President Obama’s attempts to wriggle free from his own words and actions on Libya are making things worse.
American Crossroads, taking exception to Obama’s announcement last night that he really had declared Benghazi to be an act of terrorism, has sent out a memo, which reads:
The President clearly misled the American people with this claim, because if Obama’s Rose Garden speech was indeed the White House position, it did not inform any subsequent statement by the White House press office — and was even directly contradicted by his own spokesman several days later.
On September 20 — eight days after Obama claims to have called the Benghazi attack an “act of terror” — Jay Carney affirmed to reporters that the White House had never called it “a terrorist attack.”
From the gaggle on Air Force One, en route to Miami, 9/20/2012:
Q: Can you — have you called it a terrorist attack before? Have you said that?
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t, but — I mean, people attacked our embassy. It’s an act of terror by definition.
Q: Yes, I just hadn’t heard you —
MR. CARNEY: It doesn’t have to do with what date it occurred.
Q: No, I just hadn’t heard the White House say that this was an act of terrorism or a terrorist attack. And I just —
MR. CARNEY: I don’t think the fact that we hadn’t is not — as our NCTC Director testified yesterday, a number of different elements appear to have been involved in the attack, including individuals connected to militant groups that are prevalent in eastern Libya, particularly in the Benghazi area. We are looking at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to al Qaeda or al Qaeda’s affiliates, in particular al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Here, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney actually affirmed Gov. Romney’s position that the White House did not call the Benghazi attack an act of terrorism. Carney also said the now infamous video “precipitated some of the unrest in Benghazi” the day before.
The memo goes on to argue that Obama’s position on Libya is “untenable.” That’s about the shape of things. Did he call it an act of terror and go around misleading the country for two weeks that it was a spontaneous reaction to the anti-Muslim movie? Or did he not call it terror on Sept. 12 and lie to the voters last night?
There is another problem with Obama’s response. Recall this part of his answer: “So as soon as we found out that the Benghazi Consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team, and I gave them three instructions. Number one, beef up our security and — and — and procedures not just in Libya but every embassy and consulate in the region. Number two, investigate exactly what happened, regardless of where the facts lead us, to make sure that folks are held accountable and it doesn’t happen again. And number three, we are going to find out who did this, and we are going to hunt them down, because one of the things that I’ve said throughout my presidency is when folks mess with Americans, we go after them”
So there was no actual meeting of the National Security Council at which everyone could share information and get on the same page? (David Axelrod has refused to say.) It doesn’t sound like it. But you know Obama was busy that day — flying to Las Vegas for a campaign event. So really, why have a meeting? Well, the weeks of confusion and dissembling that followed should answer that.
Moreover, if he actually did instruct his team to heighten protection for the Libya Consulate, why was the consulate left unsecured so that CNN could waltz in to grab Ambassador Chris Stevens’s diary? Did Obama not make himself clear, or were his instructions not followed?
The more we learn the more we see how both dishonest and incompetent has been the handling of this entire incident. The Obama White House may be out spinning the press to buy into the Obama-Crowley line, but no one is buying it. As the rest of the information comes to light, the president retains less and less credibility. Like a fish on a line he flops this way and that, trying to break free of his self-created trap.
And finally, this Reuters report suggests the administration was entirely unprepared for the 9-11 attacks.:
In the months before the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, U.S. and allied intelligence agencies warned the White House and State Department repeatedly that the region was becoming an increasingly dangerous vortex for jihadist groups loosely linked or sympathetic to al Qaeda, according to U.S. officials.
Despite those warnings, and bold public displays by Islamist militants around Benghazi, embassies in the region were advised to project a sense of calm and normalcy in the run-up to the anniversary of the September 11 attacks in the United States.
In short, it appears that the Obama administration didn’t take 9-11 all that seriously, and when tragedy hit, it went into spin mode. Now the president is caught in a tangle of contradictions. Not even Candy Crowley can get him out.
More on Libya from The Washington Post: