At the second presidential debate this week, Barack Obama finally appeared to man-up and acknowledge that, as president and commander in chief, he was responsible for the deaths of four Americans during the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
After all, said the president, the secretary of state “works for me,” and as the top person in the administration’s chain of command, the buck stopped at him.
It was, at best, a late and half-hearted admission of culpability. Indeed, President Obama waited weeks before dropping the administration’s false story — which he floated in the Rose Garden, at the United Nations, on “The View” and on “The Letterman Show” — that the attack was the result of a spontaneous uprising and not an al Qaida-linked terrorist attack.
What’s more, in making his acknowledgement of fault, he couched his admission in such a way that the weight of blame still fell squarely on the shoulders of Hillary Clinton, not him.
Thus, several questions were left unanswered by the debate:
- Are Hillary and the president working in tandem?
- Did Hillary take a bullet for Obama as a way of helping his campaign for re-election?
- Or did Hillary have another motive, which has yet to be revealed to the public?
According to a member of Hillary’s inner circle to whom I have spoken, she and Bill Clinton assembled a team of legal experts a couple of weeks ago to determine how to handle the Benghazi debacle. The members of this team engaged in a lively debate over the best legal and political courses for her to take.
Their chief goal was to avoid allowing Benghazi to become a permanent stain on Hillary’s reputation and hurt her chances to run for president in 2016.
As they debated amongst themselves, it became clear to the Clintons and their advisers that the White House intended to throw Hillary under the bus. This conclusion became inescapable when David Axelrod went on Fox News Channel and cast all the blame for Benghazi on the State Department.
At that point, Bill Clinton and some of the members of the legal team advocated that Hillary consider a “nuclear option” — threatening the White House that she would resign as secretary of state if it continued to make her the scapegoat for Benghazi.
But ultimately, wiser and more rational heads prevailed.
After the Clinton legal team had a chance to review the State Department cable traffic between Benghazi and Washington, the experts came to the conclusion that the cables proved that Hillary had in fact given specific instructions to beef up security in Libya, and that if those orders had been carried out — which they weren’t — they could conceivably have avoided the tragedy.
Clearly, someone in the Obama administration dropped the ball — and the president was still insisting that it was not his fault.
In the end, then, Hillary decided to assume responsibility to show that she was acting more presidential than the president.
I am told by my sources that she firmly believes that when the State Department cable traffic is made public, either through leaks to the press or during formal House committee hearings, it will exonerate her and shift the blame for the entire mess onto the president.
Edward Klein, author of The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House, is a New York Times bestselling author of numerous books including The Truth About Hillary. He is the former foreign editor of Newsweek, former editor in chief of The New York Times Magazine, and a contributing editor of Vanity Fair.