February 11 2013

Benghazi and Presidential Character

Charlotte Hays

A breathtakingly arrogant remark occurred in the presidential debate on foreign policy. Speaking of our diplomats abroad, specifically regarding Benghazi, President Obama had a Louis XIV moment:

And these aren't just representatives of the United States, they are my representatives. I send them there, oftentimes into harm's way.

This was merely offensive at the time. In retrospect, it is downright disgusting because we now know through Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s congressional testimony last week on Benghazi that, while our diplomats were in his grandiose view representing Barack Obama personally in a dangerous place, the president was not representing them.

President Obama was AWOL the night four Americans, including the first U.S ambassador slain in the line of duty in three decades, died in Benghazi. He basically told Panetta to take care of things. Did he go to bed to get some beauty rest before his campaign trip to Las Vegas the next day? That we don’t know yet.

But we do know that this may be the most shocking dereliction of duty since Nero played his fiddle. This is what the administration was dancing around in its efforts, successful so far thanks to the media, to hold off on Benghazi until after the election was safely in the past.

Bill Kristol and Peter Wehner, both of whom have worked at high level in Republican White Houses, have a piece this morning in the Wall Street Journal on “The Absentee Commander in Chief.” Subheadline: “The Defense secretary told the president that Americans in Benghazi were under attack. Then: nothing.”

Kristol and Wehner take note of the different levels of the scandal: despite repeated warnings about danger from Ambassador Christopher Stevens, there were not forces in place nearby to help in the event of an attack;  despite the gravity of  the situation the president did not communicate with Panetta that night, beyond a brief, already scheduled meeting at around 5 in the afternoon.

It was at that meeting that the president, speaking in generalities, told Panetta to handle things. Then of course, despite Panetta's knowledge that Benghazi was a terrorist attack on the night of the attack, the administration sent U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice out to mislead the public.

Kristol and Wehner conclude:

Why the deception? Presumably for two reasons. The first is that the true account of events undercut the president's claim during the campaign that al Qaeda was severely weakened in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The second is that a true account of what happened in Benghazi that night would have revealed that the president and his top national-security advisers did not treat a lethal attack by Islamic terrorists on Americans as a crisis. The commander in chief not only didn't convene a meeting in the Situation Room; he didn't even bother to call his Defense secretary or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Not a single presidential finger was lifted to help Americans under attack.

This is an embarrassment and a disgrace. Is it too much to hope that President Obama is privately ashamed of his inattention and passivity that night? And that he has resolved, and instructed his senior staff, to take care that he not be derelict in his duty as commander in chief ever again?

Looking back at what the president said about Libya during the presidential debate, I see a man who was carefully calibrating his words so that they would be true—just barely—and so that, if the substance of what happened that night ever surfaced, he could not be accused of outright lying:

Now with respect to Libya, as I indicated in the last debate, when we received that phone call, I immediately made sure that, number one, that we did everything we could to secure those Americans who were still in harm's way; number two, that we would investigate exactly what happened, and number three, most importantly, that we would go after those who killed Americans and we would bring them to justice. And that's exactly what we're going to do.

Just for the record: nobody that we know of has yet been brought to justice.

Senators, in particular Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is responsible for having Panetta testify in the first place, and Marco Rubio of Florida, did a much better job of getting information than when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified on Benghazi. Somebody apparently told the senators to ask questions instead of testifying themselves. Also, Panetta, as it appears, is not the kind of guy who would be comfortable not telling the truth to Congress.

And as my final point, I’d like to quote famous words that John Adams wrote about the White House in a letter to his wife Abigail and that have since been carved into a mantel in the White House:

I Pray Heaven to Bestow The Best of Blessing on THIS HOUSE, and on All that shall hereafter Inhabit it. May none but Honest and Wise Men ever rule under This Roof!

President Obama was not wise on the night our consulate was attacked in Benghazi.

It is never too late to come clean, however.

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