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Susan Page

We Want Truth In Government

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on.” – Winston Churchill

I watched all of outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s testimony before Congress regarding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks during which a relentless seven-hour siege on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killed four Americans, including Libya ambassador, Chris Stevens.

And I was disappointed. Clinton, whom I admire, had a chance to do something really bold: Level with the American people. Her relentless efforts on behalf of women in developing nations are unmatched, her dedication unquestioned, her qualifications impeccable.

But even if 99 percent of her term as secretary of state has been exemplary, on Benghazi she blew it and she knew it. Now, almost four months later, she had a chance to set the record straight and really stop “the buck” squarely on her desk. Instead, well-rehearsed and skillful, she waxed eloquent on the bravery of our diplomats, the challenges of her job and how complicated the “situation” was.

The ambassador asked for more security at the Benghazi consulate. Not complicated. It was denied. People died. To the average Marine or Navy SEAL, the Benghazi situation wasn’t complicated. Distress call? Respond with assets.

Politics is the only thing that ever complicates the uncomplicated: What will be the political fallout if Libya looks vulnerable to al-Qaida affiliate terrorist attacks? How should we spin this? What will it mean to poll numbers?

How will it play in the press? How will my response affect future political ambitions?

Failures occur in every administration. Deal with them honestly. The Obama administration didn’t need to send U.N. ambassador Susan Rice to the Sunday political talk shows to characterize the obviously well-executed attack by terrorists as a protest by Libyans upset over a hokey, Islam-insulting movie trailer – a fairy tale that went all the way to the U.N. two weeks later.

Ultimately, when the truth emerged that the administration knew all along it was a terror attack, the American people and grieving families wondered why they were misled. We still don’t know.

As someone who never got full answers on the exact reasons why my Marine aviator husband died in a horrible jet crash 32 years ago, I am painfully aware of how senior officials cover their okole. His death, too, was “complicated.”

During her testimony, Clinton was enlightening about the workings of the State Department and changes in law she’d like to see to help it function better. She told many interesting truths, but on the Benghazi attacks, she fudged on the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Parts were missing.

In A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson’s character retorts, “You can’t handle the truth.” Yes we can. We want it: from George Bush about reasons for going into Iraq, Bill Clinton about Monica Lewinsky, Ronald Reagan about Iran-Contra and Richard Nixon about Watergate – and certainly about a terrorist attack and the death of Americans, something that should never be politicized.

Americans forgive as long as there’s truth. President Obama won the election, so why not own the Benghazi attack with the same fervor he owned killing Osama bin Ladin? Why not offer a refreshing admission that he wasn’t completely straight with the public? His ratings would soar. And Clinton might’ve gotten a reprimand for lax leadership, but if she made a sincere mea culpa, Republicans might as well not field a

presidential candidate in 2016.

Aristotle said the least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold.

We shall see.

Correction: My previous column about the wounded warriors softball team had two errors: Matt Kinsey is a former Army soldier.

The correct website for the WWAST is http://www.woundedwarrioramputeesoftballteam.org.

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