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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

Yes, Secretary Clinton, It Does Make A Difference

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Not surprisingly,  Hillary Clinton's shouted question to Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, "What difference does it make?" generated considerable reaction and comment.

Here is Politico's coverage of my interview with Senator Johnson shortly after his confrontation with Clinton:

Sen. Ron Johnson on Wednesday knocked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for dodging his questions with “theatrics” during their tense exchange at today’s Benghazi hearing.

“I wasn’t trying to get under her skin, I was just trying to get a relatively simple question answered, which she didn’t really want to answer,” the Wisconsin Republican told Milwaukee radio host Charlie Sykes shortly after the hearing ended.

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The Washington Post's Erik Wemple: "It makes a difference, Secretary Clinton"

That exchange drives at one of the premier media issues of 2012: Did the press push the administration hard enough and early enough to sort out the explanation for the Benghazi attacks? Certainly the conservative media did, asking for more and more detail and criticizing mainstream outlets for not caring enough about discrepancies in the accounts of Obama administration principals.

No matter your view of the media’s role in Benghazi; no matter your take on whether U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice leveled with the country on the Sept. 16 talk shows; no matter your view of Fox News’s Benghazi campaign, it surely does make a difference whether it was “because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans.” It makes a difference to the media, the public, the government, everyone.

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From Ed Morrissey:

 A clearly exasperated Clinton shot back, “What difference does it make?”

Well, gosh, I can think of a few reasons why it matters. First, it mattered enough for the Obama administration to send Susan Rice to five different Sunday talk shows to insist that the sacking was a spontaneous demonstration of anger over a months-old YouTube video, while saying that there was “no evidence” that it was a terrorist attack. On one of those appearances, the president of Libya told US audiences the exact opposite — that it was the work of terrorists and that they had a pretty good idea of who they were. If it didn’t matter, what was Susan Rice doing when she tried pushing that meme, which the White House had to abandon within days as leaks within State and CIA made plain that there was no demonstration?

It also matters because Barack Obama at the time had been bragging about crippling al-Qaeda while on the campaign trail. That false narrative made it seem as though State and our intel community couldn’t have possibly known that the sacking would have occurred, and got blindsided by a grassroots reaction to the video. Instead, it turned out to be a planned terrorist action about which the US embassy in Libya had warned State for months, repeatedly requesting more security. 

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Deb Saunders also answers Clinton's question:

It matters because a protest gone wild or Libyan guys out for a walk require a very different response -- better perimeter security -- than a planned armed terrorist attack. A premeditated attack would show that Foggy Bottom was blindsided. A premeditated attack would mean that the administration probably ought to change the way it thinks.

It matters because news reports place some of the Benghazi thugs in Algeria, where their corpses were found after an attack that left 38 hostages dead, including three Americans. The New York Times reports that Algeria captured three Egyptian militants who where involved in both attacks....

It matters if al-Qaida-inspired terrorists planned this attack. It matters if the same group was involved in the Algeria killings. It doesn't matter if a few guys angry about a video somehow found themselves in the company of armed militants intent on killing a U.S. ambassador.

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Victor Davis Hanson:

We learned today from Secretary Clinton — “What difference, at this point, does it make?” — that the actual causation and circumstances of the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi are not so important — and by implication that the nation for days was given a false or at least incomplete explanation by its highest officials of a spontaneous, video-fueled demonstration rather than a pre-planned Islamist operation.

... Did it matter, for example, whether Hezbollah pre-planned the Marine barracks bombing or the Khobar Towers attacks, or the American deaths were just the results of angry youths who spontaneously coalesced to commit violence? Do such circumstances matter to the families of the deceased, to national-security officials responsible to prevent further occurrences, to a public that demands honesty and transparency from its officials?

Secretary Clinton did not mean to show indifference, but her rhetorical question was one of the low points in her long career, one that might pass without too much fanfare at the moment but will reverberate a lot in the future.

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Jonathan Tobin thinks the answer to her question is obvious:

An administration that sought, for political purposes, to give the American people the idea that al-Qaeda had been “decimated” and was effectively out of commission had a clear motive during a presidential campaign to mislead the public about Benghazi. The fact that questions are still unanswered about this crime and that Clinton and President Obama seem more interested in burying this story along with the four Americans that died is an outrage that won’t be forgotten.

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Eliana Johnson reminds us  that the reason for the attack mattered when it could be blamed on a Youtube video.

Clinton’s dismissal of the impetus behind the attack also stands in stark contrast to nearly everything senior officials of the Obama administration said publicly about it in the days that followed, including both the president and Clinton herself — that is, when the administration was blaming the attack on a YouTube video. In opening remarks for a strategic dialogue with Morocco — video below — which occurred four days after the Benghazi attack, Clinton said, “There is no justification, none at all, for responding to this video with violence. We condemn the violence that has resulted in the strongest terms.”

The idea that the cause of the attack should now take a backseat to other concerns seems all too convenient. 

**

And no roundup would be complete without a link to Chris Mathews actually using the word "Pissant" to refer to someone other than himself.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Joan, that was kind of a pissant performance by that guy from Wisconsin. I don’t know how these guys get over the wall into American politics. I think they won in a very low turnout elections in Wisconsin. I think everybody should run now in national elections, forced to vote, go into elections where there's a lot of voters so you don't get this weird warped sense of people coming who supposedly represent the American electorate. That guy doesn't represent anybody. Your thoughts about the senator’s, the former senator, the current Secretary of State's performance today against that kind of performance on the side of the right.

Read more: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2013/01/23/chris-matthews-calls-senator-johnsons-questioning-hillary-clinton-pis#ixzz2ItLsVzKk

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