'Madame Secretary' Avoids another Benghazi

"Madam Secretary" is a new TV drama that follows nearly appointed Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord (played by the very attractive Tèa Leoni). In the third episode that aired Sunday, a hacker leaks the names of three dozen undercover American agents. He is labeled without question as a traitor and then suffers greatly for his crime. He flees to Guinea in West Africa where he quickly falls victim to a horrible disease (though not Ebola) and nearly dies. His only hope for a cure is to return to the U.S, where he will be prosecuted for treason. I like to think the disease symbolized the internal rot that led to him to betray his country.

The best episode,  however, was the second entry which aired Sept. 28. An armed mob threatens to overrun the U.S. embassy in Yemen. Secretary McCord's first concern is that there not be "another Benghazi" and moves swiftly in ways the viewers can only wish those really in charge of the State Department had done in 2012. The contrast between what could have happened and what did is worth examining given the size of the CBS network audience.

First is the secretary herself. When selected for the post, she is a history professor at the University of Virginia; but before that she had worked at the CIA. Indeed, President Conrad Dalton recruited her during the years he ran the agency prior to being elected to the White House (no community organizer he). McCord had been his first choice for State, but he had been persuaded by advisors to pick someone political. That Secretary died in a suspicious airplane crash, so Dalton turned to his protégé. In episode one, when two American students are captured after straying across the Syrian border, her first response is to send in a CIA team to bust them out. She also advises the president against "appeasement."

CBS is the number one network, lead by such hard-hitting dramas as the three shows in the NCIS franchise about Navy investigators; Hawaii Five-0, and Blue Bloods where law enforcement and threats to national security mix frequently, and another new action series Scorpion.

In Yemen, the protests are not about some obscure video. The issue is drone strikes against terrorist camps. The photos showing dead women and children are fakes, but are still used by the media and the militants. Ambassador Wellington does not think additional security is needed, but Secretary McCord disagrees and wants to send troops. This is the reverse of the Benghazi case where Ambassador Stevens wanted more help but his requests were rejected, supposedly by middle management at State. One of the unanswered questions about Benghazi is whether Secretary Hillary Clinton heard of the requests and concurred with her subordinates. In the TV show, there is no middle management; all important issues go straight to Secretary McCord's desk.

McCord first wants extra Marines to reinforce the contingent already deployed at the Yemen embassy. There were no Marines in Libya. She is told she needs funding for this and meets with the congressman in charge of the appropriation. He turns her down. Democrats have alleged that Republican cuts to the State Department budget weakened diplomatic security. However, at an open hearing my former boss Rep. Dana Rohrabacher asked Charlene Lamb, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Programs at the Bureau of Diplomatic Security whether the weak defense at Benghazi was a budget issue. She replied “No.” It wasn't money, but judgment that was lacking.      

In Libya, there was a 12-man security team on loan from the Department of Defense which State dismissed. Instead, State hired a local militia to protect the Benghazi consulate, a force that proved unreliable. McCord also hires private security guards using discretionary State funds, but she chooses an American contractor who puts 50 men on the ground in short order. As a professor, McCord had denounced the use of "mercenaries" in a major publication, but now finds their use vital. Her staff has to spin the difference between academic theory and the real world. To soften the blow, the head of the security firm tells McCord that her article helped him improve his operations. The defense contractor is portrayed as a no-nonsense patriot who can be trusted.

The embassy is attacked and destroyed, but the ambassador and his staff are evacuated without loss. The only American killed is one of the security contractors. McCord personally visits the fallen hero's wife and son to console them. In Benghazi, contractors were the only ones to put up a fight, but there weren't enough of them to save the ambassador. Two employed by the CIA were killed by mortar fire from the "protesters." their families have not gotten much consideration from the Obama administration.

The final and perhaps most important contrast between the show and reality is when, only days after the attack, McCord reports that Navy SEALs have captured the plotters and turned them over to the FBI for "rendition." Over two years after the death of Ambassador Stevens and three others in Benghazi, no action has been taken against those involved in the assault, even though the identities of many of the terrorists have long been known.

Throughout the episode, Secretary McCord moves with logic and determination to solve the Yemen crisis, even changing her prior views on some issues to get the job done. Perhaps fantasy can inform reality.

