Benghazi Will Not Ruin Hillary Clinton’s Chances of Becoming President, Security Insiders Say

Experts also say the Bergdahl prisoner exchange will have no impact on the terrorist threat.

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., reacts as she takes the stage with her daughter at a rally in Nashua, N.H. Sunday, Jan. 6, 2008. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
AP
Sara Sorcher
June 16, 2014, 5:34 p.m.

If Hil­lary Clin­ton runs for pres­id­ent, the fur­or over the Benghazi at­tack will not ru­in her chances of win­ning, 90 per­cent of Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity In­siders said.

The former sec­ret­ary of State is already gird­ing against jabs from Re­pub­lic­ans over her hand­ling of the 2012 at­tack in Libya, in­sist­ing that the in­vest­ig­a­tions are “even more of a reas­on to run” for pres­id­ent. 

“Worst-case scen­ario, [Benghazi] be­comes a nag­ging open wound,” one In­sider said, “but not big enough to de­rail her.”

Mul­tiple in­vest­ig­a­tions of the at­tack, which killed Am­bas­sad­or Chris Stevens and three oth­er Amer­ic­ans, found “no con­spir­acy to hide facts from the Amer­ic­an people,” one In­sider said, “and no reas­on to be­lieve the at­tack could have been thwarted once it emerged.”

Re­pub­lic­ans have be­gun to down­play Obama­care as a key ele­ment in their quiver of is­sues for the 2016 elec­tion, the In­sider con­tin­ued, “and they will even­tu­ally do the same with Benghazi. Its polit­ic­al sa­li­ence is di­min­ish­ing.”

What’s more, an­oth­er In­sider notes, Clin­ton “has already ac­cep­ted her share of re­spons­ib­il­ity in speeches and her book. Bey­ond that, the GOP may con­tin­ue to move right with the loss of Eric Can­tor, pla­cing Clin­ton in an even stronger po­s­i­tion [on] na­tion­al se­cur­ity is­sues versus a cur­rent po­ten­tial GOP pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate.”

A slim 10 per­cent minor­ity of In­siders said the Benghazi scan­dal will quash Clin­ton’s chances if she de­cides to run. “An ex­am­in­a­tion of her in­at­ten­tion to the busi­ness of ad­min­is­ter­ing the De­part­ment of State will be dam­aging,” one said. 

Sep­ar­ately, the re­lease of five Taliban de­tain­ees for Army Sgt. Bowe Ber­g­dahl will have no im­pact on the threat of ter­ror­ism against the U.S., 60 per­cent of the pool of na­tion­al se­cur­ity ex­perts said. “We flat­ter and em­bolden the no­tori­ous five by be­liev­ing they alone can sway the battle so sig­ni­fic­antly,” one In­sider said. “They are 15 years older and may in­flu­ence Taliban policies, but do so at own per­son­al risk. The threat will ex­ist with or without them in­volved.” 

“Those old guys are so last-dec­ade,” an­oth­er In­sider said. “The U.S. faces new ter­ror­ism threats quite apart from the Push­tun Taliban.”

A vo­cal 39 per­cent minor­ity said the swap will in­crease the threat of ter­ror­ism. “The Obama pris­on­er deal is a huge stra­tegic win for the Taliban and a mor­ale-build­er for rad­ic­al Is­lam­ic ter­ror­ists, and at a tac­tic­al level re­turns dan­ger­ous Taliban lead­ers to the bat­tle­field,” one In­sider said. 

A re­cent CBS News poll found that 49 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans thought the ex­change would in­crease the threat of ter­ror­ism against the U.S. Forty per­cent, that poll found, said the swap would have no ef­fect. 

1. If Hil­lary Clin­ton runs for pres­id­ent, will the fur­or over the Benghazi at­tack ru­in her chances of win­ning?
(59 votes)

  • No - 90%
  • Yes - 10%

No

“She is a tar­get-rich en­vir­on­ment, with a long ca­reer of ser­vice. Any­thing could hurt, and it will all surely be re­sur­rec­ted by her op­pon­ent. Hope she has good ar­mor.”

“But it will be an im­ped­i­ment, es­pe­cially if she keeps up her smil­ing, ‘Shit hap­pens,’ ‘I didn’t read the cable line’ of re­sponse.”

