“Taking the responsibility” in Washington has long been a way of avoiding the blame. But in the case of yesterday’s statement by Secretary Clinton, it was a case of changing the topic — toward the security breach (where the blame is uncertain and diffuse as yet) and away from the cover-up (where the White House is guilty of repeating a pack of lies from Ambassador Susan Rice’s television appearances right up to and including Vice President Joe Biden’s debate with Paul Ryan.)
Lisa Schiffren and Senator Jon Kyl (in an interview posted today by Katrina Trinko) both made this crucial distinction clear on the Corner today (as I did yesterday in a posting that, if not overheated, was certainly not under-heated.) Kyl’s cool and analytical argument is therefore worth quoting at length:
In one sense she can take responsibility, but that’s only with respect to the security issue. The larger question is the misleading nature of Ambassador Rice’s comments on television five days after the event, and the failure of the administration, that is, to say the White House, to fully explain her comments, which are obviously inaccurate and may have been intentionally misleading by the people who sent her out there to cover all the networks.
One way or another it’s important to find out who made the decision to send Ambassador Rice out, who provided the talking points, and where the information came from. Based upon information that I’m aware of, I find it impossible to believe that the intelligence community would have approved of the comments that she made five days after the event.
And he added: “I am not aware of any evidence that the intelligence community had that identified the cause of the terrorist attack in Benghazi as a film, as Ambassador Rice said.”
That is the key indictment because it charges the White House and its political operation with a deliberate campaign to put out a false account of the terrorist attack on America’s Benghazi consulate in order to protect the president’s reputation on foreign policy. It is, therefore, dynamite.
Should Governor Romney make it a centerpiece of his argument tonight? Well, he should certainly not back away from the issue if a questioner raises or if the president decides that attacking from one’s weakest point is the best way to defend it. But if he can, he should find a form of words that would make clear that he is not politicizing it, but instead is — well, I’ll give the second reason in a moment. Meanwhile, here’s what I think the governor should say:
Secretary Clinton has nobly taken the blame for the security failures in Benghazi, but she has not dealt in any serious way with the series of false and contradictory explanations of the terrorist attack on our consulate that have come from this administration in the last few weeks. We need to know not only what happened, but also why they repeatedly gave us false accounts of what happened. We need to know the truth. I can’t tell you what happened, I’m not privy to official secrets, but we are having a debate next week on foreign policy. That gives the president a full week to investigate and tell the American people the truth before we discuss this again. And, frankly, if this administration cannot find out the truth after almost four weeks, then that alone would justify electing a new one.
And the second point: Well, such a statement would compel the press to investigate not only the scandal but also whether the administration was dragging its feet on the scandal. Yes, it should be doing that anyway, but a light kick in the pants won’t come amiss.