Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly accepting blame for the security failures in Libya the night before a hugely important presidential debate might be nothing more than a fabricated set-up to allow President Obama to dig himself out of a hole. Hillary’s statement was obviously timed so that it would take some of the pressure off Obama and swamp today’s pre-debate news — which it has. But the timing also pretty much ensures it will come up during tonight’s debate, and that’s where I smell a rat.

Is the Obama campaign playing a simple game of checkers where Hillary’s statement is meant to let Obama off the hook 24 hours prior to the debate? Or is the Obama campaign playing a more complicated game of chess that potentially sets up a powerful presidential moment for Obama?

Think about it: If Obama were to stand up before the American people tonight and thank Hillary for being The Greatest Secretary Of State In The History Of The Americas and then pull her out from under the bus and accept 100% of the responsibility himself, he’d look like some kind of hero.

A moment like this would be dramatic, make the president look good, and likely command a lot of the attention in post-debate coverage. Pulling a manufactured stunt like this also presents almost no downside (everyone blames Obama anyway) and almost 100% upside.

Just for starters, Obama would look chivalrous rescuing his female Secretary of State. This can’t hurt with the women’s vote and it certainly can’t hurt with Hillary’s core supporters who might be thinking of voting for Romney. Moreover, the media will absolutely gush over Obama for pulling Hillary off her sword. Almost immediately, The Libya Narrative could shift to how noble and brave it was for Obama to step up and accept responsibility. Suddenly, he’d actually look as though he has some credibility on the Libya issue.

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