UPDATE: In the wee hours last night after posting this article two important events were brought to my attention:
1. CBS just released the rest of the 60 Minutes interview with President Obama the day after the Benghazi attack. See what it says here at Fox in a post by Brett Baier, who I gave kudos to below. In it the president refused to call the attacks terrorism, notwithstanding his statement at the debate he’d called it that from day 1. It shows the president did not, in fact, take that position until much later, vindicating Mitt Romney in the debate and showing the president deceived the American people (with Cindy Crawley’s help). Byron York and Ari Fleischer both tweeted to ask “why sit on this information until now?” Makes me want to watch the Caddell video again…
2. I received a tweet last night pointing me to the website for Congressman Kelly of Pennsylvania. He’s a co-signer, along with over fifty other members of the House, of a letter sent to the president Friday demanding answers about Benghazi. More evidence people are starting to ask the right questions.
As Vic Lundquist reported, some in the media (Fox) have not let this go. Brett Baier in particular has done a great job. And I was moved when I saw Pat Caddell’s comments (video in Vic’s post, and re-included here below).
But today I finally, finally saw a headline that gave me a glimmer of hope about our media and Benghazi. Two mainstream papers are asking the right questions about what happened and why.
The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post have just, in the last two days, asked some pointed questions to the administration about what happened. Do we expect an answer before Tuesday? I don’t. And for that it’s difficult to forgive the media, as Pat Caddell says. They sat on this too long to allow the truth to get out in time for it to have an impact on people’s choices Tuesday. Unless you vote for Mitt and don’t let the president off the hook for hiding the ball.
In the Washington Post piece, the editorial board asks the reasons why the facility was so under-prepared when the threats of violence were so obvious?
Fox News reported this week that a secret cable described an Aug. 15 “emergency meeting” at the consulate, at which the State Department’s regional security officer “expressed concerns with the ability to defend Post in the event of a coordinated attack due to limited manpower, security measures, weapons capabilities, host nation support and the overall size of the compound.”
Fox reported that the cable, dispatched to Washington, said the emergency meeting included a briefing about al-Qaeda training camps in the Benghazi area and Islamist militias, including those that allegedly carried out the Sept. 11 attack. In another cable on Sept. 11, hours before the attack, Mr. Stevens described “growing problems with security” in Benghazi and “growing frustration” with the local militias and police, to which the State Department had entrusted the consulate’s defense. Separately, according to a report on ForeignPolicy.com, Mr. Stevens may have dispatched a letter to Benghazi authorities, complaining that a policeman assigned to guard the consulate was photographing it on the morning of Sept. 11.
Even if you believe what the Post is willing to, that the ultimate US response was all that could be mustered (there seems to be evidence to the contrary due to assets being available in Italy and a drone flying overhead), they still ask the key question:
…why [were] the various agencies … not better prepared for such an emergency, given the clear warnings. Did the Obama administration’s political preoccupation with maintaining a light footprint in Libya lead to an ill-considered reliance on local militias, rather than on U.S. forces? Given the region’s instability, why were no military rapid-reaction assets — such as Special Forces or armed drones — within reach of Northern Africa?
While the agencies separately defend themselves — or not — the White House appears determined to put off any serious discussion of Benghazi until after the election. Sooner or later, however, the administration must answer questions about what increasingly looks like a major security failure — and about the policies that led to it.
Yes, it appears to be a major security failure, resulting from seriously flawed policies. But “sooner or later” is not really satisfactory to me, since I firmly believe that how the Obama administration planned for, responded to, and reported about this event is highly relevant to whether we should be voting for President Obama’s re-election.
Further, there’s a serious debate to be had whether his foreign policies were truly succeeding. He could argue they were if the attacks were “spontaneous” reactions to a video he had nothing to do with. But that explanation holds no water if the attacks were pre-planned terrorist activities, as the administration has admitted. Thus the administration’s inconsistency for weeks, and now plain silence, are unacceptable to me as they seem calculated to get the president and his policies “off the hook.” And even if not intentionally designed to do so, the weeks of silence, from the “most transparent administration,” have succeeded, at least for now, in allowing the president to avoid that responsibility. Finding out later what really happened is truly unacceptable given the choice we must make Tuesday.
