Sixty Minutes of Agit-Puff

by DIANA WEST January 29, 2013

From Sunday's 60 Minutes joint-interview of President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Steve Krofts: When we come back, the president and Secretary Clinton discuss the disaster in Benghazi and the state of her health.

I didn't watch this live, but if I had I would have spent the commercial break parsing the duality of the question. Why "disaster in Benghazi" and "state of her health" together? Mind you, the interview has been going on for sometime at this point, and Clinton's health would seem to be something better addressed in the opening niceties. But no. Will "disaster" be cushioned by "health"?

See how it worked out:

Steve Krofts: Hillary Clinton's final days as secretary of state included one of her most difficult. On Wednesday, she spent more than five hours being grilled on Capitol Hill for the security failures in Benghazi that led to the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans; the biggest diplomatic disaster of this administration. The Accountability Review led by Admiral Mike Mullen and Ambassador Thomas Pickering found, among many failures, that Stevens' repeated requests for better security never made it to Clinton's desk. And representatives and senators pressed her on whether the administration covered up the nature of the terrorist attack.

[Secretary Clinton: We have four dead Americans, was it because of a protest or was it because of guys going out for a walk and deciding they'll go kill some Americans. What difference-- at this point, what difference does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from happening again, senator.]

Steve Kroft: I want to talk about the hearings this week. You had a very long day. Also, how is your health?

Once again, Steve Kroft enters the annals of journalist shilling for the Left. Remember, Kroft is the same "journalist" who sat on Obama's own admission that he, Obama, did not call Benghazi a terrorist attack in the Rose Garden on September 12 until two days before the election. Even at that point, Kroft's scoop appeared like mist in the morn, unobtrusively posted sans fanfare on the CBS website seven or eight weeks after the fact -- and after the presidential campaign.

Flashback:

KROFT: Mr. President, this morning [September 12] you went out of your way to avoid the use of the word terrorism in connection with the Libya Attack.

OBAMA: Right.

KROFT: Do you believe that this was a terrorism attack?

OBAMA: Well it's too early to tell exactly how this came about, what group was involved, but obviously it was an attack on Americans.  And we are going to be working with the Libyan government to make sure that we bring these folks to justice, one way or the other. 

Now, Kroft has done it again, cushioning Hill's potentially bad news as plushly as possible. You had a very long day and how is your health? Health, not "long day," becomes the emphasis of the question.

Sure enough:

Secretary Clinton: Oh, it's great. It's great. Now, you know, I still have some lingering effects from falling on my head and having the blood clot. But, you know, the doctors tell me that that will all recede. And so thankfully I'm, you know, looking forward to being at full speed.

Steve Kroft: Right, I noticed your glasses are--

Secretary Clinton: Yeah, I have some lingering effects from the concussion that are decreasing and will disappear. But I have a lot of sympathy now when I pick up the paper and read about an athlete or one of our soldiers whose had traumatic brain injury. I'd never had anything like that in my family. And so, you know, I'm very conscious of how lucky I was.

Steve Kroft: You said during the hearings, I mean, you've accepted responsibility. You've accepted the very critical findings of Admiral Mullen and Ambassador Pickering.

See, there's nothing even to talk about!

As the New York Times put it, you accepted responsibility, but not blame.

Do I detect a pivot?

Do you feel guilty in any way, in-- at a personal level?

The woman is secretary of state. This is an affair of state. But far be it for a reporter to treat the matter with any sense of history let alone veracity. Before she can even answer, Kroft further files down any sharp edges that might still be left on his line of questioning.

Do you blame yourself that you didn't know or that you should have known?

Life vest of  personal agony tossed (and, after all, she's not a well woman), life vest of "personal agony" seized:

Secretary Clinton: Well, Steve, obviously, I deeply regret what happened, as I've said many times. I knew Chris Stevens. I sent him there originally. It was a great personal loss to lose him and three other brave Americans. But I also have looked back and tried to figure out what we could do so that nobody, insofar is possible, would be in this position again. And as the Accountability Review Board pointed out, we did fix responsibility appropriately. And we're taking steps to implement that. But we also live in a dangerous world. And, you know, the people I'm proud to serve and work with in our diplomatic and development personnel ranks, they know it's a dangerous and risky world. We just have to do everything we can to try to make it as secure as possible for them.

This counts for journalism and diplomacy at its best.

Obama wants some, too.

