Thursday, January 24, 2013

What diplomacy?







Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared before Congress today.  In the morning, she spun before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in the afternoon, she spun before the House Foreign Relations Committee.  Does Hillary live in a bubble?

This morning, her voice broke as she read (from her prepared remarks), "I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews.  I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters."

Yes, she did meet with various family members.  Equally true, a significant number of them have publicly rebuked her and the administration.  Pat Smith is the mother of the late Sean Smith.  She spoke with Anderson Cooper October 10th for CNN's Anderson Cooper 360Here and here for video, here for transcript.  Here's an excerpt of Pat Smith speaking about her son:

COOPER: Do you feel that you know what happened or are you still searching for answers? Have you been in contact with the State Department? Have they reached out to you and given you details of what happened?

SMITH: That's a funny subject. I begged them to tell me what was -- what happened. I said I want to know all the details, all of the details no matter what it is, and I'll make up my own mind on it. And everyone of them, all the big shots over there told me that -- they promised me, they promised me that they would tell me what happened. As soon as they figure it out.  No one, not one person has ever, ever gotten back to me other than media people and the gaming people.

"No one," Pat Smith stated, "not one person has ever, ever gotten back to me other than media people and the gaming people."  Charlie Woods is the father of the late Tyrone Woods.  October 26th, he spoke with Megyn Kelly on America Live (Fox News).

Charlie Woods: My son was an American hero.  And he had the moral strength to do what was right, even if that would professionally cost him his job, even if it would potentially cost him his life.  He was a hero who was willing to do whatever was necessary to respond to their cries for help.  If, in fact, those people from the White House were as courageous and had the moral strength that my son, Ty, had immediately within minutes of when they found there was the first attack, they would have sent, they would have given permission, not denied permission for those C130s to have gone up there.

The two parents above are not being partisan, they are being parents.  We will note that Kate Quigley told Erin Burnett (Erin Burnett Out Front) that her family was getting updates.  (Kate Quigley is the sister of the late Glen Doherty.)  The families of Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty and Sean Smith have largely been ignored/silence by the media.  Even worse, their loved ones have gone unnamed over and over in reports which usually read  "an attack that killed Chris Stevens and three other Americans."

Hillary did name all four.  She also repeatedly noted there was one DS Agent still in Walter Reed (the agent's name was not given).  But I didn't see anything that indicated this hearing was about that.  Instead, we got a lot of nonsense, a lot of, "You are so wonderful, Hillary."  That's garbage.  You were there to ask questions.  Four Americans are dead and I don't think "I am grateful" nonsense from senators recognizes the reality of those four deaths.  Senator Ben Cardin walked the line very well, taking a brief moment to note Hillary's accomplishments and not getting lost in it.  It's a real shame others couldn't do the same. Senator Robert Mendez was the acting Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Bob Corker is the Ranking Member.  ARB is Accountability Review Board.   Senator Barbara Boxer waxed on about how "you stepped up" -- I don't know that the hearing established that. 

One key exchange.

Ranking Member Bob Corker:  To my knowledge, no one has been held accountable.  Our staff had a meeting with one of the State Dept officials and I hate to use this word again but it was nothing short of bizarre as they talked about the communications.  These officials were screaming out for more security.  And I was just wondering if you might mention one reform that would be helpful so that you would have known of the needs of security that went undone.

Secretary Hillary Clinton:  Well obviously, I have, uh, thought about this almost constantly since that date, Senator, uhm, you know I do feel responsible.  I feel responsible for, uh, the nearly 70,000 people that work for the State Dept.  You know, I take it very seriously.  Uhm, the-the specific security requests, uhm, pertaining to Benghazi, you know, were handled by the security professionals in the department.  I didn't see those requests.  Uh, they didn't come to me.  I didn't approve them.  I didn't deny them.  That's obviously one of the findings that Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen made -- that these requests don't ordinarily come to the Secretary of State.

Ranking Member Bob Corker:  If we could -- I know -- I respect you tremendously but we have short amount of time.  They did come in to folks. 

Secretary Hillary Clinton:  That's right.

Ranking Member Bob Corker:  We did have  SST people on the ground at no cost to the State Dept.  They were asked to be extended by the ambassador.  Someone at the State Dept turned that down. They were at no charge -- 16 officers.  So I just wonder, what has happened inside to make sure that never happens again?

