WASHINGTON – The ad helped the junior senator from New York win 2008 Democratic presidential convention delegates in Texas but it will surely come back to test Hillary Clinton if she runs for president in 2016.
“It’s 3 a.m. and there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing,” a man growled over the image of a sleeping child. “Something’s happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call. Whether it’s somebody who already knows the world’s leaders, knows the military, somebody who’s tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world.” Then a familiar voice said, “I’m Hillary Clinton and I approve this message.”
One night, eight weeks before the last presidential election, the White House phones rang insistently. President Obama took calls from then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other national security advisers about an assault on our State Department mission in Benghazi, Libya. He went to bed and the next day did a fundraiser in Las Vegas.
Secretary of State Clinton also got calls about the attack. She spoke with then CIA Director David Petraeus. Exactly what she did afterward is clouded.
Just before last week’s testimony before the Republican-led House Oversight Committee, liberals and most legacy media circled the wagons to protect the president and Clinton from fallout. “It’s an old story,” intoned White House spokesman Jay Carney.
At the same time, hate radio, conservative blogs and the super PAC American Crossroads are targeting the most popular Democrat in the country. Which puts the rest of us in an odd position: Just because ultra-right loudmouths like Sean Hannity are making hay with the episode doesn’t mean something important, even significant, didn’t happen before and after Benghazi.
Clinton’s long-delayed testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Jan. 23 was not among her best moments. Where her “dangerous world” ad portrayed Clinton as a leader who is hands-on, quick and accomplished, Clinton’s testimony smacked of carelessness, evasion and fatigue.
Under questioning by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., she implied she was only aware of attacks on American personnel in Libya prior to Benghazi “that were brought to my attention.” She filibustered when Johnson asked her if she spoke to any of the surviving State Department personnel in Libya by telephone even days afterward. Then she exploded famously, “what difference at this point does it make?”
At last week’s House hearing, it developed that not just one but two of Clinton’s top aides were involved in a cover-up. It’s already established that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who reported directly to Clinton, spoke falsely when she told Sunday news shows the attacks were the result of spontaneous demonstrations against a “hateful” video.
However, a witness at the hearing, Gregory Hicks, said Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, tried to muzzle him. Hicks was the highest-ranking surviving Clinton aide in Tripoli, Libya, after the attack. Mills ordered him not to speak to congressional investigators without a State Department lawyer present. Rice, Hicks said, never talked to him before she made her infamous Sunday show comments.
When he heard Rice tell the nation the attacks came from demonstrators, not terrorists, Hicks said, “my jaw dropped.” Whistleblower Hicks, a 20-year career officer, was demoted to a desk job.
Clinton offered no comment about last week’s hearing. Her office did not answer my request for a response. We’ll leave it to the Republicans to speculate on why the Obama regime mischaracterized an attack that killed our first ambassador in three decades.
But in 2016, it may be up to Clinton alone to ensure Benghazi isn’t a measure of her competence.