President Obama: I think, you know, one of the things that humbles you as president, I'm sure Hillary feels the same way as secretary of state, is that you realize that all you can do every single day is to figure out a direction, make sure that you are working as hard as you can to put people in place where they can succeed, ask the right questions, shape the right strategy. But it's going to be a team that both succeeds and fails. And it's a process of constant improvement, because the world is big and it is chaotic. You know, I remember Bob Gates, you know, first thing he said to me, I think maybe first week or two that I was there and we were meeting in the Oval Office and he, obviously, been through seven presidents or something. And he says, "Mr. President, one thing I can guarantee you is that at this moment, somewhere, somehow, somebody in the federal government is screwing up." And, you know you're-- and so part of what you're trying to do is to constantly improve systems and accountability and transparency to minimize those mistakes and ensure success. It is a dangerous world. And that's part of the reason why we have to continue to get better.

Hard to know what is more staggering: the banality or the mendacity. And Kroft, gentleman of the Fourth Estate, has No Follow-Up.

He moves on.

Steve Kroft: The biggest criticism of this team in the U.S. foreign policy from your political opposition has been what they say is an abdication of the United States on the world stage, sort of a reluctance to become involved in another entanglement, an unwillingness or what seems/appears to be an unwillingness to gauge big issues. Syria, for example.

Who is he talking about? The Weekly Standard e-board? Certainly not Sen. Rand Paul, at this point showing potential to lead such political opposition. In his questioning of Clinton's replacement, Sen. John Kerry, Paul showed a clear opposition to continued US interventionism.

Back to 60 Puff:

President Obama: Yeah, well--

Steve Kroft: I mean, that--

President Obama: Well, Muammar Qaddafi probably does not agree with that assessment, or at least if he was around, he wouldn't agree with that assessment.

"Mission Accomplished," Mr. President?

Obviously, you know, we helped to put together and lay the groundwork for liberating Libya. You know, when it comes to Egypt, I think, had it not been for the leadership we showed, you might have seen a different outcome there.

You mean without your "leadership" there might be MB "apes and pigs" government  and violence and rape on the Cairo streets?

But also understanding that we do nobody a service when we leap before we look. Where we, you know, take on things without having thought through all the consequences of it. And Syria's a classic example of where our involvement, we want to make sure that not only does it enhance U.S. security, but also that it is doing right by the people of Syria and neighbors like Israel that are going to be profoundly affected by it. And so it's true sometimes that we don't just shoot from the hip.

(The president's teleprompter was at the repair shop.)

Secretary Clinton: We live not only in a dangerous, but an incredibly complicated world right now with many different forces at work, both state-based and non-state, technology, and communications. And, you know, I'm older than the president. I don't want to surprise anybody by saying that.

President Obama: But not by much.

Secretary Clinton: But, you know, I remember, you know, some of the speeches of Eisenhower as a young girl, you know?

Let's see. Was that before or after Hillary, b. 1947, was named, as she has claimed, for Sir Edmund Hillary (who climbed Mt. Everest in 1953)?

You've got to be careful. You have to be thoughtful. You can't rush in, especially now, where it's more complex than it's been in decades.

I wonder why Clinton is invoking Eisenhower? Nothing she or her husband ever do is without calculation. Is she thinking of styling herself as the "New Ike" -- liberal socially but supposedly security-minded -- in 2016?

So yes, are there what we call wicked problems like Syria, which is the one you named? Absolutely. And we are on the side of American values. We're on the side of freedom. We're on the side of the aspirations of all people, to have a better life, have the opportunities that we are fortunate to have here.

Makes my teeth hurt.

But it's not always easy to perceive exactly what must be done in order to get to that outcome. So you know, I certainly am grateful for the president's steady hand and hard questions and thoughtful analysis as to what we should and shouldn't do.

President Obama: You know, there are transitions and transformations taking place all around the world. We are not going to be able to control every aspect of every transition and transformation. Sometimes they're going to go sideways. Sometimes, you know, there'll be unintended consequences. And our job is to, number one, look after America's security and national interest.

What are America's security and national interest to Obama besides words?

But number two, find where are those opportunities where our intervention, our engagement can really make a difference? And to be opportunistic about that. And that's something that I think Hillary has done consistently.

Nice of him to refer to the Clinton crest: Semper opportunistic.

I think the team at the State Department's done consistently. And that's what I intend to continue to do over the next four years.

Steve Kroft: Thank you very much.

For what?

Diana West is a journalist and columnist whose writing appears in several high profile outlets. She also has a website: DianaWest.net.


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