Secretary Hillary Clinton:  Well -- uh -- several things.  Not only are we, uhm, on the path to implement all of the ARB recommendations but we've gone beyond that.  Uhm, we did, uh, immediately do this high threat assessment using DoD assets as well as our own.  That had never been done before.  Uh, we have asked the Congress to help us, uh, reallocate funds.  The Senate has given us that authority -- we-we don't yet have it from the House -- so that we can get more Marine guards, we can get more diplomatic security guards, we can try to put more money into the maintenance, the upgrades, the construction that's needed.  I created the first ever -- it sounds like it should have been done years ago -- but first ever Department  Deputy Assistant Secretary for High Threats.  I'm also recommending that there be a regular process that includes the secretaries and the deputies in these decisions because nobody wants to sit where I am and have to think now about what coulda-woulda-shoulda happened in order to avoid this.  Now, as I said, we've had 19 ARBS.  Only two have ever been unclassified.  The one coming out of the East Africa bombings where there was full transparency, there was a set of recommendations, many of which have been implemented, along with recommendations from other ARBS.  But this Committee never had a public hearing about the 17 other ARBS because they were classified.  So we're-we're-we're putting into action, steps that we think will help the next Secretary be able to make these decisions, be part of these decisions, have more insight into what is going on and we would, obviously, welcome the opportunity to work closely with a subcommittee or a set of members to make sure that that's what's happening. 

That's a lot of words.  If you know Hillary, and I do, she's not a "uhm" and "uh" and "the-the" type person.  When she is that?  She's hiding.  That's reality.  You can admit that or not.

But if you're on the fence about whether she's spinning, grasp that she used a lot of words.  Ranking Member Bob Corker wanted to know -- and asked three times -- what she'd done that would ensure that the Secretary of State would be aware of the security needs and requests? 

And Hillary couldn't answer it.  She went on and on.  To the point that Corker pointed out time was limited and re-directed her.  She responded by going on and on and still not answering his question.  So he tried asking it for a third time.  And no answer.

That's not just disappointing, that's actually damning. 

If you need to contrast?  Senator James Risch asked her about what's going on in Algeria.  She couldn't talk about it in terms of what it is but she, explained, she could talk about this ongoing situation in terms of the information she's receiving (that "we don't have anyway to confirm it" at present).  Hillary didn't stammer once, she'd didn't pause and it wasn't until the end that she even fell into a "uh"  (and there she was recalling what someone in another department had done).  That question was out of left field.  It played to her strengths, she is very knowledgeable.  She is very smart.  She thinks on her feet.  She was pulling from news reports and briefings in her head, off the top of her head, and speaking eloquently and to the point.  Contrast that completely unprepared for moment and how well she mastered it with her refusal to answer Corker's very basic question -- one she was asked three times.

Another serious issue "we knew we were piecing together what a host nation was not able to do."  That Hillary speaking to Senator Marco Rubio.  Who's insane idea was it that Libya could provide security?  How many billions has the US government spent on Iraq's police and military?  But the protection of the US staff there is US military and contractors.  That issue has not been dealt with adequately by the press, by the Senate or by the State Dept.  Do not say, "Well host countries provide security."  No.  Not in Iraq.   According to Reuters timeline of the 2011 Libyan War,  October 23, 2011, Libya is declared "liberated."  The attack happened less than a year later.  In what world does the US government assume that a regime not even a year old can provide adequate security?  Don't distract with budgets or authorizations or other nonsense.  Answer clearly who made the decision -- in State or out -- that the militias in Libya could protect US diplomatic staff?

"What difference at this point does it make!" she shouted to Senator Ron Johnson at one point in the hearing looking unhinged, unprofessional and, quite frankly, uncaring.

It was supposed to be a dramatic moment that showed her heart.  She's a diplomat.  Johnson was doing nothing but agreeing with her but she wanted a big TV moment apparently.  Instead she's flying off the handle in a hearing where she's gotten more praise than any non-uniformed witness in the last six years.  It wasn't pretty.  Nor her attempts shortly afterwards -- during Senator Jeff Flake's line of questioning -- to laugh about the same topic ("we didn't [laughter] have a clear picture").  There are four people dead.  I don't need to scream that as she did at Senator Johnson.  But there are four people dead and America doesn't need your laughter, Hillary Clinton.  She did not conduct herself in a professional manner and as this haunts and taints her legacy, look for people to step forward and insist it was health related and she should have waited a week or two longer before testifying.  I'm not here to rescue her, I'm reporting what happened in the hearing and it was embarrassing.  Wally will be covering Johnson's questions at Rebecca's site tonight, Ava will cover another aspect of the hearing at Trina's site and Ruth's covering it at her site (Ruth's offering an overview of the testimony Hillary offered).