“Benghazi is a made-up story, fab­ric­ated for the Belt­way. It has some res­on­ance out­side the city, but it’s not a game-changer.”

“Re­pub­lic­ans’ at­tempt to taint Clin­ton with fail­ure of lead­er­ship may bol­ster their base, but it will fall upon deaf ears of Clin­ton faith­ful. The out­come of the elec­tion will rest on myri­ad oth­er is­sues.”

“The people who care the most about Benghazi wouldn’t be vot­ing for a Demo­crat any­way.”

“Benghazi is just one in a num­ber of is­sues she will have to face. I don’t [see] this is a make or break is­sue.”

“It will hurt her, but it will not be de­cis­ive. As her re­cent slipup re­gard­ing her need­ing to charge huge amounts of money for speeches to pay for mul­tiple mort­gages in­dic­ates, there will be oth­er is­sues that will be of great­er rel­ev­ance to most Amer­ic­ans that will af­fect her pro­spects.”

“The man­u­fac­tured fur­or will have gone on so long that it will be more of a turnoff for voters than any­thing in Clin­ton’s re­cord.”

“Ru­in, no. Hurt, YES!”

“Al­though the GOP will try to ex­ploit Benghazi, Clin­ton has already ac­cep­ted her share of re­spons­ib­il­ity in speeches and her book. Bey­ond that, the GOP may con­tin­ue to move right with the loss of Eric Can­tor, pla­cing Clin­ton in an even stronger po­s­i­tion [on] na­tion­al se­cur­ity is­sues versus cur­rent po­ten­tial GOP pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate.”

“Nev­er un­der­es­tim­ate the abil­ity of the Clin­ton team to ra­tion­al­ize away scan­dals.”

“She will win, or lose, for much lar­ger reas­ons. Most of the coun­try ac­cepts that ‘sh*t hap­pens’ “

“Most Benghazi ob­sess­ives wer­en’t go­ing to sup­port her even had it nev­er happened. Swing voters with some de­gree of ob­jectiv­ity can see through the in­ven­ted hys­teria. There­fore, it will have little ef­fect.”

“No, it will not ru­in it, but un­less she cre­ates a bet­ter nar­rat­ive, she will be dogged by it all along. She needs to an­swer two ques­tions: 1) What does she means that she takes re­spons­ib­il­ity for it? How? She seems to be lay­ing the blame on un­der­lings; 2) How did she, as sec­ret­ary, en­gage with the State De­part­ment’s se­cur­ity of­ficers in the days, weeks, and months pri­or to Septem­ber 11 to learn about what the threat to our most vul­ner­able dip­lo­mat­ic posts were, and what did she do, if any­thing, to ad­dress those con­cerns?” 

“The only Amer­ic­ans tuned in­to Benghazi are already in the base of the Re­pub­lic­an Party.”

“The Re­pub­lic­an ob­ses­sion with Benghazi is too trans­par­ently a polit­ic­al at­tack. The base may love it, but in­de­pend­ents will not be per­suaded.”

“The elec­tion is a life­time away in polit­ic­al time. We will look back and laugh at the idea of Benghazi be­ing a sig­ni­fic­ant is­sue. Even if she is still in the run­ning.”

“Hil­lary’s run for the pres­id­ency will be ef­fected ul­ti­mately by her lack of people skills vice is­sues like Benghazi. In the fi­nal ana­lys­is, it goes to her com­pet­ence as a lead­er, and that is a mixed bag at best. In the rest of the coun­try, you elect someone based on how you’re do­ing eco­nom­ic­ally and wheth­er they like you.”

“Cyn­ic­ally speak­ing, the broad­er me­dia will down­play her con­nec­tion to Benghazi in or­der to pro­mote the ‘his­tor­ic’ nature of her elec­tion. A sad com­ment­ary on the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion that, sadly, is go­ing to be re­peated.”

Yes

“Ac­counts of that tra­gic even­ing’s events keep chan­ging, as well as de­scrip­tions of her over­sight role re­gard­ing se­cur­ity be­fore and after the at­tack on the U.S. fa­cil­it­ies in Benghazi.”