The Wall Street Journal asks a series of similar questions:
• Why did the U.S. not heed warnings about a growing Islamist presence in Benghazi and better protect the diplomatic mission and CIA annex?
The Journal recaps the various pieces of evidence a terrorist threat was growing.
• What exactly happened on the day of 9/11? During the over six hours that the compounds in Benghazi were under siege, could the U.S. have done more to save lives? What was President Obama doing and ordering his subordinates to do in those fateful hours?
To me these are the key questions. Where was Obama, what did he know and when did he know it. I have the impression the answers are not going to put him in a favorable light. The best evidence now suggests he was in a briefing at the White House when the attacks started. He likely knew about the attacks: statements at the debates again suggest he knew of the attacks and gave instructions to his staff to proceed to protect the personnel on the ground. But it also sounds from the description as if he then left the White House. And we know that he went to a fundraiser in Las Vegas. It therefore appears the president left to go work on his re-election while Americans were under attack and the situation unresolved. That would be an answer I believe a number of Americans would find unacceptable and worthy of disqualification as commander in chief.
Mr. Obama was informed of the attacks at around 5 p.m.—11 p.m. in Libya—during a previously scheduled meeting with his military advisers, and he ordered military assets moved to the area, according to ABC News. During the attacks, however, the Administration didn’t convene the Counterterrorism Security Group, which was created to coordinate a response to a terrorist attack, according to a CBS News report.
Late last week, Mr. Obama was twice asked by a local Denver television anchor whether Americans who asked for help in Benghazi were turned down by the chain of command. He didn’t answer.
Lacking “real-time information,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last week, “you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on.” Officials this week insisted military intervention was either too risky or impossible to organize in time.
Yet it’s still reasonable to ask why the U.S. wasn’t prepared for such a contingency. Since 9/11 (of 2001) the U.S. has been at war with the people who attacked in Benghazi, even though many liberals don’t like to say so. One of them is the current Commander in Chief, who still refuses to talk about his Administration’s response to his 9/11.
• Why has the Administration’s story about what took place in Benghazi been so haphazard and unclear?
The Journal recounts the confusion (caused by the Administration), as the president referred in passing to terrorism in his initial Rose Garden address, then the official story changed to blaming the YouTube video.
It took eight days for the Administration to formally declare that the four Americans “were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy,” in the words of Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center. But six days later Mr. Obama was asked by Joy Behar on “The View” if “it was an act of terrorism”? He said the government didn’t know. In his September 25 U.N. address, Mr. Obama made several general references to the YouTube video but made no mention of terrorism in the context of Benghazi.
His campaign stump speech to this day includes the lines that “al Qaeda has been decimated” and the U.S. is “finally turning the page on a decade of war to do some nation-building right here at home” (Thursday in Las Vegas).
They go on to say why it’s so important that we learn the truth now.
Mr. Obama has made the defeat of al Qaeda a core part of his case for re-election. Yet in Benghazi an al Qaeda affiliate killed four U.S. officials in U.S. buildings, contradicting that political narrative.
The President may succeed in stonewalling Congress and the media past Election Day. But the issue will return, perhaps with a vengeance, in an Obama second term. The episode reflects directly on his competence and honesty as Commander in Chief. If his Administration is found to have dissembled, careers will be ended and his Presidency will be severely damaged—all the more so because he refused to deal candidly with the issue before the election.
This is all true. We should know. And we should have known weeks ago. But the media was too slow to ask.
We can only hope this gets some attention before the election Tuesday. The Journal is right: these events reflect directly on the president’s competence, honesty and the efficacy of his policies, all of which would, if we had the truth now, have a significant, and possibly disqualifying effect, on his candidacy for a second term. Again if not knowing this information now because the president hid the ball bothers you as much as it does me, you’ve only one choice: vote to kick out President Obama.
As to the media, I can only repeat: where were you weeks ago? I think it’s worth re-posting Mr. Caddell’s comments here, which ring even more true days after he said them.