In our opinion: Hillary Clinton's 'What difference?' comment matters

Published: Saturday, Jan. 26 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton testifies on Capitol Hill Wednesday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Associated Press

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"What difference, at this point, does it make?"

That was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's heated response when pressed about why the White House long insisted the murder of four Americans in Benghazi was the result of a spontaneous YouTube video protest and not a terrorist attack.

The question was supposed to be rhetorical, as if no reasonable person should be concerned that the Obama administration repeatedly avoided telling the American people the truth. It seems likely that intelligence agencies realized almost immediately that there had been no demonstration outside the embassy before the attacks took place. It strains all credulity to presume that, two weeks after the murders, President Obama didn't know the facts when he addressed the United Nations and once again blamed the attacks on a "crude and disgusting" video. The administration repeatedly peddled a false narrative far longer than even a cursory review of the situation could possibly justify.

One possible explanation for this might be that a resurgent al-Qaida surfacing in the midst of the president's campaign was politically inconvenient, and therefore framing the events as something unrelated to terrorism would be helpful to the president's campaign efforts. If the Obama administration made the deliberate choice to deceive the public in order to bolster the president's re-election chances, then the administration put politics over the safety and security of the nation. That fact alone provides an adequate answer to Clinton's question.

Unfortunately, all of that was ignored by most of the senators who spoke at the hearing and fawned over the secretary of state. Clinton was at times emotional and other times combative, but she was rarely challenged, and she offered very little in the way of insight or accountability for an unacceptable security breach that demonstrated that al-Qaida remains a potent threat, despite administration efforts to suggest the war on terror essentially ended at the time of Osama bin Laden's death.

The purpose of congressional hearings ought to be, the discovery of the truth. Yet the only truth the nation learned in the course of Clinton's testimony was that the Obama administration has no intention of explaining itself, and, furthermore, most of the senators empaneled to search for answers have no interest in forcing the issue. That's unacceptable, and the nation deserves better.

What difference does it make? It's the difference between an accountable administration and an unaccountable one. Surely that's a difference that matters.

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