Washington, DC — According to Reuters, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will not testify on December 20 before the House of Representatives and Senate Foreign Affairs Committees. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philippe Reines revealed the planned star witness for upcoming probes on attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya sustained a concussion in a fall last week.
While Americans wish Clinton well, the timing of the situation and the implications for Congressional hearings are disturbing. The reaction is not insensitive. I have sustained injuries and been in close company of others who have suffered head injuries. Once I was hit in the head with a brick that left scar tissue for life. In another incident, I was knocked out cold playing football. Just a few weeks ago, I was in close company of a youth man who suffered a concussion playing football. Years ago, my youngest brother broke his neck in three places in a swimming accident. According to physicians, the accident would have taken his life if he were not as muscular. In neither of these cases did life just stop. Even Shawn could function [cognitively] with an apparatus to stabilize his neck.
The public should question whether this is a convenient excuse to shield Clinton from intense questioning. The injury does not appear to be a severe condition. First, Clinton’s concussion neither required hospitalization nor will it prevent the Secretary from working from home. Second, the flood of reports coming out of Washington tied Clinton’s accident to the hearings as if the former was not newsworthy aside from the implications for the latter. And third, Senator John Kerry insisted that Clinton not appear. Kerry’s is a political response. Surely, if Clinton were not capable of testifying, it would not take Kerry — who serves as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee — to stress it.
Secretary Hillary Clinton graciously fell on the sword, taking the blame, for the Obama Administration’s disjointed response to attacks that left Ambassador Chris Stephens, Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, and Sean Smith dead. Following the attacks, Clinton was off to overseas commitments. The hearings, delayed until after the presidential election, are upon us. More recently, President Obama announced Senator John Kerry as the next Secretary of State after Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name. That move along raises potential conflicts of interest. And now, Clinton’s concussion. Suspicions are not partisan. From the outset of the attacks, the Administration’s actions themselves created a veil of suspicion. And the actions of any administration that erode public trust merit our scrutiny.[pullquote align=”right” textalign=”right” width=”30%”]“Although I respect Bill [Deputy Secretary William Burns] and Tom [Deputy Secretary Thomas Nides], we still don’t have information from the Obama administration on what went so tragically wrong in Benghazi. This requires a public appearance by the secretary of state herself.” — Chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [R-FL][/pullquote]
Clinton not testifying means that she will not be under oath. Perhaps impeachment efforts involving former President Clinton come to mind that sworn testimony can have unintended consequences. And yet, the matters are serious. They require more than “representatives” appearing before Congress. And to be clear, issuing questions for Clinton to provide written responses is not acceptable as it turns an inquiry into a private meetings of legal advisers and analysts who would jointly prepare and vet Clinton’s submission.
Four Americans died. A foreign policy of engagement itself on trial. Questions regarding the safety of Americans working overseas. And some very questionable responses to a terrorist event out of this Administration. And Clinton’s initial statements that the American public can be assured of a thorough investigation. These set expectations. But this announcement is the latest of actions contrary to transparency. Clinton’s non-appearance heightens suspicion. Testimony from the Secretary of State herself is necessary to get at the bottom of what happened in Benghazi.
The Clinton decision to not testify conjures up a plethora of our nation’s memorable moments where the the tasks at-hand was paramount to conditions of the persons involved. Jim Valvano, a late stage cancer patient, mustered up energy to attend the ESPY and make an historic speech before his death. A seriously ill Woody Hayes gathered himself to speak at a recognition dinner for his friend, Bo Schembechler. It turned out to be Hayes’ last public appearance as he died in his home later that same evening. Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano, in the midst of his fight against leukemia, reached into a reservoir of courage to attend the recent Colts/Bills game. And the nation will long remember Gabrielle Gifford’s attendance at the 2012 Democratic National Convention to lead in the Pledge of Allegiance — undoubtedly one of the pledge’s most shining moments.
I would hope that Clinton reconsiders the significance of this moment. I hope the Secretary reverses course and makes the appearances.
The American people deserve it. The families of four dead Americans deserve it.
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