Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Big Deal About Benghazi

There seem to be two common reactions to the September 11, 2012 attack on our Libyan consulate in Benghazi: outrage and yawns. If you’re one of the yawners, wondering why this story keeps getting brought up after several weeks have gone by, you’re not alone. It isn't strange not to know what there is to be upset about. Actually, it might not even be your fault.

The first problem in all this is the confusion over the President’s main job. I’ll give you a hint: the President’s main job isn’t redistributing wealth, taking care of the poor, bringing energy independence, stopping global warming, or even saving car companies, improving health care, or stimulating the economy. It isn’t sponsoring legislation, reaching across the aisle, creating jobs, or fixing education. Presidents try to do many of these things, and you may or may not think they’re good ideas. But all of it is beside the point if he doesn’t do the thing that should be first and foremost on every President’s agenda every day: keep Americans safe. That one tops the list and always will.

That’s why the story won’t die: the President failed in his number one job, and the failure was not just incidental, it was a spectacular failure with disastrous consequences. Then, almost immediately, he lied about it, and when confronted on his lies, told different lies. Let’s examine each of these claims.

First: that the President failed. It’s entirely self-evident (or was before the media began covering Obama’s tracks by shifting the blame for Benghazi) that protecting our diplomats is essential to any kind of credibility in our foreign policy. So why didn't they act when the attack began? We now know that the State Department received repeated requests for armed assistance from the consulate--in fact, we have learned that there was a live internet feed directly to the White House during the attack. Though Benghazi is not extremely close to a military base, we had air power that could have been above Benghazi in twenty minutes, and men that could have touched ground from Italy within two hours. Instead, the ambassador’s security requests were denied, and he was killed. (This is not even considering the requests leading up to the 11th, only those sent during the actual attack.) The administration abandoned the ambassador and left him to die. Two retired Navy Seals nearby had to disobey direct orders to attempt a rescue, and they paid the ultimate price. There were other retired Seals with them, who we can presume would have helped, if only they had been allowed to.

Now, the people around the President would have brought him this situation and asked him what to do. One of two things is true about the decision to cut off Ambassador Stevens. Either the President made the decision, or he didn’t. We deserve to know which it is and why. If it wasn’t the President, it means there is a critical breakdown of trust and responsibility within his chain of command, the kind that should have already resulted in careers cut short if not courts martial, and the ultimate responsibility would still rest squarely with the Commander-in-Chief. If he did order the inaction, it’s even worse. We can only guess at what the reasons for that might be. I personally suspect that Obama took a lot of pride in the way he handled the Libyan coup without committing troops to the conflict, and also in the idea that Al Qaeda (and hence, Islamic terrorism in general) was "on the run." He didn’t want to spoil that narrative so close to election day. If I'm right, this is truly a craven and disgusting motivation. I obviously don't know what's in the President's head, but it's definitely true that if the President were proud of his motives, he would have disclosed them to us. He hasn’t.

Whatever his reasons, the decision turned out to be the wrong one, and the consulate fell. The Administration next moved into full-on CYA mode, desperate to spin the American deaths in any way they could. Circumstances seemed to help out the President--there was a demonstration in Egypt that coincided with the Benghazi attack. If he could just conflate the two angry mobs in the minds of Americans, people might never know of his colossal blunder. So, he put out the story that the mob in Benghazi was just like the one in Egypt--chaotic, spontaneous, and angry about an anti-Islam film. The problem is, he knew that wasn’t the case, and we have proof that he knew: shortly before the attack in Libya, the ambassador accompanied a visiting dignitary to the gate, and reported no mob action. There was no angry demonstration slowly gaining momentum. Every intelligence report that is released only serves to confirm it was a sudden attack, by a small group of well-armed individuals, planned to coincide with September 11th for symbolic reasons. The White House, the CIA, and the State Department all knew from day one. The President himself, along with others in his administration lied about it, also from day one.

Then, in the second debate against his Republican opponent, President Obama changed his tune. Now he fully admitted that it was a deliberate attack, but acted like his reaction to that attack had been totally appropriate. Then he lied about the first story he had told, saying he had always maintained it was a planned attack. The problem with that is, there’s no need to even research the question to know that he was lying--if you watched the news after September 11th, you saw him lie. He lied, during the debate, about his earlier lie, something that was right out there in the public record.

To me, this is an admission on the part of the President that he is not only incapable, but unwilling to do his number one job. He’s too busy with jobs 414 through 92,748 to care about keeping Americans safe. If I hadn’t already made up my mind on how to cast my vote, there is no question that this issue would have decided it for me.

Which brings us to why it’s not your fault. You don't know what a big deal this was, because the media is happy to endorse the President's lie. This information is so damaging to the President that, if the whole story were told in the way it should be, it would make it impossible for him to retain his office! What’s a Democratic journalist to do?

The thing they haven’t done is demand answers, or even give the story decent coverage. If President Bush, (or a hypothetical President McCain or Romney) had made this mistake, it would have front page coverage until he resigned. At the very least it would be the end of his political power. But with this President, they’d rather talk about the fact that Romney “politicized” the riots with a premature statement.

Think about that. The media, rather than being justifiably outraged at the utter mismanagement (you might even say creation) of a crisis in the Middle East, is criticizing Romney for...what? Drawing the public’s attention to it? Making a swift and decisive statement in a time of uncertainty? Pointing out Obama’s flaws?

The kind of treatment Obama gets from the press, in turn, changes the way he governs. If he's not held accountable for his mistakes, why should he worry about making more?

Last time, Obama was elected on a campaign of change. During this campaign, Mitt Romney has shown repeatedly what his kind of “change” looks like: under President Obama, we’re paying more for much of what we buy every day, we’re less able to get health care, we’re making less money, and we’re less sure of our government’s financial outlook. But it was Barack Obama himself that showed us the worst change of all. We’re less safe.

Do you really need to hear more?

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