent.  To her, all the folderol about a film and a spontaneous protest that mushroomed may seem like little more than bureaucratic confusion -- or a stab at savvy "crisis control" in the midst of a presidential campaign.  But to regular Americans, how and why something like this could have happened makes a great deal of difference, indeed. -- as does the issue of whether they were intentionally deceived for days.  They are fair questions, and her efforts to dodge them by claiming a desire to prevent future attacks are specious.  Nothing says a government can't both prevent similar catastrophes in the future and simultaneously give a full and accurate accounting of what happened in the past.  In fact, the latter is a prerequisite of the former.  Surely someone who famously worked for the Watergate committee can understand how Americans might be curious about whether there was deliberate deception at the highest levels of their government.

3. Her question highlights once again the fact that Hillary Clinton is just not a very good politician -- and never has been.  She is by all accounts a highly-intelligent and hardworking public servant, but no born politician would allow such a soundbite to escape his (or her) lips even by accident.  If she does decide to run again for President in 2016, expect to see this clip.  It shows a certain lack of empathy and understanding that may well resonate with the public.  Even if there were no issues of public concern at stake, the reasons and circumstances under which their loved ones died make a great deal of difference to the families of Ambassador Stevens, former Navy SEAL Glenn Doughery, Air Force veteran Sean Smith, and former Navy SEAL and bronze star winner (with "v" for valorous service in Iraq) Tyrone Woods.

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