In 1954, the US Senate was scheduled to vote to censure one of their members, Joseph McCarthy. Conveniently absent for the vote was John Fitzgerald Kennedy. He claimed a medical emergency, and an ambulance carried him off the Senate floor. Kennedy knew that the censure would be approved, but didn’t want to vote on it. The reasons: his brother, Robert, worked for McCarthy’s Senate Committee; his father, Joseph, was a supporter of McCarthy; and Kennedy didn’t want to offend the Irish Catholics from his home state of Massachusetts. It was not one of Kennedy’s finest moments.
I was reminded of this moment in history when I heard the news that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was declining to speak at a Senate hearing on the assault on the US Consulate in Benghazi. The official reason: she was ill at home, had a dizzy spell, fell and sustained a concussion. The real reason: she knew that she and her department would be severely criticized for screwing up the security at the Consulate and did not want to harm her legacy as Secretary and her future run the Presidency in 2016. Indeed, a special inquiry looking into the assault yesterday issued a damning report on the episode, although they did not fault her specifically. She quickly accepted the 29 recommendations the inquiry offered for improving security at all diplomatic outposts. How very convenient.