Words Over Benghazi


It looked like the onset of a Clinton Renaissance. At the Democratic National Convention this year, Bill Clinton’s speech reignited the Democrats. Seemingly still in an uncomfortable truce with the Obama coalition, the Clintonites have spent the last four years in the eaves of the party.  Nonetheless there were murmurs among the faithful of a Clinton reemergence, potentially with Hillary’s candidacy in 2016.

All of that pent up hope may have come crashing down last Tuesday, as Hillary Clinton sat down in Peru for a CNN interview to discuss the Benghazi attack in which Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed.

When asked about the tragedy, and the government’s response, Clinton said she took “full responsibility.” She elaborated, “The president and the vice president wouldn’t be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals. They’re the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs and make a considered decision” [1]. The State Department does deal with these issues, and the response Clinton gave was an accurate description of her position. How much Clinton was emphasizing her role and downplaying that of the president is up to interpretation.  However, the comment seemed a breaking from the ranks. A defiant voice of command cutting through, what Clinton describes as, “confusion” induced by the “fog of war.” Her interview caused a frenzy of media attention, with links posted on both The Huffington Post and The Drudge Report.

However, later that night at the Presidential Debate, President Obama responded to a question on Libya, insisting he was on top of the situation, and the ultimate authority.  Governor Romney then tried to juxtapose this response with Hillary Clinton’s words [2]. Using the terms “responsibility” and “buck stops here” as clear allusions to earlier headlines [3].

Despite the good feelings in the wake of the Democratic National Convention, the conflicting statements on Benghazi from the president and the secretary of state reveal the remnants of a divide between the Clinton and the Obama camps.  Regardless of who is correct, both officials are now on the record.

Advocates will try to spin Clinton’s comment as her taking responsibility in an administration that seems adrift (these sentiments are subversively reflected in many Internet memes). However, her Benghazi involvement will open the door to political challengers.  In the 2008 Primary, one of Clinton’s largest political liabilities was her vote for the Iraq War. As the past has shown, a great deal can change over four years. But if Clinton does seek the Democratic nomination in 2016, it is likely that this CNN interview will reemerge, especially if the situation in the Middle East intensifies. Her opponents in the primary and in the general election will prey on her involvement with the Benghazi situation and her statements over the last week and could be an episode to rival that of “sniper fire” [4].


[1] http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/15/us/clinton-benghazi/index.html

[2] http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/10/clinton-takes-responsibility-for-libya-attack.html

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tc9NpOgkxZA

[4] http://gawker.com/5004505/clinton-strolls-into-sniper-fire-in-cnn-video


[Photo Credit: http://www.salon.com/2012/10/15/benghazi_madness/]

About author

Kevin Schoelzel

Kevin is a junior majoring in Economics & History with a minor in Engineering Management. Born and raised in Colorado, Kevin has worked as an intern at the Denver Zoo and in the municipal bond industry. In addition to being a member of the Editorial Board, he is also an active member and Treasurer for Vanderbilt Best Buddies, a group that facilitates one-to-one friendships with college students and individuals with developmental disabilities. Though he has always had a fascination with politics, this is Kevin’s first year writing for the Vanderbilt Political Review.

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