OpinionTop of the Ticket

Congress should protect diplomats, not just bash Hillary Clinton

PoliticsHillary ClintonBenghaziU.S. CongressU.S. Department of StateBarack Obama

Hillary Rodham Clinton has won consistent praise during her four years as secretary of State, but it looks as if she’ll be leaving her post with one big failure on her record. If she seeks the presidency in 2016, you can bet we will all be hearing the word “Benghazi” in every attack ad Republicans run against her.

A report has just been released by the independent review board looking into the September terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, which cost the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. The report charges the State Department with a systemic failure in which "senior officials in critical positions of authority and responsibility in Washington demonstrated a lack of leadership and management ability."

Four of those officials resigned Tuesday. The independent panel stated that blame rose only to the assistant secretary level, but Clinton will still be sporting a political black eye when she steps down from her job as planned at the beginning of President Obama’s second term. Add that to the pain of the concussion she is nursing that seems to be bad enough that her doctor is restricting the travel plans of the peripatetic Madame Secretary.

One stop she has canceled is a visit to Capitol Hill to testify about the Benghazi mess. Instead, two of her deputies will speak to the Senate and House foreign affairs committees on Thursday. Republican members of those committees insist that will not be enough. They want to hear from Hillary before she quits her job, and they say they will not start the confirmation process for her successor – who very likely will be Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry – until she shows up to take the heat for Benghazi.

That is probably reasonable; she is the boss, after all. Nevertheless, there is a heavy load of politics behind the demand. Republicans tried to hang the disaster at Benghazi on Obama in the final days of the election campaign. Having failed to do damage with the issue in 2012, they certainly do not want to miss a chance to cause trouble for someone who might be the Democratic nominee in 2016.

John Bolton, George W. Bush’s U.N. envoy, showed just how nasty the game may get when, in an interview on Fox News, he accused Clinton of faking her concussion to avoid interrogation. “This is a diplomatic illness to beat the band,” Bolton said, alluding to bogus illnesses other officials have supposedly used to play hooky from congressional hearings. Apparently, Clinton will have to bring a note from her doctor when she finally does head to the Hill.

What needs to be discussed in those hearings is not only why American diplomats in Benghazi were left to operate in such a perilous locale with woefully weak protection, but why, for well over a decade, so little has been done to raise the security level at U.S. embassies and consulates in many increasingly chaotic and threatening outposts. A report in 1998 after embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania called for a dramatic increase in security, yet in the years since nothing was fixed, and the disaster in Benghazi is the result.

This is not just a management failure, this is also a political failure that can be attributed to both political parties. Security costs a lot of money, and, while presidents and members of Congress give endless billions of dollars to the military, the diplomatic corps is always pinched for cash. My guess is that one big reason officials at the State Department failed to respond to the pleas for more protection coming from the diplomats in Libya is that those officials could not figure out how to pay for it.

When members of the foreign affairs committees get done bashing Hillary Clinton and scoring political points, it would be nice if they not only come up with a solid plan to protect our foreign service officers, but actually provide the money to pay for it.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
PoliticsHillary ClintonBenghaziU.S. CongressU.S. Department of StateBarack Obama
  • Newtown's martyred children and the cold hearts of the gun lobby
    Newtown's martyred children and the cold hearts of the gun lobby

    I choked up repeatedly while watching and reading the stories about the slaughter of the innocents in Newtown, Conn., and, throughout the mournful weekend, I pondered the question raised by everyone from stricken parents to mayors and senators on the news talk shows: What will be done to...

  • Blind faith of climate change deniers endangers us all
    Blind faith of climate change deniers endangers us all

    This week’s Newsweek magazine features a couple of essays -- one about Jesus and one about climate change -- that demonstrate the difference between simple faith in the unknowable and blind faith that denies scientific fact.

  • Calling all opinionated poets
    Calling all opinionated poets

    Last year, when we asked readers to submit opinion poetry, we were overwhelmed. More than 1,500 poets answered the call, many with multiple entries. The poems we received dealt with every issue of the day, including the war on terror, the economy, the nanny state, student debt and the...

  • The Dodgers blackout is bad, but let's not make a federal case out of it
    The Dodgers blackout is bad, but let's not make a federal case out of it

    If you're a Dodgers fan — but not a subscriber to Time Warner Cable — then you've missed watching on TV most of the 108 games the team has played this year. In other words, you've missed more than half the season and all the highlights (including pitcher Clayton Kershaw...

  • Judges, remember: Cross is a Christian symbol
    Judges, remember: Cross is a Christian symbol

    There has been a disturbing willingness on the part of some judges in recent years to treat the Christian cross as a symbol that isn't, well, just Christian. The most high-profile and problematic example of this was Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's suggestion that a large...

  • With UCLA flood, L.A. pays the price for a geyser of neglect
    With UCLA flood, L.A. pays the price for a geyser of neglect

    If Los Angeles leaders needed any reminders about the city's aging infrastructure and the ever-increasing backlog of maintenance, they got it Tuesday in the form of a 30-foot geyser spouting from Sunset Boulevard. The rupture of a 90-year-old water main sent more than 20 million gallons...

Comments
Loading