If Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was never consulted on who should have been the first person to publicly discuss the Sept. 11 attacks at the U.S. consulate in Libya, “it was because she didn’t wish to be,” Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Judith Miller tells Newsmax TV.
“She was asked whether or not she had known about Susan Rice testimony — whether or not she has known about Susan Rice being chosen to be the lead person on the Sunday talk shows,” Miller, tells Newsmax, referring to Clinton’s testimony on Wednesday before Congress on the Benghazi attacks. “She said ‘no,’ she hadn’t known about it.
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“She wasn’t consulted, even though she managed to say that she felt Susan Rice was being treated unfairly,” Miller added, in a reference to the U.N. Ambassador, who came under fire for her initial reports on the assault. “Clinton still both endorsed her role while maintaining some distance from her in that credible performance.”
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The White House chose Rice to appear on all the Sunday morning television talk shows on Sept. 16 to say that the assault on the Benghazi consulate resulted from protests over an anti-Muslim film made by a California filmmaker.
The Obama administration later said the attacks, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, were terrorism.
“If she wasn’t consulted, it was because she didn’t wish to be,” Miller said of Clinton.
Formerly of The New York Times, Miller is an author, Fox News commentator, frequent Newsmax contributor, and an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
She described Clinton’s Capitol Hill testimony as “an extraordinary performance.”
“She knew this was kind of her last hurrah — and she was going to go up there and give as good as she got, and it was a rough, rough session — and yet she held her own.
“Normally, these sessions end in tears. Hillary Clinton began with them she choked up when she was discussing the return of the caskets and standing next to the surviving families,” Miller added. “But she got increasingly combative as the questions became more combative — and what really struck me about her performance was at the end, many of the essential questions that had prompted the hearing remained unanswered.”
Clinton’s testimony was as much about preserving her legacy as her future, Miller said.
“She was, obviously, very interested in going down in history as the most well-traveled Secretary of State. She’s logged in one million miles, gone to 112 countries. She wanted to be known as the woman who re-established America’s role as ‘Listener in Chief’ — a country you can talk to — which she felt had really disappeared during the Bush era.
“She also clearly was positioning herself — it’s not clear that she’s going to be running — but she was positioning herself for a possible 2016 run by distancing herself from some of her own administration’s policies and positions,” Miller added. “I found that extremely interesting, and the way which she did it very artful.”
The outgoing Secretary also should be commended for “accepting responsibility for Benghazi without accepting blame,” Miller said. “That’s a really, really delicate balance to strike.
“Hillary Clinton was the one who should have seen the cables that kept pouring in complaining about poor security. We don’t know to this day why she didn’t see those cables. We don’t know why none of those recommendations about adding security both in Benghazi and Tripoli were acted upon. We don’t know the nature of her contacts with the White House and discussions with the White House about security in general or security in Libya.
“There’s so much we don’t know about that — and these questions are going to continue to haunt not only Hillary Clinton but the Obama State Department, even after her departure.”
Another milestone of the hearings, Miller said, was the obvious ire toward Clinton from Republicans on the panels that questioned her, the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“It was an extraordinarily nasty set of questions from Republicans, most of whom never once thanked her for her service.
“Whether or not you have questions about Benghazi, whether or not you think she’s a good Secretary of State, you normally start these proceedings by saying, ‘Thank you for your service,’ especially for someone who’s leaving. The fact that almost none of the Republicans did that was really rather remarkable.
“It reflects the new partisan tone and bitter tone of Washington,” Miller added. “It was most unfortunate, but Hillary Clinton was able to turn it around and play off of that and get a lot of sympathy for their lack of politesse.”
Looking to this week’s narrow parliamentary election victory by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Miller called it “a tremendous rebuff. It is a tremendous loss of confidence in his leadership that so many people defected from his coalition and from him.
“He stands a lot to gain if he does move to the center, if he becomes more proactive, but it is also somewhat of vindication of President [Barack] Obama’s criticism of him as out of touch not only with what is in America’s interest but what is in the interest of the people of Israel.
“The people of Israel have actually endorsed what President Obama had to say — and that’s the way a lot of people are reading this in Israel. I’m just stunned by Lapid’s success,” she said, referring to Yair Lapid, a former television anchorman whose centrist, secular party came from nowhere to finish second in the election.
“I don’t know anyone who predicted that the party would draw so much support, and it reflects two things about Israel: one, that Israelis do want movement on the peace process, and, two, that a lot of them are just fed up with what is basically a secular society being dictated to by a religious minority that has very strong views about how the country should be governed and how ordinary Israelis live,” Miller said.
“You almost have two countries in Israel now: a secular country that lives in Tel Aviv and its surrounding areas, and Jerusalem, which is far more religious — and what we had in the election was the triumph of that secular middle that wants its country back.”
The rift with President Obama definitely resonated with Israelis.
“Most Israelis understand that the United States, for Israel, is the indispensable partner and ally and that this relationship is the single most-important relationship that Israel has,” Miller said. “Netanyahu was not advancing Israel’s interest by creating or exasperating the tension that was there over policy.
“The men did not get along, do not get along — but most Israelis felt that an Israeli prime minister does not have the luxury of not being on very good terms with the president of the United States.”
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But there are lessons to be learned by Obama, too.
“If President Obama is a shrewd politician, which he seems to be, he’s shrewd enough politically to know that it is also in America’s interest to repair the rift with Netanyahu,” Miller said. “He is going to be, most probably, the leader of Israel for some time to come — and America and Israel must be on the same page if the enemies of both of us, which are Iran and the other rogue states in the area, are to understand that they face a united coalition.”
Even though economic sanctions are taking their toll on Iran, she said.
“The Iranians right now are so concerned about the extent to which the sanctions are hurting them. This is a country that is really, really, now, under the pressure of these sanctions.
“The Iranian currency has lost more than half of its value,” Miller said. “An oil-exporting country is importing oil and is increasingly desperate about meeting the needs of its people. The elections in Israel were really viewed, at this point, as almost a sideshow in terms of what most Iranians are concerned about.
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“Most Iranians, like most Israelis, are concerned about putting food on the table, prices, the economy at home — and foreign policy in both Israel and Iran have taken a second tier of importance compared to the domestic economy and domestic situation.
“That was another important aspect of the Israeli vote,” Miller added, “the extent to which domestic economic considerations determine the outcome of this election.”
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