Does the Libya consulate scandal matter in the presidential election? Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but if it didn’t, then left-wing bloggers wouldn’t be trying to ignore it and come up with more “shiny objects” with which to attempt to distract voters.
On one level it is self-evident that a story involving the deaths of four Americans at the hands of Al Qaeda-linked terrorists and the revelation that the dead men were denied additional security is a big deal. Add in a false narrative coming directly from the mouth of the White House spokesman and a healthy game of finger -pointing between the State Department and others as to who is responsible for misleading the American people and you have a huge story.
The compelling testimony of the former regional security officer in Libya, Eric Nordstrom, recounting his ordeal is not going to be brushed aside lightly. As ABC News reported:
The former regional security officer in Libya, Eric Nordstrom, recalled talking to a regional director and asking for twelve security agents.
“His response to that was, ‘You are asking for the sun, moon and the stars.’ And my response to him – his name was Jim – ‘Jim, you know what makes most frustrating about this assignment? It is not the hardships, it is not the gunfire, it is not the threats. It is dealing and fighting against the people, programs and personnel who are supposed to be supporting me. And I added (sic) it by saying, ‘For me the Taliban is on the inside of the building.’”
In this case the damage to President Obama is especially acute because of four specific factors unique to this election. Any one of them would be sufficient to create an obstacle to his reelection; all four of them make it that much harder for him to win.
First, Obama is behind and must recapture the momentum. (You can tell because the Obama team is spinning internal polls, a sure sign of being behind and needing to stem panic). Days spent batting back a bad storyline are wasted for him. He needs to stop playing defense ( on his rotten debate, on his dopey Big Bird obsession, on Libya) and figure out how to beat the other guy. So long as a big, juicy scandal is sucking up the oxygen that’s hard to do.
Second, Obama has hidden from the press on the story, giving the appearance he has something to conceal. Moreover, that puts VP Joe Biden in the position of being the first person on the ticket to field questions. How’d you like to put your political future and the most critical response to a growing scandal in Biden’s hands? You see the point.
Third, Obama in his post-debate humiliation has staked everything on making Mitt Romney out to be a liar. It hasn’t worked because Obama’s accusations ( on the “$5 trillion tax cut,” especially) don’t hold up and his own claims ( his phony $4 trillion debt plan) are tallying up the Pinocchios. But now does he really want to get into a battle about transparency, credibility, and candor? Romney would be thrilled to have the conversation about misleading the American people.
Four, the Libya debacle severely hampers his touting his one actual foreign policy achievement, the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Because the administration so overplayed its accomplishment, painting it as the effective demise of Al Qaeda, even that is now a sore point. Did his boasting get in the way of honest analysis about the growing threat of Al Qaeda? Did they not take security pleas from its Libyan-based diplomats seriously because Al Qaeda was supposed to be kaput? Again, Romney is now more than willing to talk about why killing the Al Qaeda chieftain didn’t actually bury Al Qaeda. He’s glad, I’m sure, to get the chance to talk about what needs to be done to keep Americans safe (maybe not slash defense, for example). And if that weren’t enough, maybe Obama’s “leading from behind” put us in the position, as Lt. Col. Andrew Wood said in the hearing yesterday, in which Al Qaeda is much better established in Libya than we are.
At this stage in the race Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) can now afford to be somewhat more circumspect, demanding answers rather than making accusations. Why shouldn’t the president give a major address explaining what happened and why his White House ( and he, as late as Sept. 25 in his United Nations address) continued to fabricate a tale in which a protest over an anti-Muslim film resulted in the deaths of the four Americans? Why does the State Department say it didn’t tie the attacks to the film? Should someone be fired for this panoply of, at the very least, gross incompetence?
Let Biden or Obama explain what happened; it is after all ( as it was in Fast and Furious where other innocents were killed) a mess of their administration’s own making.