Lady Macbeth may have been one of literature’s most famous villains, but at least she had the guilty conscience to eventually try and wash the blood off her hands. Even if by then it was much too late.
It is doubtful that Hillary Rodham Clinton will start hallucinating bloody spots on her palms during the book tour for her upcoming 14-million-dollar book or compulsively washing her hands during the 2016 campaign.
If she does make it into the White House, it is even more doubtful that she will wonder it at night in a nightgown crying out for the blood that can never be washed away.
Lady Macbeth may have cried out, “Here’s the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of Araby will not sweeten this little hand.” But the black perfumes of today’s Araby are more than enough to sweeten a multitude of appeasements and cover the blood that flows out from them.
Real life villains are closer to Richard III than Lady Macbeth, offering to trade their stolen kingdom for a horse to the very end, rather than seeking some intangible repentance in a fit of remorse. They are more likely to ask what difference it makes; the solipsistic query of the sociopath to whom the feelings of others are abstract things.
The Benghazi hearings featured more hypocritical and trite eulogies than anything Richard III could have imagined. Congressman Elijah Cummings told witnesses that “death is a part of a life.” A fact that they were surely unaware of. His colleague, Eleanor Holmes Norton asked, “What’s the big deal here?”
“We had Benghazi I with Susan Rice, now we’re having Benghazi II with Hillary Clinton. Enough Benghazi,” Norton declared. It’s not quite “Out, damned spot!” or “What, will these hands ne’er be clean?” and more “What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?”
The latter is a timeless villain’s truth, whether in a fictional 11th century Scottish castle or in the all too real 21st century Capitol Hill.
For Lady Macbeth, power was not a sufficient defense against conscience. A thousand years later, in Foggy Bottom, Capitol Hill and at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue; there is no conscience, only power. The arrogance of an Obama, a Clinton or a Norton comes from their confidence that none can call their power to account.
Norton and Clinton have more of a point than critics give them credit for. Benghazi isn’t a big deal. Not compared to the rivers of blood they shed in Afghanistan. In Benghazi, four Americans were abandoned. In Afghanistan, it was over 1500 soldiers killed and nearly 15,000 wounded many of them denied air support and the ability to fight back under rules of engagement that likely also played a part in the betrayal at Benghazi.
Iosif Vissarionovich (Joseph) Stalin, a Shakespearean villain, if there ever was one, who helpfully wrote his own soliloquies, once said that while a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. The four deaths in Benghazi are also a tragedy. Though we must of course, as Congressman Cummings told us, put them into the context of death being a part of life. Afghanistan however is just a statistic.
The day after Benghazi, the parents of Navy SEALS from Seal Team Six, along with military experts and former military officials, appeared at the National Press Club to demand a congressional investigation. The media responded with a collective shrugs and resumed providing non-stop coverage of the Jodi Arias case. Some Lady Macbeths go to prison. Others are meant to go to the White House.
“Why was there no pre-assault fire?” Karen Vaughn, the mother of Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn, asked. “We were told as families that pre-assault fire damages our efforts to win the hearts and minds of our enemy. So in other words, the hearts and minds of our enemy are more valuable to this government than my son’s blood.”
“Why didn’t they take them out with a drone,” Charles Strange, the father of Michael Strange asked. “The Admiral told me, to win the hearts and minds. I says, to win the hearts and minds? How about my heart? How about my mind?” But not all hearts and minds are created equal. And not all blood is valued the same.