It's public here that I supported Hillary in her 2008 run for the presidential nomination, that I like her and I know.  I've also long shared that I can't stand Senator John McCain (Cindy McCain is a very sweet woman).  I stated here as early as 2006 that I would not be voting for him.  I would love to be reporting John McCain unleashed the crazy and Hillary was just amazing.  But that's not what happened.

Senator John McCain:  Four months -- or months -- after the Benghazi tragedy -- it's a tragedy when we lose four brave Americans, there are many questions that are unanswered and the answers, frankly, that you've been giving this morning are not satisfactory to me.  Were you and the President made aware of the classified cable from Chris Stevens that said the United States Consulate in Benghazi could not survive a sustained assault?  Numerous warnings -- including personally to me -- about the security were unanswered or unaddressed.  It took a CNN reporter looking through the Consulate to find Chris Stevens' last warning.  When were you made aware of that cable?  When were you made aware of the attack on the British ambassador? And the assassination attempts?  And the closing of the Consulates there?  And what actions were taken? What were the president's activities during that seven hour period?  On the anniversary of the worst attack in American history, September 11th, we didn't have the Department of Defense forces available for seven hours.  Two brave Americans died in the last hour.  With all these warnings, all these things took place, we didn't have a single Department of Defense asset apparently available to come to these rescue.  I categorically reject your answer to Senator Johnson about 'Well, we didn't ask these survivors who were flown to Ramstein [Air Base] the next day that this was not a spontaneous demonstration.'   You say that it was because an investigation was going on?  The American people deserve to know answers and they certainly don't deserve false answers.  And the answers that were given the American people on September 15th by the Ambassador to the United Nations [Susan Rice] were false -- in fact, contradicted by the classified information which was kept out of the Ambassador to the United Nations' report who, by the way, in the President's words, had nothing to do with Benghazi -- which questions why she was sent out to start with. Why is it that the administration still refuses to provide the full text of the e-mails regarding the deletions of references to al Qaeda and terrorism in the talking points?  Why do we care? Because if the classified information had been included, it gives an entirely different version of events to the American people.  Going to the American people and tell them what happened then you ought to have your facts straight -- including, the Ambassador said, "al Qaeda is decimated and our consulates and embassies are secure." So here we are, four months later, and we still don't have the basic information.  Now if you want to go out and tell the American people what happened, you should have at least interviewed the people who were there instead of saying 'No, we couldn't talk to them because an FBI investigation was going on.'  And, by the way, as I said at the time, I just happened to be on one of those talk shows, people don't bring RPGs and mortars to spontaneous demonstrations.  That's a fundamental.  And, of course, the president continued to say, days afterwards, September 12th, he made a reference to active terrorists, September 12th on 60 Minutes "too early to know," September 20th on Univision "we're still doing an investigation," September 24th on The View "we're still doing an investigation."  The President of the United States, as late as September 24th, two weeks later, did not acknowledge that this was an act of terror conducted by people who were at least somehow connected to al Qaeda.  And, finally, Madam Secretary, I strongly disagree with your depiction of what we did after [Libyan leader before the 2011 assault, Muammar] Gaddafi fell.  We did not provide the security that was needed.  We did not help them with border security.  We did not give them the kind of assistance that would have been necessary to help dismantle these militias that still, to this day, remain a challenge to democracy in Libya and freedom.  You knew Chris Stevens very well.  I knew him very well.  I knew him on July 7th, when I went to Libya to observe the elections.  And at that time, on July 7th, he expressed to me his deep and grave concerns about security particularly in Begnhazi.  And he continued to communicate with the State Dept -- and I don't know who else was privy to those cables -- of his deep concern about the security there and the need for additional assistance.  And I will argue -- [will argue] with facts -- that after that event took place, after the fall of Gaddafi, the so-called 'soft footprint' was partially to some degree responsible for the tragedy that took place.  The American people and the families of these four brave Americans still have not gotten the answers that they deserve.  I hope that they will get them. 

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