Gaffe Track: Clinton's Benghazi Amnesia

Carlos Barria / Reuters
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The candidate: Hillary Clinton, a recent repeat offender.

The gaffe: During an MSNBC town hall Monday night, Clinton defended the U.S. intervention in Libya, which she strongly supported as secretary of state. “Libya was a different kind of calculation. And we didn't lose a single person. We didn't have a problem in supporting our European and Arab allies in working with NATO,” she said. As many people quickly pointed out, that overlooked the four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, killed in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.

The defense: In context, it appears Clinton was referring to the actual military intervention, rather than the aftermath. In contrast to the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. deployed ships, drones, and planes around Libya, but not significant ground forces.

Why it matters (or doesn’t): To borrow a phrase, what difference, at this point, does it make? For one thing, it suggests that Clinton is either trying to distract from the deaths or else insensitive to them. She seemed to have largely quelled questions about Benghazi after her marathon day of hearings in the House; why reawaken the issue?

The lesson: Never underestimate the cultural currency and influence of Michael Bay.