After Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that she's responsible for State Department personnel, right-wing media quickly claimed that President Obama was dodging responsibility for the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. But Clinton was actually pointing out that the State Department, not the White House, is responsible for diplomatic security while Obama has said that he is ultimately responsible for national security.
Secretary Clinton Says She Is Responsible For State Department Personnel
Clinton: “I Take Responsibility” For “The State Department's 60,000-Plus People All Over The World.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave an interview to CNN about the Benghazi attack that left American diplomatic personnel dead:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday tried to douse a political firestorm over the deadly assault on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, saying she's responsible for the security of American diplomatic outposts.
“I take responsibility,” Clinton said during a visit to Peru. “I'm in charge of the State Department's 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts. 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.”
“In the wake of an attack like this, in the fog of war, there's always going to be confusion,” Clinton said. “And I think it is absolutely fair to say that everyone had the same intelligence. Everyone who spoke tried to give the information that they had. As time has gone on, that information has changed. We've gotten more detail, but that's not surprising. That always happens.”
She added, “What I want to avoid is some kind of political gotcha or blame game.” [CNN.com, 10/16/12]
Right-Wing Media Twist Clinton's Words To Attack Obama
Fox's Doocy: Clinton Is “Falling On Her Sword” For Obama. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said Secretary of State Clinton's comments equated her “falling on her sword for the administration.” Fox contributor Laura Ingraham said she jumped “on the grenade the day before the debate.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/16/12]
Fox Nation: “For Barack Obama, The Buck Stops Not With President Obama, But With Hillary Clinton.” Fox Nation posted video of Clinton with the headline, “It's Official: For Barack Obama, The Buck Stops Not With President Obama, But With Hillary Clinton” :
[Fox Nation, 10/15/12]
CNN's Erickson On Clinton's Comments: “Doesn't The Buck Stop With Barack Obama?” In his RedState blog, CNN conservative contributor Erick Erickson wrote that Clinton “is now going under the Obama bus,” and gave Obama “needed plausible deniability” for the debate. He continued:
Except, doesn't the buck stop with Barack Obama? That's what Barack Obama said when attacking Mitt Romney over Bain Capital.
That's what the President said back in July. In the same interview, he went on to say, “one of the things you learn is, you are ultimately responsible for the conduct of your operations.”
But then again, often what this President practices and what he preaches are two different things. [RedState, 10/15/12]
But Clinton's Statement That The State Department Handles Diplomatic Security Echoes What Officials Have Said On The Subject ...
CNN.com: It Is “The Practice” Of The State Department To Handle Diplomatic Security. CNN.com reported that it is the State Department's responsibility to handle diplomatic security arrangements:
With criticism growing, Vice President Joe Biden said during last week's vice presidential debate that the White House did not know of requests to enhance security at Benghazi, contradicting testimony by State Department employees that requests had been made and rejected. After the debate, the White House said the vice president did not know of the requests because they were handled, as is the practice, by the State Department. [CNN.com, 10/16/12]
Deputy National Security Adviser: “The State Department Is Responsible For Diplomatic Security, Not The White House.” Foreign Policy blogger Josh Rogin wrote that administration officials testified before Congress that diplomatic security is the responsibility of the State Department:
The State Department security officials who testified before House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa's panel Wednesday never said they had made their requests to the president, Rhodes pointed out. That would be natural because the State Department is responsible for diplomatic security, not the White House, he said. Rhodes also pointed out that the officials were requesting more security in Tripoli, not Benghazi.[Foreign Policy, The Cable, 10/12/12]
... And Obama Has Taken Ultimate Responsibility For Keeping Americans Safe
President Obama: It Is “My Responsibility To Protect U.S. Citizens Both At Home And Abroad.” In his statement announcing a military force being sent to Libya three days after the attack, the president stated:
These actions have been directed consistent with my responsibility to protect U.S. citizens both at home and abroad, and in furtherance of U.S. national security and foreign policy interests, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive. [WhiteHouse.gov, 9/14/12]
Obama: “My Number-One Priority Is Always To Keep Our Diplomats Safe.” At the Univision presidential forum, President Obama responded to a question about the Libya attack by stating:
[M]y number-one priority is always to keep our diplomats safe and to keep our embassies safe. And so when the initial events happened in Cairo and all across the region, we worked with Secretary Clinton to redouble our security and to send a message to the leaders of these countries, essentially saying, although we had nothing to do with the video, we find it offensive, it's not representative of America's views, how we treat each other with respect when it comes to their religious beliefs, but we will not tolerate violence.
And our goal now is not only to make sure that our embassies and our diplomats are safe, but also to make sure that we bring those who carried out these events to justice. [Univision presidential forum transcript, 9/20/12, via Latina Lista]
Vice President Biden: National Security Is Obama's “Most Important Responsibility.” At the vice presidential debate, Vice President Biden responded to a question on the Libya attack by pointing out that national security is the president's “most important responsibility” :
When you're looking at a president, Martha, it seems to me that you should take a look at his most important responsibility. That's carrying forward the national security of the country. And the best way to do that is take a look at how he's handled he issues of the day.
On Iraq, the president said he would end the war. Governor Romney said that was a tragic mistake; we should have left -- that he ended it -- Governor Romney said that was a tragic mistake; we should have left 30,000 troops there.
With regard to Afghanistan, he said he will end the war in 2014. Governor Romney said we should not set a date, number one, and number two, with regard to 2014, it depends.
When it came to Osama bin Laden, the president, the first day in office -- I was sitting with him in the Oval Office. He called in the CIA and signed an order saying, my highest priority is to get bin Laden. [Vice Presidential Debate transcript, 10/11/12, via The New York Times]
Senior Obama Campaign Adviser Axelrod: Obama “Takes Responsibility For Everything That Happens On His Watch.” Senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod appeared on Fox News Sunday and when discussing the Benghazi attack, stated: “At the top-line level, the president of the United States takes responsibility for everything that happens on his watch.” [Politico, Politico Now, 10/14/12]