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A public policy blog from AEI
At yesterday’s Benghazi hearing, Republicans spent a lot of time trying to prove that Hillary Clinton was, through her negligence, responsible for the terrorist attack in Benghazi.
No doubt she and others made mistakes, since we lost four Americans. And it’s important to investigate the failures that led to Benghazi so we can fix them and try to prevent it from happening again – just as the 9/11 Commission investigated the failures that led to that attack.
But let’s recall, just last week, Donald Trump tried to blame President George W. Bush for the 9/11 attacks. “The World Trade Center came down during his reign,” Trump said. “He was the president at the time, and you know, you could say the buck stops here.”
Most Americans believe that’s unfair. They don’t blame Bush for 9/11, nor do they blame Bill Clinton for the USS Cole and East Africa embassy attacks for that matter. And they probably would not have blamed Obama and Clinton for Benghazi – if, that is, they had been upfront and honest about it.
They were not. And that is the real scandal.
Without a doubt, the smoking gun from yesterday’s hearing was Rep. Jim Jordan’s revelation that Hillary Clinton’s emails show she knew from the beginning that it was a pre-planned al Qaeda terrorist attack and had nothing to do with an internet video.
At 10:08 p.m. the night of the attack, Clinton issued a statement that blamed the attack on “inflammatory material posted on the Internet.” There was no mention of terrorism or al Qaeda.
But an hour later, at 11:12 pm she emailed her daughter Chelsea: “Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Queda-like [sic] group.”
In other words, she knew it was an al Qaeda attack the same time she was telling the world that it was because of an internet video.
The next day in a phone call with the Egyptian Prime Minister, Clinton said: “We know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack, not a protest.”
Yet two days later, as she welcomed the caskets of the fallen and comforted the families in Dover, Delaware, she blamed that attack on “an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with” and promised family members that they would prosecute the people responsible … for the video.
I believe most Americans would have been very understanding if she and President Obama had stepped forward and been honest from the beginning and said: “We have just suffered a terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9/11. We will find who did this and deliver justice to them.” In fact, I think Americans would have rallied around them, just as the country rallied around George W. Bush after 9/11.
But they weren’t. The crime here is the cover up – intentionally misleading the American people about the nature of the attack, and blaming it on an internet video. Americans saw an administration that seemed more concerned about the political narrative than the fact that we had suffered a terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9/11.
As Hillary Clinton pointed out, lots of administrations have experienced terrorist attacks on their watch, from Ronald Reagan in Beirut to Bill Clinton in Kenya, Tanzania and Yemen, to George W. Bush on 9/11. Americans understand that we cannot protect every place, at all times, against every possible technique. We need to find out what mistakes were made so we can close gaps in our defenses and prevent future tragedies.
But what we should not, and cannot, countenance is dishonesty. And what we learned yesterday was the Hillary Clinton intentionally misled the country about Benghazi.
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