Five months after the murder of four Americans by terrorists in Libya, we still know precious little about the activities of the man who had the ultimate responsibility to protect them–the President of the United States.
Indeed, Mr. Obama was a virtual ghost on that fateful evening. Only last week, during testimony by outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, we learned that Mr. Obama offered his only guidance to military forces as the attack unfolded. “Do whatever you need to do to protect American lives,” Obama reportedly told Mr. Panetta. The comments came in a previously-scheduled meeting between the President, Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
After that? It’s anyone’s guess. The White House has disclosed virtually nothing on Mr. Obama’s whereabouts our activities from the end of that meeting (which wrapped up around 5:30 pm) and the next morning, when he climbed on Air Force One for a fund-raising speech in Las Vegas.
At some point in the evening, President Obama reportedly called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As you might have guessed, details of that conversation have never been released. But according to Mr. Panetta, there was no further communication (or guidance) from the President on the Beghanzi crisis, even as Ambassador Chris Stevens went missing (and eventually died), along with a State Department official and two former Navy SEALs, working as CIA contractors, who came to the aid of the beleaguered consulate.
So where was Mr. Obama? The White House claims it has “answered all questions on Libya,” suggesting that no further information will be forthcoming. So, outside the remote possibility of a whistle-blower leak, don’t look for new details from the administration.
Still, there should be another source of information for Congressional investigators. Anyone with a basic knowledge of White House operations knows that the Secret Service maintains detailed logs on all Presidential movements, even if he’s only going from the Oval Office to his living quarters. Similarly, there are detailed visitor logs, phone logs and other records of what was going on during the hours in question.
That begs an obvious question: why haven’t Congressional Republicans subpoenaed those logs? Perhaps Senator McCain or Senator Graham can explain. To be sure, their status as the minority party looking into Benghazi limits their power to demand documents from the White House, but that isn’t the case on the House side. Why hasn’t Congressman Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, made a request for those records? Perhaps someone ought to call his office, too.
Oddly enough, there have been claims that Mr. Obama watched the entire debacle unfold from the White House Situation Room, through real-time video provided by a Predator drone that arrived over Benghazi in the early stages of the attack. The White House has never released still photos of Mr. Obama in the Situation Room during Benghazi, though photographs of the President in that facility were taken during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and again during the government response to Hurricane Sandy.
Why does this matter (to coin a phrase)? Because it is reflective of Mr. Obama’s leadership, or in this case, the lack thereof. Faced with a urgent situation at a U.S. diplomatic facility abroad, the President took a pass, issuing a vague order and, essentially, retiring for the night. From Mr. Panetta and General Dempsey, we know there was no further communication from the POTUS, even as Americans fought for their lives in Benghazi. That reflects a wholesale lack of interest, compassion and decency that is shocking, even by the low standards of the Obama Administration.
How can an elected leader engage in such fecklessness? Our theory goes something like this: early reports from Libya were grim, and the situation was likely to get worse. In the middle of a heated presidential campaign, Mr. Obama and his handlers decided he didn’t need to be anywhere near a disaster-in-the-making, so management of the crisis was farmed out to the Pentagon. We’re also guessing that White House interest in that infamous You Tube video which “insulted” the Prophet Mohammed, began to spike about the same time.
So, President Obama took a pass and four Americans died. That must be awfully reassuring to military members, diplomats, contractors, intelligence operatives and other U.S. citizens who go in harm’s way. If you wind up in a jam, Mr. Obama might actually participate in efforts to assist you–if it meets the right political conditions. But if the situation is bleak, your fate may be in the hands of the new Secretary of State (John Kerry) who can’t get his calls returned by the Russian foreign minister, or the next Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, who admits he has much more to learn about the operations and capabilities of his new department.
It’s time for a look at those White House logs on that terrible night in September.