Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Will "What difference, at this point, does it make" be the "You didn't build that" of 2016—an out-of-context sentence from a Democrat that Republicans think they can leverage into something electorally huge, despite all evidence to the contrary? Rand Paul sure seems to think so, in a passage from his new book
that's getting attention for another reason entirely:
“I believe judgment day for Benghazi is also at hand,” writes Paul. “When the secretary of state answers a question concerning the murders of six Americans, including an American ambassador, by saying, ‘What difference, at this point, does it make?’ I think that’s a pretty clear indication that it’s time for that person to go. It’s 3 a.m., Mrs. Clinton. The phone is ringing. The American people deserve to know why you never bothered to answer it.”
Yes, in talking about how important the Benghazi attack was, Paul gets the number of Americans killed wrong: it was four, not six, and the publisher will be correcting that. But since Republicans are likely to return to "What difference, at this point, does it make" more than once, let's remind ourselves what Clinton was saying. Months after the attack, she was testifying before a Senate committee and, in response to repeated questions about why then-Ambassador Susan Rice characterized the attack as coming out of a protest, and accusations that the Obama administration was purposely misleading the public, Clinton said:
With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator. [...] But you know, to be clear, it is, from my perspective, less important today looking backwards as to why these militants decided they did it than to find them and bring them to justice, and then maybe we’ll figure out what was going on in the meantime.
In other words, "Maybe we can be a little more interested in tracking these guys down than in what Susan Rice said on the Sunday talk shows?" But, for one thing, Republicans are overwhelmingly interested in talking points and Sunday talk shows, because those so often take the place of actual policy in the Republican mind, and for another, the idea that the Obama administration would try to find out what happened through an investigation in which different theories prevailed at different times is a very difficult mindset to understand for a party that saw the 9/11 attacks as a useful pretext for going to war with a country that wasn't involved in them.
And now Republicans want get the public to think Clinton was expressing lack of interest, saying "What difference does it make" as an excuse for not investigating what happened in Benghazi rather than as a dismissal of the whining over what Susan Rice said on the Sunday shows, because heaven knows they haven't yet got much else to use against Clinton in 2016.