Video: Obama ducks questions on why help wasn't sent to Benghazi

“We’re going to gather all the facts,” he says, echoing Hillary’s plea to let the investigation play out until, oh, say, mid-November at the earliest. Simple question: Why does he need “all the facts” about Benghazi to find out (a) whether anyone at the consulate called for help during the attack and (b) if so, who in the chain of command denied that request? He could find that out with 10 minutes of phoning around and then spend another 10 firing the people involved — assuming, of course, that it wasn’t The One himself who delivered the thumbs down on the calls for help. Problem is, there’s only one thing he really cares about, and that thing wouldn’t be well served by an admission 10 days out from election day that his administration screwed up badly enough in Benghazi to warrant canning people. So he’s playing the “all the facts” game. Estimated arrival of all the facts: 11 days from now.

Clark pressed again.

“Were they denied requests for help during the attack?” he asked.

“Well, we are finding out exactly what happened,” the president again said. “I can tell you, as I’ve said over the last couple of months since this happened, the minute I found out what was happening, I gave three very clear directives. Number one, make sure that we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to. Number two, we’re going to investigate exactly what happened so that it doesn’t happen again. Number three, find out who did this so we can bring them to justice. And I guarantee you that everyone in the state department, our military, the CIA, you name it, had number one priority making sure that people were safe. These were our folks and we’re going to find out exactly what happened, but what we’re also going to do it make sure that we are identifying those who carried out these terrible attacks.”

Two things worth noting there. One: In claiming that he needs to “find out exactly what happened,” he’s professing ignorance about the distress calls. Remember that if/when it comes out later that he had earlier notice than we thought. Two: The first “directive” makes it sound like he’s blaming someone else for not informing him sooner so that he could send the help needed. Is that a reference to the CIA? If so, David Petraeus is prepared for it: Per Bill Kristol, he just threw Obama under the bus.

CIA spokesperson Jennifer Youngblood said, “We can say with confidence that the Agency reacted quickly to aid our colleagues during that terrible evening in Benghazi. Moreover, no one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate. In fact, it is important to remember how many lives were saved by courageous Americans who put their own safety at risk that night-and that some of those selfless Americans gave their lives in the effort to rescue their comrades.”

If CIA didn’t give the order to stand down, who did? Panetta? In that case, why is the Secretary of Defense being called on to make a snap decision on a sudden military intervention in the middle of an international crisis? To put it differently, if O’s excuse is that no one gave him a heads up while this was going on — for hours — why didn’t he get that heads up? “The ambassador is under siege by jihadists in Libya and his security detail is requesting assistance” sounds exactly like the sort of thing you’d get in the fabled 3 a.m. phone call. How come someone other than O took the call, if that’s what in fact happened? Was he busy with something more important, like a fundraiser in Vegas?

His alleged ignorance isn’t limited to the distress calls, either:

President Obama today said that he had not been aware of the requests for additional security made by security officials in Libya before the deadly attacks on U.S. diplomatic posts in Benghazi.

“I was not personally aware of any request,” the president told radio host Michael Smerconish. ”We have an infrastructure set up to manage requests like that but we’re going to find out what happened. Ultimately though any time there is a death of an American overseas I want to find out what happened because my most important job as President is to keep the American people safe.”

It sure is odd how thoroughly uninformed he seems to have been about what was happening in Libya, which is supposed to be a key part of his reelection foreign-policy credentials. In fact, after you watch the video of his interview with the Denver station, listen to the call Rush Limbaugh got today from someone claiming (convincingly) to be a special ops planner. He insists that Obama would have, or should have, been informed within minutes once the Situation Room got a message that Stevens was in peril. If that’s true, then it defies reason to think O wouldn’t have also been informed immediately once Americans at the consulate were requesting military help. The caller thinks maybe Obama gave the thumbs down because he was afraid of another Desert One-type failure happening and branding his administration Carter redux right before the election. Could be, but I think the success of the Bin Laden raid has immunized him on that to some extent. Another possibility is that O didn’t want to send American troops in with guns blazing for fear of a backlash in Libya specifically or across the region generally. That would have also complicated his reelection narrative: Supposedly, helping to topple Qaddafi has earned us goodwill among devotees of the Arab Spring; having a gunship hovering over Benghazi blasting away followed by protests among our new Libyan friends would have cut the knees out from under that storyline. The thing about the distress calls is that even the “best-case scenario” — that Obama wasn’t in fact told until it was too late to help — is proof of catastrophic dysfunction. If that’s how O’s going to play it, pleading ignorance to cover his own ass, okay, but then let’s some some people get fired. Tomorrow.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on December 09, 2022