The Wall Street Journal ran an editorial attack on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday night regarding her actions in relation to a bloody Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. There’s a back story.
Michael Calderone reports that the Journal waited until Monday night before it ran excerpts from its Oct. 10 interview with Clinton in which she said she accepted responsibility for security matters at the U.S. consulate. The remarks in the interview are similar to remarks she made Monday in Lima, Peru.
The Benghazi attack by dozens of armed men killed four Americans at the consulate, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Since then, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, other Republicans, and the nation’s entire armchair brigade of right-wing pundits and hate-radio hosts have been sharply criticizing the administration for supposedly mishandling security in Libya before the attack and changing its story about what happened after the attack.
In its original version, the unsigned Journal editorial published in the on-line edition Monday and in print Tuesday lambasted Clinton for her silence in the matter, for ducking questions about it and for not appearing at a hearing presided over last week by Chairman Issa. It concluded:
And we’d have thought that a public official as celebrated as Mrs. Clinton would want to be a stand-up Secretary and take responsibility.
That conclusion, Erik Wemple notes, has since been altered. Now it says:
Saying you take “responsibility” in brief interviews from faraway Peru is a long way from acting as if you’re responsible.
Just one problem Not only did Clinton stand up in Lima, she stood up in the interview conducted by the Journal last Wednesday. Neither that interview nor her remarks in it regarding Libya, had been published until Monday night, nearly simultaneously with the editorial. And that itself seems odd.
In Lima, Clinton said:
I take responsibility. 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.”
Her remark obviously made big news. But it was essentially the same thing she had told the Journal last Wednesday in an on-the-record interview that was apparently conducted for a future feature article that will assess Clinton’s tenure at the State Department. The Journal published her remarks in the digital edition Monday and the print edition Tuesday:
“I take responsibility,” Mrs. Clinton said in a recent [Journal] interview in her office. “I’m the Secretary of State with 60,000-plus employees around the world. This is like a big family…It’s painful, absolutely painful.” […]
Mrs. Clinton said she is working hard “to run an effective investigation to get to the bottom of what happened” in order to prevent such security lapses in the future.
Yet, she added, “We will do our very best to think through the best security possible, but we can’t keep people behind 20-foot walls and expect them to do their jobs…Americans need to realize our civilians serving our country are putting their lives on the line…in this inherently risky and dangerous world.”
Typically, when news-worthy matters come up in such interviews, they are extracted and published in advance of the longer-term feature of which they are a part. In this case, Clinton’s comments had particular resonance. They were made to the Journal the same day that Issa presided over contentious hearings on Libyan security. But the Journal chose for some reason not to run excerpts of the interview until after Clinton had made her remarks in Peru.
Whatever those reasons were, the Journal‘s editors chose in revising their original editorial to ignore the remarks she had made about Libya in her interview with the newspaper six days ago even though those remarks had been published by the time the final version of the editorial appeared. Why? Because doing so would have meant trashing their whole biased angle and starting over.
It would be somehow comforting to conclude that this is all Rupert Murdoch’s fault. But the Journal‘s lying editorials have been full of it for decades before owning that operation was a gleam in Murdoch’s eyes.