Anytime the State Department is in the news, it’s probably not a good thing for the State Department.
That was definitely the case this past week as the U.S. diplomatic corps sought to get out from under mounting questions about the events leading up to the attack in Libya last month that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.
First came a congressional hearing at which Republicans, led by Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, lambasted State Department officials for the conflicting reports about the origin of the attack — it was first ascribed to a controversial YouTube video, but later the administration acknowledged that it was a coordinated act of terrorism. “This was never about a video,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.). “It was never spontaneous. This was terror.”
Then came Thursday night’s vice-presidential debate, in which Vice President Biden said that “we” were unaware of requests by U.S. officials for more security in Libya, despite the fact that those requests had been made to the State Department.
The White House spent Friday morning cleaning up that mess, noting that by “we” Biden meant himself and President Obama, who had never been briefed on the requests because they were handled by the State Department.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed the controversy in a speech Friday, asserting that “no one wants to find out exactly what happened more than I do” and reiterating America’s support for “emerging democracies.”
But the week left the impression of a series of fingers being pointed in a whole lot of different directions, a perception that Mitt Romney seized on when he said Friday that the Obama administration was “doubling down on denial.”
The State Department, for dominating the headlines — and not in a good way — you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.
Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington? E-mail Chris Cillizza at firstname.lastname@example.org.