“Benghazi will have a mar­gin­ally neg­at­ive ef­fect on Hil­lary’s pres­id­en­tial run: dur­ing the primary, as she faces a threat to her left and Benghazi un­der­scores her sup­port of mil­it­ary force (Libya, Ir­aq, Osama bin Laden, etc.); and, in the gen­er­al, as she dodges in­com­ing on the ad­min­is­tra­tion polit­ic­al spin and cov­er-up … mis­takes not made by George Shultz nor Madeleine Al­bright in sim­il­ar tra­gic events.”

2. Will the ex­change of five Taliban de­tain­ees for Sgt. Bowe Ber­g­dahl im­pact the threat of ter­ror­ism against the U.S.?
(59 votes)

  • No im­pact on the threat - 61%
  • In­crease the threat - 39%
  • De­crease the threat - 0%

No im­pact

“No great im­pact. There are plenty of ter­ror­ists around; a few more won’t mat­ter; and mostly they are aim­ing to tussle with the U.S. in the re­gion, as the IS­IS would love to do.”

“The trade will per­suade some ter­ror­ists and ad­versar­ies that host­ages pull emo­tion­al strings in Amer­ica and thus have trad­able value. Re­agan had an im­prudent soft heart for the half-dozen Amer­ic­an host­ages in Le­ban­on, and this helped lead to un­wise de­cision-mak­ing in the Ir­an-Con­tra af­fair. For­eign evil­do­ers will now won­der wheth­er Obama, too, has a soft heart that they can ma­nip­u­late through host­age-tak­ing.”

“The Afghan Taliban are an in­sur­gent move­ment. Most of them are re­moved from in­ter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ism, post-2001. At the very top, there are links between Al-Qaida and Taliban, but not at the level of these five.”

“They are likely to be act­ive in the fight over the fu­ture of Afgh­anistan, but we will no longer be at war there.”

“Ter­ror­ists have al­ways wanted U.S. pris­on­ers.”

“These fel­lows are polit­ic­al. They will be ma­jor fig­ures in the emer­ging Taliban gov­ern­ment in Afgh­anistan after the U.S. fin­ishes its with­draw­al.”

“The threat is sig­ni­fic­ant today. There is no way this de­creases the threat. It is an­oth­er sign of Amer­ic­an weak­ness and vul­ner­ab­il­ity. But our en­emies already knew that, so it doesn’t make a bad situ­ation worse.”

“The Taliban will take ad­vant­age of the U.S. de­par­ture, but its fo­cus will be on in­sur­gency, not ter­ror­ism.”

“It was a bat­tle­field ex­change of pris­on­ers, not the free­ing of con­victed ter­ror­ists to re­lease a host­age.”

“CNN re­ports that Bush-Cheney re­leased 171 Guantanamo de­tain­ees who re­turned to the fight (in­clud­ing Mah­sud) had much big­ger im­pact than this. Will be in­ter­est­ing to see if polit­ic­ally chal­lenged con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats can make that point.”

“This was a le­git­im­ate pris­on­er swap that will have zero im­pact on the ter­ror­ist threat to the United States.”

“While the re­lease was ap­palling and clearly not well thought out, it is simply a single event in a long his­tory that vin­dic­ates the Is­lam­ic ex­trem­ist view of the West as weak.”

“The threat is in­cred­ibly small, and this won’t tick it up (or down) at all.”

In­crease the threat 

“It will en­cour­age ter­ror­ists around the world to kid­nap Amer­ic­ans, as now it has been prove that the U.S. will ne­go­ti­ate and make con­ces­sions for their re­lease.”

“There is no way it would di­min­ish the threat. It in­centiv­izes the tak­ing of U.S. ser­vice mem­bers, and while the aims of the ad­min­is­tra­tion are un­der­stand­able, they have con­tin­ued their track re­cord of 1) a lack of stra­tegic con­text that can be ar­tic­u­lated be­fore or after the fact; 2) a lack of a work­ing re­la­tion­ship with Con­gress; 3) a na­iv­ete re­gard­ing the re­ac­tion to de­cisions that im­peaches any semb­lance of polit­ic­al acu­men; and 4) an in­ab­il­ity to re­cap­ture the de­bate and lead the dis­cus­sion after the event — wit­ness Susan Rice’s re­deploy­ment on Sunday morn­ing. Not quick learners.”

