Friday, January 25, 2013

Sorry Nick, Hillary Clinton is nothing like Oliver North

Over at Reason, Nick Gillespie has a piece entitled "3 Incredibly Outrageous Evasions by Hillary Clinton About Benghazi." He quite fairly takes issue with 1) Clinton's claim that she "takes responsibility," 2) her attempt at avoiding that responsibility by noting the million+ cables her office receives, and 3) her slimy "what difference at this point does it make" rhetorical question.

Clinton really isn't taking responsibility; she's shirking it with every fiber of her being. She's letting people lower on the food chain take the real heat, people who were likely hamstrung--when it came to requests for more security--by Clinton and the Administration. But if that's the case, the truth will likely never come out. If it does, it will be years--if not decades--from now, at which point it will most certainly not make any difference.

And citing the number of cables that her office receives--1.43 million, interesting that she can cite that very close approximation at will, isn't it?--is just so obviously disingenuous, it's scary that people think she should possibly be President in four years. As Gillespie rightly notes, Clinton is running State, she's not supposed to handle everything herself. But she is supposed to make sure all those cables end up on the right desks and she has plenty of help in that regard. And frankly, given the focus on events in Arab Spring-land, it's highly unlikely that she didn't know about the requests for more security in Benghazi and Libya. In other words, she's most likely lying about that.

The idea that none of this matters now, that it makes no difference, is equally deceptive. Clinton is a former Senator; she understands the concept of oversight. Whether she likes it or not, Congress is doing its job by probing this matter, if only to understand where things went wrong and how to avoid a repetition of the Benghazi incident, wherein a sitting U.S. Ambassador was assassinated while on the job, a point that is often minimized with "four americans killed" talking point. This is not to say Stevens' life was more valuable than that of others killed in Benghazi, only that such an incident represents something more than just a tragedy.

I have to admit, however, that Clinton has done a fair job at State, given the Administration she is a part of. Many times, she's been one of the only adults in the room. But that doesn't excuse her actions here. And we all know she can be something of a liar. Remember that nonsense about landing under sniper fire in Bosnia, then running for cover? Remember how the story was shot down by the comedian Sinbad? Years from now, she'll no doubt tell tales of being physically assaulted by Republicans, while she tried to give testimony.

All that said, Gillespie opens his piece with the following comparison:
The scene reminded me of nothing so much as Oliver North's appearance before a joint Congressional committee investigating Iran-Contra back in the 1980s. Not because of anything Clinton said but the way that she carried herself and the ease with which she wrapped herself in the flag and tragedy to obscure the simple fact that she wasn't going to answer anything. North famously showed up to testify in a military uniform that had nothing to do with his day job of subverting the U.S. Constitution from the basement of the Reagan White House. Clinton couldn't repeat that fashion statement but she was able to pound the table and choke up at all the right moments to evade serious discussion not simply of major screw-ups, but major screw-ups that will go unaccounted for.
When North went before Congress in 1987, I was in college. I watched much of the proceedings with hundreds of others on a big screen television at the student union. Nick is about my age, so I'm guessing he likely saw the proceedings, as well. Yet, we seem to have very different memories of them.

I remember North willing to actually take responsibility for a number of things. Moreover, he never backed down from his stated belief that he thought what he did was justified. His evasions were mostly with respect to attempts by Congress to elicit confirmations form North about the involvement of other people. That is what made North's testimony so infuriating for people on the left, for Democrats and liberals; Congress granted North limited immunity for his testimony (which is why the verdict in his subsequent criminal trial was later overturned, which is why the ACLU came to North's defense), expecting that North would then roll over and provide damning evidence against many more people in the Reagan Administration, including Reagan. Instead North fell on his sword, for the most part, essentially giving Congress the proverbial finger.

I can understand Gillespie's dislike of North, of what he did and what he stood for, but there just isn't a valid comparison here. Sure, both tried to use their patriotism--wrapping themselves in the flag, as Gillespie says--but Clinton did it to stifle discussion and avoid responsibility. North did it to justify what he did. One need not agree with North's choices to see that. And let's not forget that above all else Clinton is a professional politician, a policy-maker, while North was always a soldier, albeit one with a helluva secretary. Those big-hair days of the eighties really were something, weren't they?

Cheers, all.

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