"So much for any presidential aspirations Hillary Clinton may be entertaining for 2016," says Janet Shan at Hinterland Gazette. An independent review board investigating the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, released its unclassified report late Tuesday. (Read the whole thing below.) The upshot? "Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies" at high levels of the State Department contributed to the death of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. As secretary of state, that's a pretty big stain on Clinton's reputation.
The board, led by former diplomat Thomas Pickering and retired Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, eventually concluded that blame for the American deaths rests "solely and completely with the terrorists," and pointedly "did not find reasonable cause to determine that any individual U.S. government employee breached his or her duty." But the board did fault the State Department for relying on unseasoned U.S. security personnel and Libyan militias to protect Stevens, ignoring requests for more guards, failing to make needed security upgrades, not adjusting to the deteriorating situation in Benghazi, and for poor intra-agency coordination. Clinton was expected to testify before Congress about the report on Thursday, but begged out, citing a concussion sustained during a fall last week while she was fighting a stomach bug.
Conservatives aren't buying it. With U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice pulling out of the running for Clinton's job and CIA Director David Petraeus ousted amid a sex scandal, "Clinton is the latest scapegoat for ongoing frustrations over Benghazi," says Alexander Abad-Santos at The Atlantic Wire. And since the report declined to name new victims to destroy in their Benghazi-gate crusade, they're making do with "Concussiongate."
Well really, Clinton is bowing out from yet another round of Benghazi hearings, this time because of a supposed concussion, "and we're supposed to just take her word for it"? says Jim Treacher at The Daily Caller. "If she has a concussion, let's see the medical report." Imagine the outrage if Clinton predecessors Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice had called in sick for Iraq War hearings. Yes, "Clinton's story beggars belief," says the New York Post in an editorial. This supposed concussion "looks like one of the most transparent dodges in the history of diplomacy," and Republicans must insist she testify later if not now.
Give me a break, says Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice. Clinton is faking an illness? These conservatives "are fixated on creating crises where they aren't any," and doing so in a "cravenly partisan" manner. Congratulations, or something: Your paranoia has earned you a coveted spot in our "Get a Life" club.
In the end, Clinton will probably emerge from this relatively unscathed, says The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. Before she gets another chance to testify, she will likely "leave the Obama cabinet with sky-high approval ratings and an eye on the 2016 presidential nomination," and at this point, "it's logical for her not to want to dwell on the worst debacle of her tenure at State."
Read the report for yourself: