Benghazi Will Be Hillary Clinton's 2016 Whitewater

Francis Wilkinson writes editorials on politics and U.S. domestic policy for Bloomberg View. He was executive editor of the Week. He was previously a national affairs writer for Rolling Stone, a communications consultant and a political media strategist.
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It is time to come clean on Benghazi. If Hillary Clinton runs for president, it will be time to come clean on Benghazi right through to 2016. If Clinton emerges triumphant, takes the oath of office and becomes the nation's first female president, the time to come clean on Benghazi will last another four years. (In case of re-election, better make that eight.)

This will require work. Unlike Whitewater, a convoluted, shady-sounding and quite possibly greasy real-estate investment deal, Benghazi consists of a discrete event, a brief aftermath and not much of a paper trail. After all, how much paper is produced in the course of a frantic night of violence in a faraway place?

So paper production is the first order of business. We will need lots and lots of documents citing multiple sources whose large and small discrepancies in memory, perspective and testimony can subsequently be magnified, scrutinized and exploded into controversies.

The Wall Street Journal, which produced hundreds of thousands of words on Whitewater, eventually publishing a landmark five-volume series on that now curiously forgotten conspiracy, today encourages creation of a Select Committee to investigate Benghazi. How else can the nation "extricate itself from the labyrinth" of Benghazi?

It's quite possible someone somewhere in the Obama administration lied about Benghazi. It's more than certain that someone spun about it. But in order to have political staying power -- and if Clinton runs for president in three years, staying power is what's required -- it's best if Benghazi is rendered labyrinthine, impenetrable, with many questions remaining unanswered and dark suspicions lingering.

Benghazi was a tragedy. It may even have been a fiasco. But if Clinton runs for president, that won't be enough. By 2016, Benghazi must also be made a mystery.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

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Frank Wilkinson at