Via Greg Hengler, I don’t know where to begin here. At 2:05, he says he agrees that it’s important to find out what happened in Benghazi and that the administration’s provided every bit of information it has. Not true. He still hasn’t told us precisely what he instructed the military to do, or not do, after the attack was underway. All he’s said is that he issued some sort of directive to “make sure we are securing our personnel.” What did the directive say, explicitly? At what point during the attack did he issue it? Did securing our personnel include sending reinforcements to the annex to assist the CIA security team after they allegedly called for help? He keeps deflecting these questions with claims that we need to “investigate” but he knows the answers to all of that. He simply refuses to say. So far.
Beyond that, how is this some sort of sterling defense of Susan Rice?
“As I said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her,” Obama said at the press conference, defending the statements the ambassador to the U.N. made regarding the Benghazi attack.
What on earth was Rice doing on the Sunday shows in the first place? Two months later, I’ve yet to see an explanation of that in the media. She’s the ambassador to the UN; she has no firsthand knowledge of what happened in Benghazi the way, say, Hillary or Petraeus or John Brennan or Tom Donilon or other people who dealt with the crisis would have. They might as well have sent Carney or Axelrod out there if they wanted someone to mindlessly flack talking points. But since O’s now admitting that she was only saying what the White House wanted her to say, let’s go back to her chat-show appearance on ABC. The left’s tried to redeem her periodically since then by noting that Rice never claimed that the attack was merely a protest that got out of hand; what she said was that there was a protest, and then jihadis showed up while the protest was going on and started attacking the consulate. But that’s untrue: According to the best independent account of the attack I’ve seen, the AP’s, 150 jihadis showed up 90 minutes before the attack and began methodically setting up roadblocks to isolate the consulate. At some point, one of them convinced (intimidated?) a group of bystanders to chant about the movie, presumably for propaganda value. There was never any “spontaneous protest” that was hijacked by terrorists. It was a terrorist operation from the start.
But so what, you say. Rice spoke five days after the attack; the full story of what happened hadn’t been sorted out yet. She was only telling you what the CIA told her. In that case, explain this:
TAPPER: Why was there such a security breakdown? Why was there not better security at the compound in Benghazi? Why were there not U.S. Marines at the embassy in Tripoli?
RICE: Well, first of all, we had a substantial security presence with our personnel…
TAPPER: Not substantial enough, though, right?
RICE: … with our personnel and the consulate in Benghazi. Tragically, two of the four Americans who were killed were there providing security. That was their function. And indeed, there were many other colleagues who were doing the same with them.
It obviously didn’t prove sufficient to the — the nature of the attack and sufficient in that — in that moment. And that’s why, obviously, we have reinforced our remaining presence in Tripoli and why the president has very — been very clear that in Libya and throughout the region we are going to call on the governments, first of all, to assume their responsibilities to protect our facilities and our personnel, and we’re reinforcing our facilities and our — our embassies where possible…
TAPPER: But why…
RICE: … and where needed.
TAPPER: Why would we not have Marines at the embassy in Tripoli to begin with? It would seem like this — this is obviously an unstable country. This is a region where U.S. interests have been attacked in previous months. Why were there not Marines there to begin with?
RICE: First of all, there are Marines in some places around the world. There are not Marines in every facility. That depends on the circumstances. That depends on the requirements. Our presence in Tripoli, as in Benghazi, is relatively new, as you will recall. We’ve been back post-revolution only for a matter of months.
But I’ve visited there myself, both to Tripoli and Benghazi. I was very grateful to have a strong security presence with me as part of our — our embassy detachment there. So we certainly are aware that Libya is a place where there have been increasingly some violent incidents. The security personnel that the State Department thought were required were in place. And we’ll see when the investigation unfolds whether what was — what transpired in Benghazi might have unfolded differently in different circumstances.
Show of hands: Knowing what you know now, does anyone, left or right, think “substantial” is a fair description of the security presence at the consulate and CIA annex? Rice’s answer here is designed to convince the average joe that there was a robust security force in place and it simply got overrun by a shockingly, unforeseeably large, organized jihadi force. But that’s nonsense. We know now that security personnel on the ground were begging State for months to beef things up and that Stevens and his team knew there was a significant, well organized radical presence in Benghazi. So weak was security, in fact, that the attack that killed him and three other Americans might very well have been an inside job perpetrated by a Libyan guard whom the consulate had been stuck with. All of this was known to State, and yet the White House still sent Rice out there five days after the attack to blow smoke about how solid our security was in Benghazi. That, not the “spontaneous protest” bit, is the most egregious lie she told. First question at the inevitable Susan Rice confirmation hearing for Secretary of State should be whether she stands by her assessment of how “substantial” our presence was. And if she says no, the second question had better be what she intends to do about it as Hillary’s successor.
Exit quotation from Lindsey Graham, responding to Obama’s garbage here: “Mr. President, don’t think for one minute I don’t hold you ultimately responsible for Benghazi.”
Update: Just wondering: Where was this bold “the buck stops here” derring-do during September and October? As I recall, he was happy to let Hillary and State take a beating from Benghazi critics for weeks, to the point where she issued a “buck stops here” statement of her own. Obama finally followed suit the following day in his second debate with Romney. He’s awfully quick to stick up for his underlings with the “come after me” bravado — but only if he doesn’t have to worry about his reelection. Quite a boss.