Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears to be sacrificing herself for the sake of the administration after she took the blame for the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi and controversial aftermath. To put things quite literally, she told a CNN reporter on Monday, just a few minutes after landing in Peru for a visit, very plainly, "I take responsibility" for what happened in Libya on September 11. CNN makes it clear that she "insisted President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are not involved in security decisions." With the election right around the corner and everything, Clinton added, "I want to avoid some kind of political gotcha."
It couldn't have been easy for Clinton to take the fall like that. It's not like she was backed into a corner by Republicans. In fact, Republicans have been actually defending Hillary Clinton lately as they direct the blame towards Barack Obama and Joe Biden who happen to be seeking reelection in three weeks. Senior Romney adviser Ed Gillespie was one of these Republicans on Sunday when talking with Fox News's Christopher Wallace about the attack and confusing aftermath. Gillespie described the administration's reaction to the attack as "an effort by President Obama and Vice President Biden to say, no, it was really Secretary Clinton."
When you put it like that, it does sort of sound like Clinton was backed into a corner, doesn't it? Regardless of whether she wants it or not, Hillary Clinton's job is on the line in the upcoming election, and everybody knows that this Benghazi attack is really turning into a headache for the Obama campaign. The administration did a good enough job brushing off accusations that it had screwed up when it pointed to the intelligence agencies for sending mixed reports in the days after the attack. Indeed, The Atlantic Wire's John Hudson said late last week that the blame was shifting from the State Department to the CIA and called it "quite the unexpected development." Push come to shove, though, it seems a lot simpler for Secretary Clinton to call mea culpa then it does to drill down into the guts of America's intelligence operation for the Middle East.
Just because Clinton's on the mat doesn't mean that the Romney-led slugfest against the Obama administration will let up. The Republican candidate already slammed Biden for saying said at the vice presidential debate last week that "we weren't told they wanted more security" at the consulate in Benghazi. And the pundits are already steering Romney towards this incident as Obama's big foreign policy weakness at the upcoming presidential debate.
Regardless of what happens next, though, somebody in the White House owes Hillary Clinton a drink. Depending on the outcome of the election, that somebody might be everybody.
Update (10:41 p.m.): What timing! Apparently, at the same time that Hillary Clinton was taking the blame for the Benghazi attacks, The Wall Street Journal was publishing an editorial scolding her for not speaking up. This pretty much sums it up:
Throughout the fallout from Libya, she has taken a low profile. But this position is becoming increasingly untenable. The focus of Congressional attention and debate has shifted to her shop. Even as they defer to an internal investigation -- whose conclusions won't be out before Election Day -- Joe Biden and the White House last week dumped responsibility for the security and intelligence failure that led to the assault on the Benghazi mission on the State Department and CIA. Does the Secretary care to comment?
Yes, she does. See above.