The more I think about Hillary Clinton’s question yesterday—”what difference does it make?”—the more important it becomes; a sort of leitmotif, not only for this administration, but for our times in general.
For the moment, let’s not talk about Benghazi itself. Let’s just mull over the fact that the priorities of the majority of Americans seem to have shifted. If the public doesn’t care about a certain tree falling in the forest, does it actually make a sound, even if the right is fussing about it?
The right has been outraged by a sequence of events and statements that have occurred under Obama’s watch, beginning with his 2008 campaign. Some are rather trivial (“corpse-man”) and some important (“bankrupt” the coal plants; “spread the wealth”). All have gained traction only on the right, because a majority (perhaps a small majority, but a majority nonetheless, and I believe a growing one) has answered the question “what difference does it make?” with the words “none at all.”
These are things that would have outraged an earlier generation. In fact, they have outraged an earlier generation; older people did not vote for Obama in large numbers (among voters 65 and older, Romney won 56% to 44%). But Hillary is correct; to most voters, Benghazi, and a host of other things that used to be considered important, make no difference at all.
One reason, which may seem somewhat paradoxical but really is not, is widespread cynicism. If the public doesn’t expect integrity or truth from what used to be called our public servants (what a quaint phrase!), then lies and strategic stonewalling will not bother most people at all. What matters is what those public servants can get for you, and what they can scare you into thinking the opposition will take away from you (tampons, anyone?)
I began to realize how exceedingly widespread this attitude of cynicism had become, and its effect on public perceptions about Benghazi, around the time of the 2012 election. I wrote about the incident afterward, here:
The American people do not seem to be “concerned,” [about Benghazi] either, not at all. Major Garrett can ask all the questions he wants…but few people except us blogophiles on the right are listening, and Carney and Obama have learned that simply thumbing their noses at the American people is an excellent way to get the people to shrug…
I discovered this myself a few days after the election, when I had dinner with an old friend who is an intelligent, moderate, non-leftist Democrat with some conservative tendencies. This friend just didn’t care about Benghazi or the administration’s handling of it, didn’t know the details and was cynically dismissive of the topic because “all politicians lie.”
Well, they surely do—but not this brazenly, because most politicians at least have the fear of being called to account by the media and then the American people…
Another big factor at work here is our decades-long education in moral relativism. What is truth, and can it be determined? Way way too many people answer “no,” and so they’ve given up trying or caring. And if they don’t care, why should our public officials answer inopportune and potentially embarrassing questions? No; what’s important is feelings, and so it made perfect sense for Hillary to act as though the best way to show concern about the deaths in Benghazi was to raise her voice in frustration and anger at the questions and cite her determination to “figure out what happened,” rather than actually exhibit that determination by answering questions about her own possible negligence in fostering conditions that may have contributed to those deaths. As for the subsequent cover-up of the reasons for the deaths, she’s implying that it’s just political business as usual, no biggee. And most Americans will nod, if they’re paying attention at all.
This administration has been stonewalling right from the start on whatever it just doesn’t feel like answering. Although previous administrations have done a little bit of that here and there, with Obama it is his recurrent m.o., made possible by the MSM’s abdication of its traditional role as questioner and challenger, and its adoption of the mantle of enabler.
A terrible development, to be sure. But it would not be possible if the American people didn’t allow it.