Even though U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she bears responsibility for the security failures in Benghazi, three GOP senators said late Monday that they still believe that President Barack Obama, not Clinton, should be held to account.
On Monday in Lima, Peru, Clinton said that the buck stops with her when it comes to diplomatic security decisions abroad. She was backing up Vice President Joe Biden, who said at last week's debate that "we" weren't aware of requests for more security in Libya prior to the Sept. 11 terrorist attack that killed Amb. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The White House later clarified that when Biden says "we" he only speaks for him and the president.
"I take responsibility," Clinton said. "I'm in charge of the State Department's 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts. The president and the vice president wouldn't be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals. They're the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs and make a considered decision."
Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) have been criticizing the administration for its statements on the Benghazi attack, especially U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, who said on Sept. 16 that based on the best information available at that time, the attack appeared to be a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Islam YouTube video.
Clinton's attempt to claim responsibility was "laudable" but doesn't absolve Obama and the White House of their responsibilities, the senators said, both for the security failures surrounding the attack and for the statements made by White House officials afterward.
"We must remember that the events of September 11 were preceded by an escalating pattern of attacks this year in Benghazi, including a bomb that was thrown into our Consulate in April, another explosive device that was detonated outside of our Consulate in June, and an assassination attempt on the British Ambassador," they said.
"If the President was truly not aware of this rising threat level in Benghazi, then we have lost confidence in his national security team, whose responsibility it is to keep the President informed. But if the President was aware of these earlier attacks in Benghazi prior to the events of September 11, 2012, then he bears full responsibility for any security failures that occurred. The security of Americans serving our nation everywhere in the world is ultimately the job of the Commander-in-Chief. The buck stops there."
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.