The Clinton Scandal Playbook and Benghazi

Tom Thurlow is an attorney who practices law in the San Francisco Bay Area and manages the blog napawhinecountry.com. He lives in Napa County with his wife Martina and daughter Rachel.


0123-benghazi-hearings-hillary-clinton_full_600The punditocracy is pulling out its collective hair, wanting to know why there have apparently been multiple layers of cover-ups in the evolving Benghazi story.  An early scandal from the Clinton administration, the so-called “Travelgate” scandal, may be instructive.

Recall that in the 1993 firings of employees at the White House Travel Office, a determination was made early on by the new president Bill Clinton and then-First Lady Hillary Clinton that the Travel Office workers, who served at the pleasure of the president, could be fired and that the Travel Office business, and the commissions that came with it, given to a cousin of President Clinton’s, Catherine Cornelius, who had a travel agency of her own.

But simply handing over government business to a relative would have been politically embarrassing, so the Clintons concocted a story whereby the Travel Office was rife with corruption and the workers there needed to be fired.  An audit was conducted on Travel Office finances, and while the record-keeping at the office was found to have been pretty inadequate, there was no smoking gun of corruption or embezzlement.  No matter.  The FBI was pressured to make arrests, and the local US Attorney was charged with prosecuting the employees for corruption.

White House denials of any scheme, and leaks by those involved, led to a firestorm of media criticism.  Most of the Travel Office employees were eventually given other government jobs or retired.  A prosecution for corruption of the head of the Travel Office, Billy Dale, ended in an acquittal.  Clinton’s cousin was removed as new head of the Travel Office.  A later report written by Independent Counsel Robert Ray concluded that, while she did not make any knowingly-false statements under oath, First Lady Hillary Clinton had made a number of inaccurate statements concerning the firings and her role in them.

In retrospect, it is kind of funny that the Clintons would ever complain about corruption from anyone.  Pot, meet Kettle.  That kind of thing.

But the point is that the initial decision to replace government employees with the president’s cousin, so that she could make commissions from arranging White House travel, was a bad decision.  Everything following that decision — the firings, the made-up charges of corruption, the federal prosecution, and the denials from the Clintons that later proven to be untrue — were an effort to distract people from the initial bad decision.

Fast forward to the fall of 2012, when the State Department repeatedly denied requests by officials at the American consulate in Benghazi for more security.  This was the initial bad decision from which flowed all other obfuscations.

Who would make such a bad decision?  In his recent congressional testimony, consulate security officer Eric Nordstrom blamed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, pointing to a memo signed by Secretary Clinton, denying additional security.

What would lead Clinton to make such a bad decision?  Remember that in the summer of 2008, when her presidential campaign had ended and the Russians invaded South Ossetia, Hillary Clinton was formulating what would later be her “reset” policy towards Russia.  Such a policy assumed that whatever frostiness existed between the United States and Russia had been caused by American belligerence.  If only the American side would initiate a fresh “reset,” then the Russians would be more accommodative to United States interests, like our policies concerning Iran’s nukes.

It may be difficult to grasp, but liberals, Hillary Clinton included, actually believe that bullies like Russia can be appeased by weakness of others, hence the “reset” policy towards Russia, and the later denial of more security for the consulate at Benghazi.  Clinton probably thought that a strong American military presence at the Benghazi consulate would be provocative.

Obviously this was a bad decision.  On September 11, 2012, the American consulate was attacked and overrun by terrorists in a planned, coordinated attack.  While under attack, officials at the consulate called for help, which could have made it from Italy in time.  But if provided, this military help would have highlighted the earlier, bad decision to keep security there weak, so the request for military help during the attack was denied.

When the smoke had cleared, an American ambassador and three other Americans were dead.  Anything besides a narrative that this attack was a spontaneous uprising because of an anti-Muslim You Tube video would have led people to question the initial, bad decision by the State Department to keep consulate security weak to begin with.  The following week, UN Representative Susan Rice appeared on five television news shows to reiterate the story that the deaths were caused by a spontaneous uprising related to the video. A few days later, President Obama stated at a forum hosted by Univision, and again later at the United Nations, that the Benghazi attacks were provoked by the video.

President Obama and Secretary Clinton even filmed their own public service announcement, played in Pakistan, apologizing for a private American production of the anti-Muslim video and calling for calm.  This PSA later became a self-fulfilling prophecy, when its reference to an anti-Muslim video caused riots in Pakistan that led to the deaths of 18, and scores of injured Pakistanis.

All these actions were taken to distract people from the initial, bad decision made by Secretary Clinton to keep consulate security in Benghazi weak.  Apparently, when defending a bad decision by Hillary Clinton, anything goes.  The standard operating procedure was apparent as far back as 1993.

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  • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

    The Clinton White House was rife with deflection schemes, even to the point of Vince Foster's "sudden" demise. But let's not quibble about the meaning of "is", at least when it comes to those who live and breathe cover ups.

