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Works and Days

Sophocles in Benghazi

November 5th, 2012 - 12:00 am

Then we come to Vice President Joe Biden, who serially bragged about the president’s bold decision to go after bin Laden. He clearly lied in his debate with Paul Ryan when he asserted that “we weren’t told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again” — given all the contradicting evidence of direct appeals from the consulate and ambassador. Yet Biden sadly has became a sort of comedic court jester rather than a tragic figure. As a candidate, he made racial slurs about the president and crudely joked about immigrants from India — and thought FDR addressed the nation on television as president in 1929. Then as vice president, Biden has accused his opponents of wanting to reinstate the shackles of slavery, is chronically confused about what state he is in at any given time, and blurts out weird things that suggest mental confusion. So ironically, of all the characters of the Libyan tragedy, Biden by his very buffoonery is alone exempt from criticism: we expect him not to tell the truth about the consulate, because he cannot distinguish the truth about almost anything. He is a jester, an entertainer, not a serious person from whom we expect veracity.  “That’s just old Joe being old Joe” means that Biden can say almost anything untrue about Libya and no one cares. That Joe “put y’all back in chains” Biden is vice president should itself be tragic, but so far it has proved more a comic farce.

For Secretary of State Clinton, her awkward tenure at State was nearing a suitable end — at least from the point of view of her reviving her dormant political agenda. Whether the president won or lost in 2012 would have no bearing on her 2016 presidential ambitions. Whether she left nobly or under a cloud most certainly would. Despite the downside of her job — outflanked by regional czars, her political independence forfeited, and her spouse’s vast income curtailed — for four years Hillary had kept in the news and largely navigated the Obama labyrinth on a safe course for 2016.

Perhaps no longer. For still largely unknown reasons, she or her staff ignored repeated, clear, and detailed prior warnings that the consulate and embassy were vulnerable — and largely defenseless against just the sort of attacks that would kill the ambassador. To the degree we have versions of some of the ambassador’s cables, the warnings all read hauntingly prescient. After the attack commenced, the State Department froze and went into a figurative fetal position — either assuming the CIA would protect the consulate, or that the Obama successful Libyan narrative should not be endangered by a full-scale Black Hawk Down intervention. Or it was fed by vain hopes that someone, somehow would make it all just go away. “Twisting — slowly twisting in the wind” was John Ehrlichman’s Watergate sick parlance to describe the cruel Nixon administration treatment of former FBI head Patrick Gray, but it also describes well enough Hillary’s next 90 days or so on the job. She is in a tragic dilemma: she wants to leave the Obama mess but cannot as long as she suspects that only her continued presence on the job wards off administration efforts to make her a fall person.

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