President Obama, who refuses to give a full accounting of his actions and statements regarding the Benghazi attack, is now taking offense that some people think he’s not been candid with the voters. Yeah, imagine that.
On Morning Joe on Monday, he had this to say:
The president said that he took offense “to some suggestion that, you know, in any way we haven’t tried to make sure the American people knew as information was coming in what we believed happened.”
Was the intelligence community giving the president bad information? “Well, that’s what we’re going to find out from the investigation,” the president said. “But the truth is across the board when this happened my number one priority was to secure Americans, find out what happened and bring those folks to justice. We are in the process of doing that right now. Congress has been getting the flow of information continuously from day one, and what my attitude on this is that if we find out that there was a big breakdown and somebody didn’t do their job, then they’ll be held responsible.”
But what about his job performance? How about giving us the same tick-tock we got when Osama bin Laden was killed? (Even Jimmy Carter’s administration did that when the hostage rescue attempt failed in 1979.) I mean, the president had to have been in the loop when a U.S. ambassador was under siege and military assets were available to rescue him, right?
Akin to the murderer who kills his parents and throws himself on the mercy of the court as an orphan, Obama has some nerve expressing resentment that people suspect he didn’t level with the American people. To begin with — and this was the root of his lousy debate performance — he shouldn’t be surprised to encounter criticism and sharp questioning, especially when things go terribly wrong. He does after all work for the American people, whose votes he is now seeking, without first explaining what he did and why he did it.
More specifically, there is a real question as to who made the call not to send in military forces to rescue the Americans under attack. Iraq War veteran David French observes:
So far we have been provided with a fairly precise accounting of how the State Department deployed its very limited assets to respond to the Benghazi attack, and that account makes for harrowing reading. In short, while there were too few assets in place to help, the State Department threw everyone into the breach — even sending small teams to engage the terrorists without air cover and without heavy weapons. Those men — American and Libyan — by all accounts exhibited bravery most Americans can scarcely comprehend. It wasn’t quite the Alamo or Little Big Horn (thankfully), but they exhibited bravery against overwhelming odds in keeping with the best of American martial traditions. The call came, and the State Department answered with what little it had. It was not enough.
But where is the Department of Defense’s corresponding account of that night? There is little doubt it has already compiled an account at least as comprehensive as the State Department’s — and this account details (a) when the military learned of the attack; (b) the military’s state of situational awareness hour by hour; (c) whether it received any requests for help; (d) what assets — if any — were available to render aid in time; (e) what recommendations were made; (f) whether any definitive orders were given; and (g) who gave them.
French notes that the excuse the secretary of Defense gave (“you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on; without having some real-time information about what’s taking place”) is absurd. French explains, “We deploy forces all the time in our theaters of war without good real-time information. All. The. Time. If we didn’t, far more men would die.”
So if not the president, who made the decision — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta himself? The voters deserve some basic information (including whether the president was AWOL as commander in chief during the first murder of a U.S. ambassador in 33 years). The media’s indifference to finding out what the president knew, what he did and why he did and said what he did, stand out as evidence (if any more was needed) that the media long ago forfeited its role as defender of the “public’s right to know.”
As for the president, his prickly disposition when challenged is just one of many reasons why he has proven to be an ineffectual leader. Perhaps the voters have noticed.