    And if anyone thinks that Hill's Deputy COS, Huma Abedin, isn't part and parcel of said cover ups, even going back to her internship days for Bill & Hill, then I have a bridge for sale, and you must buy it! http://adinakutnicki.com/2013/05/07/benghazigate-

    Most tellingly, this diva Sisterhood operative may very well end up "First Lady" of NYC, if Hill has her druthers. OMG!

    Adina kutnicki, Israel http://adinakutnicki.com/about/

  • Michael Copeland

    Excellent explanatory piece: thank you.

    A small request, made elsewhere: could the low quality video, blamed as the official scapegoat, be simply termed “low quality”? The low quality is what is offensive. It accurately depicts incidents of Mohammed’s life AS RECORDED IN ISLAM’S TEXTS. The video is biographical. The media-applied label “anti-Muslim” is neither accurate nor true, any more than to say that the famous and high quality film “The Ten Commandments” is “anti-Jewish”.

    • Tanstaafl

      Absolutely. There is nothing on the video that is inaccurate. Why is the filmmaker still in prison?

  • κατεργάζομαι

    "We've seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing do to with," said Hillary Clinton to the families of the four Americans killed at Benghazi and others gathered at a September 2012 memorial service.

    Her boss, President Barack Obama, had been reciting the same lie in one forum after another in the days following the September 11 attack on the American outpost in Benghazi. To give the lie credence, his Justice Department immured the producer of the video, a Coptic Christian named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, in a West Texas prison.

    Obama appeared to be taking his cues from the Clinton playbook, improvised in their desperate effort to retain the White House after the electoral debacle of November 1994: Shift the narrative, ridicule the critics, bury the truth tellers.

    Read more: American Thinker – Benghazi Narrative Shift Was Perfectly Clintonian http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/05/benghazi_n

  • kasandra

    But let's not forget that another part of her M.O. is profligate lying. Was it in Congressional hearings about "Whitewater" that she claimed having no memory of events over 200 times?

    • κατεργάζομαι

      ………….her mind was "JELL-O".

    • Maxie

      Narci$$ists such as Hillary, Obama & Pelosi are notorious liars. It goes with the syndrome. For such folk the truth is whatever fulfills their wants, needs and beliefs. Being 'wrong' is not possible for them.

      • Smote

        Agreed! Well said.

  • pierce

    How many people will remember this affair come 2016 when Hilary decides she wants to be our first women president, probably not many. She too, like our current President, has had a love affair with our current MSM.
    They will forget, as they have forgotten BO's faults, and are trying very hard to not cover the current mess, sweep it under the rug so to speak. See no evil, report no evil. Thanks MSM.

  • SonOfTom Paine

    Several decades of crime, lies, premature deaths, obfuscation associated with Hilary, Bill's guiding advisor strategist at every turn, all of this lays ready for exposure, from the New Media, when needed.

  • digdigby

    Was just looking at old books: Barbara Olson's HELL TO PAY and others. Even her friends agreed on one thing. She was vicious and ruthless to anyone in her way and her inner circle was always made up of those who were just as nasty and cold-blooded. If you can't weep and lie at the same time you don't make the Hillary grade.

  • Frank

    In the coverup of TWA flight 800 in1996,the Clintons and all their henchmen were in full coverup mode.All the players were rewarded for their being loyal soldiers in the Clinton army.George Stepanopolis,Leon Panetta,Jamie Gorlick (remember her? ),Al gore,The FBI,the CIA,The FAA.The sorry list goes on in Jack Cashill's book about the downing of flight 800.George got a tv show,Gore got rich,Panetta has had all sorts of high government jobs,that he did not do well,and Bill got re elected. There are plenty more.Some things never change.

  • http://shugartpoliticalaction.shugartmedia.com/uncommonsense/ Chris_Shugart

    GREAT MOMENTS IN AMERICAN HISTORY

    “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
    – Admiral David Farragut

    “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!”
    – Attributed to Colonel William Prescott

    “I have not yet begun to fight!”
    – Captain John Paul Jones

    “What difference does it make?”
    – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

  • fanlad

    The end justifies the means, straight out of the saul Alinsky's rules for radicals, and Hillary's college thesis .

  • Anamah

    Hill was Saul Alinsky preferred fan, that should say something about this woman…
    Seems incredible she is still kicking here sticky, poisonous and playing powerful roles as always.
    Sadly Barbara Olson died the September 11, 2001 flight 77 crash against the Pentagon… writing a new book on Hillary's misdeeds.

  • Flowerknife_us

    Mrs Clinton proved her weakness when she refused to respect herself and divorce her Husband.

    • Lady_Dr

      AGREED! But as long as the low-information voters keep watching the lame stream media, and as long as our side doesn't fight illegal immigration and voter fraud it is bound to happen.

