November 5 2012

POTUS: The Twelve Missing Hours

Charlotte Hays

Well, well, the Obama administration ran out the clock on the Benghazi attacks.

We vote tomorrow not just with questions unanswered but with questions unasked.

Fox News has done a splendid job of unearthing actual information about what happened in Benghazi. The mainstream media--not so much.  

How pathetic that nearly on the eve of the voting the Washington Post belatedly gets around to addressing Benghazi in an editorial critical of the administration.

Where was the Watergate newspaper during the last nearly two months since the attacks that killed four Americans, including our ambassador, when it could have asked questions and perhaps given voters valuable information?

The mainstream media’s silence was broken slightly before the newspaper’s editorial when Post columnist David Ignatius wrote that there are “lingering questions” about Benghazi that should be answered before we vote. Ignatius mentioned the good reporting by Fox.

The administration must have worried that an important member of the MSM would raise questions about Benghazi. Sources within the administration immediately treated the Post to two narratives of what happened that night (that night would be Sept. 11) in Benghazi, one from the State Department and one from the CIA. Unfortunately, neither tells voters what we really need to know.

Claudia Rosett, journalist-in-residence at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, explains:  

What was the president doing during those 12 hours? The official White House schedule for Sept. 11 tells us he had been to a memorial service at the Pentagon that morning, then visited the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at 2:15 PM, returning at 4:50 PM to the White House for a previously scheduled meeting at 5:00 PM with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. The White House has said that Obama was informed at about 5 PM of the attack in Benghazi. Did no one on his staff try to inform him sooner? By then, the diplomatic post had already been under attack for well over an hour. It was 11 PM in Benghazi, where a rescue squad from the annex had arrived at the burning diplomatic compound and was trying, without success, to reach Ambassador Stevens amid the intense fire and smoke.

The White House schedule for that week shows nothing for the president after that 5 PM meeting on Sept. 11, at which time he reportedly got word of the attack. The next item for the president, as now recorded in the White House schedule, was his appearance at 10:35 the next morning, Sept. 12, when he delivered a statement in the Rose Garden, deploring the deaths of the four Americans, while implying that some sort of deliberate third-party offense (the video) had provoked the attack (“While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others…”).

IWF’s Carrie Lukas has an excellent post that gives the president’s schedule for the relevant time frame. When the dust clears on this nasty and vulgar campaign, we may get answers on Benghazi. The press will have covered itself in shame (an eleventh hour editorial by the Post--just when it is “safe” to criticize the president without risking votes--doesn't count).

My old friend Barry Rubin, one of our best writers on the Middle East, has some ideas why apparently nothing was done to save Americans serving out country on foreign soil. In a piece headlined “A Short Guide to the Benghazi Issue: What Is It Really All About,” he writes:

As noted above, the establishment view today is that America has been a bully in the past, acting unilaterally and not respecting the views of others. Obama has said this directly when speaking to foreign — including Middle Eastern — audiences.

But how does one stop being a bully? By showing that one isn’t tough and doesn’t protect one’s interests fiercely. Thus, in the Benghazi case, the U.S. government didn’t send the ambassador to Benghazi with Americans to guard him, nor did the consulate have Americans to provide security. To do so would be to show disrespect for the Libyans, to act in a way that might be perceived of as imperialistic.

Similarly, the president would not call in an airstrike against the attackers or send an armed rescue team to the consulate because to do so would have signaled an arrogance and aggressiveness, putting Americans first and not acting as a citizen of the world….

There is, or should be, a sacred trust between the U.S. government and those who put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of America. Everything should be done to protect and save them. In this case, however, the country’s leaders let those people down both before and during the crisis.

The apparent inaction on the part of the administration stems, if Rubin’s analysis is correct, from a particular view of the United States. The mainstream media, because it in all likelihood shares this vision of the United States, has been complicit in heading off any pre-election discussion of it that more reporting might have made inevitable. 

 

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