The Campaign Spot

The Government of ‘What Difference Does It Make?’

I hope you’ll forgive the grim tone that launches the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt . . .

Benghazi Hearings Mark End of Accountability, Forever

At the end of a day of Senate and House hearings on Benghazi, we know . . . not much more than we knew the day before.

Four Americans dead.

Nobody brought to justice. The lone suspect in the attack was released earlier this month by the Tunisians, citing a lack of evidence.

The release dramatized the negligible progress in any investigation into the attack, which killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 11 last year. The feebleness of Libya’s transitional government since the fall of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi has stymied any progress, despite what Benghazi residents describe as an abundance of leads.

In fact, the perpetrators are up to new attacks:

Several Egyptian members of the squad of militants that lay bloody siege to an Algerian gas complex last week also took part in the deadly attack on the United States Mission in Libya in September, a senior Algerian official said Tuesday.

The Egyptians involved in both attacks were killed by Algerian forces during the four-day ordeal that ended in the deaths of at least 38 hostages and 29 kidnappers, the official said. But three of the militants were captured alive, and one of them described the Egyptians’ role in both assaults under interrogation by the Algerian security services, the official said.

If confirmed, the link between two of the most brazen assaults in recent memory would reinforce the transborder character of the jihadist groups now striking across the Sahara. American officials have long warned that the region’s volatile mix of porous borders, turbulent states, weapons and ranks of fighters with similar ideologies creates a dangerous landscape in which extremists are trying to collaborate across vast distances.

No one at the State Department fired for failing to heed the requests for additional security on the ground. And nobody can specify what the heck “administrative leave” entails:

Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Clinton “pledged not only to accept all 29 of the recommendations, but to have the implementation of those recommendations well under way before her successor took over. So I think she’ll want to give a status on that.”

Asked for the number of State Department employees fired for their handling of Benghazi, Nuland said four people were put on administrative leave. They included Eric Boswell, who resigned from the position of assistant secretary of diplomatic security.

But Nuland declined to say if Boswell and the others still are working for the department in some capacity.

And no elected Democrat in Congress gives a hoot.

Oh, they say they care, but every time their turn came in the Clinton hearings, they shifted the topic to House Republican proposals to limit the budget, as if we hadn’t just had this issue resolved, by State Department officials in October:

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R-CA): “It has been suggested the budget cuts are responsible for lack of security in Benghazi, and I’d like to ask Ms. Lamb, you made this decision personally, was there any budget consideration and lack of budget that led you not to increase the number of people in the security force there?”

STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS CHARLENE LAMB: “No, sir.” (U.S. House Of Representatives, Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Hearing, 10/10/12)

What we did learn is that Hillary Clinton thinks it is silly or unreasonable to ask why the administration kept talking about a video for five days, when everyone and their brother could have figured that the date of September 11 was pretty a key indicator that al-Qaeda-sympathizers or like-minded Islamists were out to mark the anniversary in their own murderous way.

“The fact is we had 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?” Clinton told Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. “It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator.”

What’s astounding are the number of folks on the Left who think this is a fantastic answer.

For starters, if your assessment of why an attack happened is wrong, doesn’t that make it less likely you’ll be able to prevent another one?

I’ll leave it to the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple to state the obvious:

No matter your view of the media’s role in Benghazi; no matter your take on whether U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice leveled with the country on the Sept. 16 talk shows; no matter your view of Fox News’s Benghazi campaign, it surely does make a difference whether it was “because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans.” It makes a difference to the media, the public, the government, everyone.

The trustworthiness of the administration’s version of events — even the early one — makes a difference. Whether it was hard-core terrorism or a spontaneous attack or something else — that makes a difference too, with strong implications for intelligence accountability. Goodness gracious, in her very own statement, Clinton herself even seems to acknowledge that it makes a difference, when she says, “It is our job to figure out what happened . . .”

Pardon me a comparison that may seem frivolous or silly, but I was reminded of a quite furious response from screenwriter Terry Rossio after he saw the 2006 movie Superman Returns. To say Rossio hated the movie was an understatement; on his web site, he laid out all the different ways in which the movie simply didn’t “work” given the characters and concepts the creators chose to begin with, and made it clear that as a professional, as someone who believes in aiming for the best in his craft, it deeply offended him that the movie could be made the way it did, with such disregard for quality and respect for the audience, and that the movie’s success illustrated something profound to him:

Okay, here’s the part about the profound effect it had on me. First off, I just felt really, really good that I worked on Pirates and had nothing to do with that movie. I know crap-plus-one is a mistake, but on an emotional level, I just felt genuine relief and contentment to bear no responsibility for that film.

But here was the epiphany. From Superman Returns on, I realized that there are truly no standards any more.

The film got better reviews than Pirates, it got made, it’s going to make $190 million dollars.

There are actually people in the world who enjoyed it.

The next time I get notes on a screenplay (”I think this main relationship doesn’t work,’ ‘this ending isn’t clear, etc.’) I can just point to Superman and say, “You may be right but so what? It’s better than Superman Returns.” It’s the ultimate, “Keep your notes to yourself and just tell me if you’re making the film” movie.

Why would anyone, anywhere, even bother to attend a creative meeting on any project — after seeing that film?

Ultimately, stuff goes up on screen because somebody wanted it up there, not for any other reason. So it might as well be me who decides — right?

When we look at how our government has responded to the night of September 11 in Benghazi, Libya, we see there are truly no standards any more.

If the decision making before, during, and after the Benghazi attack is insufficient to get anyone fired, what decision in government will ever warrant that consequence? If Democrats on Capitol Hill can’t take off their partisan blinders for one day to attempt to hold people accountable for decision-making that resulted in American deaths at the hands of extremists, and then lying to the public about it, then when will they ever? If Hillary Clinton can exclaim that it doesn’t matter that the administration spent five days talking about a video when the video had nothing to do with it, and everyone on her side applauds, why should she or anyone else ever respond to an accusation with anything but audacious defiance?

This is it, folks. This is the government we have, and the lack of a public outcry about Benghazi ensures this is the government we will have for the foreseeable future.


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