“Is­raeli pris­on­er re­leases in ex­change for kid­napped sol­diers or ci­vil­ians have simply en­cour­aged Hamas and Hezbol­lah to at­tempt more kid­nap­pings. The same could hap­pen to Amer­ic­ans.”

“Will likely trig­ger copycats, in­creas­ing the risk of kid­nap­pings of Amer­ic­ans over­seas.”

“It already has. People in Afgh­anistan are already chan­ging theirs minds about who is the strong horse.”

“It’s pretty ob­vi­ous to the un­lettered that seizure of an Amer­ic­an, es­pe­cially in the mil­it­ary, can be used to cre­ate a drum­beat for re­lease. If the ter­ror­its choose someone who can be made to ap­pear as a ‘hero’ (a wide defin­i­tion in the U.S.), then it will be easi­er still to do this. Bad pre­ced­ent.”

“It may in­crease the threat a bit in that it does in­centiv­ize ter­ror­ists to cap­ture Amer­ic­ans. But that was the point — to demon­strate that the U.S. would rather see Amer­ic­ans abroad re­turned alive not dead.”

“Not from the Taliban per se but from groups that will see the value, in that U.S. host­ages can be used to ne­go­ti­ate de­mands.”

“There is no doubt that this will em­bolden ji­hadist groups.”

Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity In­siders Poll is a peri­od­ic sur­vey of more than 100 de­fense and for­eign policy ex­perts. They in­clude: Gor­don Adams, Charles Al­len, Mi­chael Al­len, Thad Al­len, Gra­ham Al­lis­on, James Bam­ford, Dav­id Barno, Milt Bearden, Peter Ber­gen, Samuel “Sandy” Ber­ger, Dav­id Ber­teau, Steph­en Biddle, Nancy Bird­sall, Mari­on Blakey, Kit Bond, Stu­art Bowen, Paula Broad­well, Mike Breen, Mark Brun­ner, Steven Bucci, Nich­olas Burns, Dan By­man, James Jay Cara­fano, Phil­lip Carter, Wendy Cham­ber­lin, Mi­chael Cher­toff, Frank Cil­luffo, James Clad, Richard Clarke, Steve Clem­ons, Joseph Collins, Wil­li­am Court­ney, Lorne Cran­er, Ro­ger Cres­sey, Gregory Dahl­berg, Robert Dan­in, Richard Dan­zig, Jan­ine Dav­id­son, Daniel Drezn­er, Mack­en­zie Eaglen, Paul Eaton, An­drew Ex­um, Wil­li­am Fal­lon, Eric Farns­worth, Jacques Gansler, Steph­en Gan­yard, Daniel Goure, Mark Green, Mike Green, Mark Gun­zinger, Todd Har­ris­on, John Hamre, Jim Harp­er, Marty Haus­er, Mi­chael Hay­den, Mi­chael Her­son, Pete Hoek­stra, Bruce Hoff­man, Linda Hud­son, Paul Hughes, Colin Kahl, Don­ald Ker­rick, Rachel Klein­feld, Lawrence Korb, Dav­id Kramer, An­drew Kre­pinev­ich, Charlie Kupchan, W. Patrick Lang, Cedric Leighton, Mi­chael Leit­er, James Lind­say, Justin Lo­gan, Trent Lott, Peter Mansoor, Ron­ald Marks, Bri­an Mc­Caf­frey, Steven Metz, Frank­lin Miller, Mi­chael Mo­rell, Philip Mudd, John Nagl, Shuja Nawaz, Kev­in Neal­er, Mi­chael Oates, Thomas Pick­er­ing, Paul Pil­lar, Larry Pri­or, Steph­en Rade­maker, Marc Rai­mondi, Celina Realuyo, Bruce Riedel, Barry Rhoads, Marc Ro­ten­berg, Frank Rug­giero, Gary Sam­ore, Kori Schake, Mark Schneider, John Scofield, Tammy Schultz, Steph­en Ses­t­an­ovich, Sarah Se­wall, Mat­thew Sher­man, Jen­nifer Sims, Su­z­anne Spauld­ing, James Stav­rid­is, Con­stan­ze Stelzen­müller, Ted Stroup, Guy Swan, Frances Town­send, Mick Train­or, Richard Wil­helm, Tamara Wittes, Dov Za­kheim, and Juan Za­r­ate.

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