Senator John McCain has stated that he will block any attempt by President Obama to have Ambassador Susan Rice confirmed as Secretary of State after Hillary Clinton turns in her badge, due to Ambassador Rice’s performance on the Sunday talk shows after the Benghazi debacle.
At a recent press conference, President Obama said that he was “outraged” that anyone would try to disparage Ambassador Rice’s reputation when she was merely doing her job—as though giving the party line on the latest intel developed in Egypt is part of the assignment of the Ambassador to the U.N.
“Come after me,” the President taunted. “I’m the one you want,” as though he is the latest action hero in his own saga. “Leave her alone. She was only following orders.” I thought that excuse was debunked years ago.
Despite the Presidential channeling of Bruce Willis, there are a few reasons for Senator McCain to stand his ground. Assume that Ambassador Rice was just following orders. As someone out of the chain of command, she had no reason to have any clue about what had really transpired in Benghazi. Yet, when the White House called for assistance, she came running.
How would that conversation have gone? “Hey, Suze, we’ve got a bit of a sticky situation, here. There was a bit of a dustup overseas, and we need someone to get out ahead of the story. Our latest intel is that the attack was as a result of a video posted on YouTube, and you are exactly the right person to put that out there.”
You’d think that the natural reaction would be to question that assumption. “Um, where’s Hillary? Is she busy? Wouldn’t she have a better idea of what’s going on? Or anyone else in the entire Department of State? You have like a few thousand employees, right? Aren’t any of them in a better position than I am to know what is going on? Or the CIA—it is intel, you know. I’m kind of outside that whole framework, really. I mean, I haven’t been read in on the situation at all, ‘cause it’s not part of my usual bailiwick.”
“No, no, you’re perfect for this assignment. We’ll give you the latest info that we’ve got, and you can pass it on.”
“Well, okay, then. Read me in. I know I’ve got no independent means to verify whatever you give me, but I can trust you, right? You’ve got my back?”
Ambassador Rice’s acquiescence leads one to believe that she is either very naive, highly ambitious, or just a good soldier. It is President Obama’s prerogative to surround himself with sycophants, who aim only to please, but that doesn’t mean that they need be rewarded for their unthinking devotion. President Obama says, “Hold me responsible for her actions. She was acting on White House authority.”
Fine, hold him responsible. There are consequences to every action, and the consequence for President Obama asking Ambassador Rice to fall on her sword is that she falls on her sword. There is no penalty that can be imposed on President Obama for Ambassador Rice’s actions, and he knows it: he’s already won re-election. Rewarding Ambassador Rice for her complicity sends the wrong message to the entire Obama administration—do whatever the White House asks of you, and you will face no retribution.
There have been people all around who have assumed responsibility for the Benghazi episode, but so far, amazingly, not a single person has paid any price for the deaths of four people: not Secretary of State Clinton, not President Obama, not Ambassador Rice. No one in the CIA has lost his job, or even been demoted, nor does anyone in the Department of State, NSA, or any military branch fear the axe. With so much taking of responsibility going around, you’d think that someone, somewhere, would be facing some kind of music. (I’m not counting General Petraeus, because the official line is that he went down because of his extra-marital affair.)
It’s the WARN Act all over again. President Obama indemnifies everyone involved in a situation. He gathers them all behind his shield, saying to all and sundry who oppose him, “Come and get me”, knowing all the while that, short of impeachment, there is no available retribution. It is only when his willing lieutenants are held personally accountable that they will think twice about complying with his every bid.
It is a shame for Ambassador Rice’s career, but if she went out as the White House’s shill, she must be made an example of, so that others are not so willing to provide cover. Those of us not in the know wondered why no one in the Department of State, the NSA, the CIA, or anyone else who might be expected to have some connection to the Egyptian consulate went out to tout the official storyline; all the more reason for Ambassador Rice, who is well aware of the chain of command, to have hesitated to lend her assistance.
Therefore, Senator McCain must do what he can to block any promotion of Ambassador Rice, to make others think twice about blindly following White House orders. Combine ready soldiers with plausible deniability, and you’ve got the makings of a nascent dictatorship. Perhaps there’ll be no long-term consequences in the present administration for the response to the attack in Benghazi, but holding Ambassador Rice’s feet to the fire for her part might dissuade others from following in her footsteps.
It’s a shame if a good woman’s career is halted because she believed her boss when he said that no harm would befall her for blind obedience, but principles still mean something in this country. We’ve got to make sure that they continue to do so. Keep fighting the good fight, Senator McCain. Relative moralism may be an interesting concept to debate in the halls of academia, but it has insinuated itself way too much into politics, where it affects too many people’s lives in too many ways.
It’s time to bring back a few hard and fast rules to the political arena: Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t steal. Don’t cover up others’ willful acts. Be true to your guiding principles. Or there will be music to face.
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