Hillary Rodham Clinton’s soon-to-be-released book, “Hard Choices,” is finding its way in piecemeal fashion into the media, ensuring what’s bound to be a parade of Clinton-favorable coverage surrounding the much-anticipated volume. Earlier this week, various outlets reported on the book’s author’s note, in which the possible 2016 presidential candidate mused about titles for the book and her outlook on life and career.
Now comes the Benghazi chapter leak, which Politico’s Maggie Haberman has corralled. Clinton, of course, was serving as secretary of state during the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that claimed the lives of four U.S. personnel. Although she later took responsibility for the tragedy and appeared before two congressional committees to answer questions, Clinton’s opponents continue to raise questions about the events and what they say about her leadership.
A 34-page Benghazi chapter in “Hard Choices” answers the critics, as Haberman recounts in her piece:
Her tone is less defensive than defiant: Clinton takes responsibility for the “horror” of the loss of life in Benghazi, but puts it in the context of “the heartbreaking human stakes of every decision we make” — and she accuses adversaries of manipulating a tragedy for partisan gain.
One part of her defense likely to ignite her critics relates to the Sunday talk show controversy following the attacks. On Sept. 16, 2012, then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice appeared on several of the shows to present the Obama administration’s version of events. She cited an anti-Islam video as a cause of the Benghazi violence, an assessment that has been discredited. That she declined to blame the attack on terrorism, Republicans say, reflects the political agenda of President Obama, who was then in a reelection campaign against Mitt Romney.
But why wasn’t Hillary Clinton the one sitting on the Sunday-morning hot seat? According to Haberman’s abridgment, here’s how Clinton answers that question in “Hard Choices”:
Clinton takes aim at people who “fixate on the question of why I didn’t go on TV that morning, as if appearing on a talk show is the equivalent of jury duty, where one has to have a compelling reason to get out of it. I don’t see appearing on Sunday-morning television as any more of a responsibility than appearing on late-night TV. Only in Washington is the definition of talking to Americans confined to 9 A.M. on Sunday mornings.”
Ah, a little anti-Beltway populism to pair with the Benghazi pushback.
This is specious reasoning at best. There’s no contention from this blog that the Sunday morning talk shows are a hallowed institution. They’re boring, predictable, overflowing with Beltway conventions and hardly the media platform of the future. That said, they reach a good 10 million people across the country, so as a way of “talking to Americans,” they’re at least a decent avenue. After all, news that originates from the shows commonly makes it into Monday’s newspapers and to a slew of followup on the Internet.
What we have here from the former secretary of state is media criticism masquerading as accountability. If the Sunday talk shows are such a national embarrassment, then why did Rice even appear on them? Why do other government officials commonly appear on them? The answer is that they see the shows as a way to get their message out. Perhaps Fox News, which will be interviewing Clinton on June 17, will ask for the real reason Clinton didn’t sit for the shows.
Rice took a career hit from her appearances on the Sunday morning shows, with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) attacking her involvement in pushing out a shaky accounting of Benghazi. Obama defended her: “If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me,” he said at a November 2012 news conference. “And I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received and to besmirch her reputation, is outrageous.”