"Madam Secretary" is a new TV drama that follows nearly appointed Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord (played by the very attractive Tèa Leoni). In the third episode that aired Sunday, a hacker leaks the names of three dozen undercover American agents. He is labeled without question as a traitor and then suffers greatly for his crime. He flees to Guinea in West Africa where he quickly falls victim to a horrible disease (though not Ebola) and nearly dies. His only hope for a cure is to return to the U.S, where he will be prosecuted for treason. I like to think the disease symbolized the internal rot that led to him to betray his country.

The best episode,  however, was the second entry which aired Sept. 28. An armed mob threatens to overrun the U.S. embassy in Yemen. Secretary McCord's first concern is that there not be "another Benghazi" and moves swiftly in ways the viewers can only wish those really in charge of the State Department had done in 2012. The contrast between what could have happened and what did is worth examining given the size of the CBS network audience.

First is the secretary herself. When selected for the post, she is a history professor at the University of Virginia; but before that she had worked at the CIA. Indeed, President Conrad Dalton recruited her during the years he ran the agency prior to being elected to the White House (no community organizer he). McCord had been his first choice for State, but he had been persuaded by advisors to pick someone political. That Secretary died in a suspicious airplane crash, so Dalton turned to his protégé. In episode one, when two American students are captured after straying across the Syrian border, her first response is to send in a CIA team to bust them out. She also advises the president against "appeasement."

CBS is the number one network, lead by such hard-hitting dramas as the three shows in the NCIS franchise about Navy investigators; Hawaii Five-0, and Blue Bloods where law enforcement and threats to national security mix frequently, and another new action series Scorpion.

In Yemen, the protests are not about some obscure video. The issue is drone strikes against terrorist camps. The photos showing dead women and children are fakes, but are still used by the media and the militants. Ambassador Wellington does not think additional security is needed, but Secretary McCord disagrees and wants to send troops. This is the reverse of the Benghazi case where Ambassador Stevens wanted more help but his requests were rejected, supposedly by middle management at State. One of the unanswered questions about Benghazi is whether Secretary Hillary Clinton heard of the requests and concurred with her subordinates. In the TV show, there is no middle management; all important issues go straight to Secretary McCord's desk.

McCord first wants extra Marines to reinforce the contingent already deployed at the Yemen embassy. There were no Marines in Libya. She is told she needs funding for this and meets with the congressman in charge of the appropriation. He turns her down. Democrats have alleged that Republican cuts to the State Department budget weakened diplomatic security. However, at an open hearing my former boss Rep. Dana Rohrabacher asked Charlene Lamb, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Programs at the Bureau of Diplomatic Security whether the weak defense at Benghazi was a budget issue. She replied “No.” It wasn't money, but judgment that was lacking.      

In Libya, there was a 12-man security team on loan from the Department of Defense which State dismissed. Instead, State hired a local militia to protect the Benghazi consulate, a force that proved unreliable. McCord also hires private security guards using discretionary State funds, but she chooses an American contractor who puts 50 men on the ground in short order. As a professor, McCord had denounced the use of "mercenaries" in a major publication, but now finds their use vital. Her staff has to spin the difference between academic theory and the real world. To soften the blow, the head of the security firm tells McCord that her article helped him improve his operations. The defense contractor is portrayed as a no-nonsense patriot who can be trusted.

The embassy is attacked and destroyed, but the ambassador and his staff are evacuated without loss. The only American killed is one of the security contractors. McCord personally visits the fallen hero's wife and son to console them. In Benghazi, contractors were the only ones to put up a fight, but there weren't enough of them to save the ambassador. Two employed by the CIA were killed by mortar fire from the "protesters." their families have not gotten much consideration from the Obama administration.

The final and perhaps most important contrast between the show and reality is when, only days after the attack, McCord reports that Navy SEALs have captured the plotters and turned them over to the FBI for "rendition." Over two years after the death of Ambassador Stevens and three others in Benghazi, no action has been taken against those involved in the assault, even though the identities of many of the terrorists have long been known.

Throughout the episode, Secretary McCord moves with logic and determination to solve the Yemen crisis, even changing her prior views on some issues to get the job done. Perhaps fantasy can inform reality.