  • Ellman

    "It may be difficult to grasp, but liberals, Hillary Clinton included, actually believe that bullies like Russia can be appeased by weakness of others, hence the “reset” policy towards Russia, and the later denial of more security for the consulate at Benghazi. Clinton probably thought that a strong American military presence at the Benghazi consulate would be provocative."

    Hillary detests the military. She frowned on military personnel wearing uniforms in the WH. She believed that the military represented a distorted and aggressive image of the US with their uniforms, their demeanor, their conduct and their confidence. Billy shared her contempt but was more reticent in expressing it. After all he was "Commander In Chief" – like it or not – so, as President, he had to observe certain protocols.

    Who knows what kind of madness invades the liberal mind. Obama and Hillary could have avoided Benghazi by (1) providing additional security when it was requested, or (2) by authorizing a military response to the attack on 9/11/12.

  • Lady_Dr

    I suspect Obama was high as a kite that night, and Hillary? Well, she may have been busy keeping Bill from some scandal. Where was Bill that night?

  • Geppetto

    This is fine as far as it goes but it suggests that Hilary alone was responsible for the Benghazi debacle. The damage the truth would have done to Obama and his legacy with regard to his vain, premature and irresponsible proclamation that Bin Laden is dead and Al Qaeda’s been decimated, suggest that he could have lost the election if the truth were to come out; to him a far bigger tragedy than Hilary’s disgrace. If Hilary is guilty of this fiasco Obama is at least equally and likely more so, especially in view of the emerging IRS scandal that alleges an egregious, on going effort to suppress conservative opposition in the 2012 election. It’s all “of a piece” as the saying goes.

    But Hilary’s now infamous comment, “what difference does it make” reveals a major character flaw. In her mind it is apparent that this is exactly how she feels. Regardless how outrageous the lie, four Americans are dead, a “perpetrator” has been arrested and jailed and the preferred, fictitious narrative has played out, so we should all get over it, shut down this “republican witch hunt” and just leave her to get on with her political aspirations which she no doubt feels are of far greater importance than the death of those four, insignificant Americans. Politics uber alles, survival of the fittest, life goes on, there will be casualties, it’s part of the game, I won, so let’s get on with it. In true Clintonian fashion.

  • Roy Dzigli

    For all their overblown self images I can't exactly see what the hell Obama and Clinton are good at.
    What exactly have they ever done that makes them so important to this country.
    Obama gets elected and gets the Nobel prize?
    For what?
    Why not give the peace prize to a Kardashian?
    Why not elect a Kardashian president?
    Why not make a Kardashian Secretary of state?
    Seriously: I don't get it!

    • Smote

      Obama got the Nobel peace prize because he is black (or half black). Whatever. Sorry to pop any bubbles, kiddies, but that is why he won it. I am not racist. I have many friends of all colours, shapes, sizes and sexes, so spare me the rhetoric. Even Obama looked sheepish when he accepted that Nobel 'prize'.

  • Smote

    Typical. When you genuflect, you lick boots. But that is what Obama wants us to do. I won't. Not even at gunpoint of miserable Islam.

    Hilary? Who? She will go down (often) as a useless footnote to history.

  • slider 96

    The Benghazi political circus continues ….no smoking gun , but plenty of juvenile assertions . What the party of STUPID fails to realize is that the majority of Americans don't buy the right's constructed conspiracy and see it for what it was , a security lapse and resulting tragedy .
    Keep on pushing though , this way the electorate can see you for what you are . The only place where your circus act sells is amongst yourselves .

  • Ragnar

    An association with Hillary can kill you. Benghazi reminded me of the time when Clinton asked Vince Foster to handle the Arkansas prisoners' HIV blood contract with the Canadians which killed hundreds of hemophiliacs. Of course Vince didn't know the blood was HIV-tainted until the Canucks started dropping all over Canada. Vince's conscience caused him to vocalize "tainted blood" on the phone so someone put him to sleep with a ,22 cal bullet behind his left ear while he was sitting in his car in the White House parking lot. Hillary immediately had everything removed from Vince's office, never to be seen again. The paramedic's photo of the hole behind Vince's ear went missing before the investigation began, and much of this story can be reviewed at http://www.FBIcover-up.com

  • John Little, Sr.

    Sir: You and most people have missed the point of the cover-up. It is not because of the unsecured Benghazi Consulate, sometimes referred to as "outpost." So far the cover-up is working, thanks to timely distractions and a hazy focus by reporters and pundits.

    The cover-up is about the failure of the administration's Arab Spring initiative. Benghazi made clear that this initiative was being co-opted by well organized Muslim jihadists. The President and the Secretary of State were about to lose coveted positions in history–not to mention forthcoming elections. American voters, by extension, were about to lose stable allies and a great deal of oil. Think about this.

    Cordially, John little, Sr.