Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stepped forward to say she accepts responsibility for the fact that our consulate in Benghazi was refused enhanced security. This is another example of her willingness to take one for the team. But what does it mean? Will she “accept responsibility” by resigning her office?
This is what is meant by accepting responsibility in most parliamentary democracies. As secretary of state, she surely knows that any of her NATO colleagues who accepted responsibility for such a debacle would immediately surrender his office.
Vice President Biden executed a play on words that has become tradition in his party when he said “we” didn’t know that Ambassador Stevens had urgently requested enhanced security in the worsening situation in Libya. We in this case meant Biden and President Obama. It’s reminiscent of the most memorable line from the Clinton administration: It depends on what the definition of “is” is. In this case, “we” is not the Obama administration.
How could President Obama and Vice President Biden not know? Isn’t it their duty to know? It’s interesting to contrast the military ethos with that of this administration. If a submarine captain collides with another ship while surfacing, it is presumed to be that skipper’s fault. He knew — or should have known — to take measures to prevent the collision. The recent incident involving a U.S. nuclear submarine and another Navy vessel will doubtless result in both commanding officers being relieved.
For Hillary to say she accepts responsibility for the deaths of four Americans in Libya — including the first U.S. ambassador to be murdered in 30 years — and then do nothing would be an empty gesture. She is slated to resign in January at any rate. She has told the world, probably unwisely, that she is a lame duck.
But this disaster in Libya is yet another serious misstep during her tenure as secretary of state. Recall her notorious “re-set” button. She began her tenure by giving a gag gift to the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. It was supposed to lighten the mood at their first meeting. A big red plastic button said “re-set.” But the Russian word was spelled wrong. And it wasn’t even written in Cyrillic, the Russian alphabet. An unsmiling Lavrov was not amused by this adolescent prank.
It is our relations with Russia today that need to be “re-set.” Russia has proved a most unhelpful partner in Syria, Iran, and the Mideast generally. Hillary should probably consider resigning over the obvious failure of U.S.-Russian relations.
Or how about our neighbor, Canada? Hillary went to Ottawa and publicly rebuked Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government for not pushing abortion in Africa. Harper apparently feels enough Africans are dying of preventable diseases and Canada’s aid dollars are better spent saving people than killing them.
Hillary has chilled our relations with Britain. She reopened the Falklands Islands matter. In 1982, the British went to war with the military junta in Argentina to reclaim the Falklands — whose island people have been staunchly loyal to Britain since the early nineteenth century. Rather than let sleeping dogs lie — or in the case of the Falklands, sleeping sheep dogs — Madame Secretary raised an undiplomatic row by calling the Falklands the “Malvinas” — the named the Argentine dictators gave them when they tried so infamously to seize them in 1982.