In a move that provides something of a political lifeline to President Obama ahead of tonight's debate, Hillary Clinton on Monday took the blame for any security lapses that may have occurred at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in the lead up to the terrorist attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and a trio of other diplomats last month.
"I take responsibility," she told CNN. "I'm in charge of the State Department's 60,000-plus people all over the world (at) 275 posts. The president and the vice president wouldn't be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals. They're the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs and make a considered decision."
Republicans have increasingly criticized the president of late for his handling of the situation in Libya, both for his administration's failure to paint a clear picture of what happened on the ground during the assault, and for what critics say was a failure to provide adequate protection for the American diplomats despite requests for a beefed up security on the ground there.
Clinton's comments support the White House's story that neither Obama nor Vice President Joe Biden were aware of the security requests, something that should make it easier for the president to deflect any Libya-centered criticism during tonight's town hall debate in New York. She admitted as much in the interview, telling CNN that she wanted to avoid "some kind of political gotcha or blame game." Still, Clinton's statement is unlikely to make the issue disappear this close to the election, particularly as Mitt Romney has increasingly looked to make foreign policy more of an issue in the campaign.
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