Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Exit Strategies?

Interesting article in the news today about the Benghazi attacks:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought to take responsibility for the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 in a series of interviews on Monday.

"I take responsibility" for what happened on September 11, Clinton told CNN Monday after arriving in Lima, Peru, for a visit. The series of interviews with U.S. television networks were Clinton's most direct comments on the deadly attack, which killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Clinton insisted President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are not involved in security decisions.

"I want to avoid some kind of political gotcha," she told CNN.

Now, we can take this at face value: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says "The buck stops here." This somewhat insulates the President and Vice President from direct responsibility for embassy security and intelligence failures, even if we can rightly lay the blame at the feet of the folks who refused to fund the budget by some $300 million.

Or we can take this as a way for Hillary Clinton to extricate herself from her post at State. It's long been rumoured, even going back to before Barack Obama's inauguration, that Clinton would be a one-term Secretary. Indeed, her tenure already sees her serving longer than many if not most in that position.

All she really needs to do here is to clean up this mess, put up something dramatic before January, and clean her desk out, if she so chooses.

Notice that this is not something the President necessarily would support. I think President Obama has genuine respect and admiration for the job Secretary Clinton has done and would welcome her to stay on for the second term.

And certainly, exiting now would be leaving on a down note, no matter what (short of solving the Middle East question or normalizing relations with Cuba) she accomplishes in the short time left before term 2. This would prevent her from running for President in 2016 as well, a flat note in an otherwise crystal pitch-perfect performance at the highest levels of government.

Similarly, Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice is someone who could-- probably should-- fall on her sword. Her comments on national television that there was little indication the Benghazi attacks were planned discredit her as a diplomat.

It's not important that there was a "fog of war" (Clinton's term) about the attacks. She went off book too early. The art of diplomacy is two fold: saying nothing while saying something and letting someone have your way. She forgot the first of these.

It was an honest mistake, however, unlike the egregious defenses that folks like Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice and Dick Cheney engaged in during the run up to the Iraq war. Allowing Susan Rice to resign would be an honorable acknowledgement of that point.

This won't stop Republicans from being Republicans and sniping at President Obama, of course, but it will deflect most of their attacks, and the pleas from the family of Ambassdor Stephens to just shut up about it will eventually make the attacks go away.
Americans don't like to see families tortured. Well, white families, anyway.