November 14 2012

Petulant President: Come after Me!

Charlotte Hays

"If Senator McCain and Senator Graham want to go after someone, they should go after me,” President Obama said indignantly during today’s press conference at the White House.

The president was referring to the senators’ attempts to find out what was behind U. N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s odd appearances on no fewer than five Sunday shows peddling a false narrative of what happened in Benghazi.

The president portrayed Rice as somebody who had absolutely nothing to do with the Benghazi attacks. She was simply making what the president called a “presentation.” Rice’s “presentation” blamed the terrorist attack on an obscure video, a a self-serving claim made by the administration and one we now know not to be true.  

But why, if Rice had nothing to say about Benghazi, was she tapped to represent the administration on TV? A cynic might say that she was picked because she knew nothing.

But the president is right about one thing: the senators need to ask him directly what he was doing the night the Libyan attack happened as officials at the U.S. Department of State were able to watch in real time. The question was obliquely asked at the press conference, giving the president a chance to answer without specificity, saying that he had done everything in his power to save American lives.

The president's "come after me" remark gives senators and reporters (ha ha ha) the right to ask (respectfully!) questions nobody really wants to pose to a sitting president: What were you doing that night, Mr. President? Were you in the situation room throughout the crisis? Did you delegate decisions? The time is here for somebody to ask these uncomfortable questions.

Before issuing his petulant challenge, the president might have reflected on Gary Hart. Hart lived to regret throwing down the gauntlet. Of course, back then the press, though liberal, still did reporting. (Don' miss the Media Fawner of the Day.)

It may be that President Obama spent an agonizing night in the situation room, doing, as he says, everything in his power to save Americans who could not be rescued. Maybe he is too modest to share this with us. But we need to know. By the way, though I only watched snatches of the press conference, I couldn't help noticing that the president's tone was an odd one for a man who has just won a new term. The president too often seemed angry, a bad omen for anybody who was hoping for comity in Washington.

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