The Libyan embassy attack that put Hillary Clinton under the microscope in 2012 has taken a backseat to fresher scandals in 2015. But two major Republicans brought Libya back to the conversation this weekend, hoping to convince voters that Clinton is not ready to serve as president.
The first volley came from former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton. Speaking at the South Carolina Freedom Summit on Saturday, Bolton said that Clinton had failed to protect Americans stationed in Libya while serving as secretary of state. “Not only was nothing done,” Bolton said, “the response of the administration was to go home. The president left the Oval Office in the situation room to go to the residence. Hillary Clinton left the State Department to go home.”
Bolton didn’t mince words when explaining what that meant. “That act alone disqualifies her from being president of the United States.”
Seemingly picking up where Bolton left off, Senator Rand Paul had harsh words for Clinton when he appeared on New York’s “The Cats Roundtable” radio show Sunday. Paul made the case that Clinton’s military action in Libya had destabilized the region. “Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya,” Paul said, “made it less safe.”
Paul was referring to U.S. military action in Libya that helped rebels take the country back from Muammar Gaddafi. “It was a big mistake for us to go in there in the first place, because a lot of the times when we topple secular dictators, we’ve gotten chaos and then we’ve gotten the rise of radical Islam.” He said this was exactly what had happened in the wake of Libya’s Arab Spring.
There is plenty of truth behind the criticism, both from Paul and from Bolton, but the question is whether any of it can stick. The media has successfully positioned Benghazi as a right-wing conspiracy theory, wholly calculated by Republican political strategists to sink Obama and Clinton. And it’s doubtful that many Americans will be swayed when it comes to U.S. military action in Libya, an event that has garnered little debate in the mainstream despite its questionable legality.
The only way these hurt Clinton is if she bungles a response, which she seems determined not to do. Not by presenting the American public with a coherent look at her actions and decisions, but by avoiding the topics whenever possible. It has been a month since she threw her name into the ring, and she has yet to sit down for an interview with any objective journalist. Clinton’s strategy appears to be to ignore Republican attacks, even if that means leaving open questions on the floor for the media to ponder.
It’s unfortunate that it has come to this. The American people deserve a president who not only makes good decisions, but one who is willing to face the hard questions about those decisions. In Clinton, we are getting neither.