Columbus Dispatch editorial rips Obama administration "incompetence or dishonesty" on Benghazi

Perhaps this won’t come as a big surprise, since this major newspaper in the key swing state of Ohio endorsed John McCain in 2008, and will probably endorse Mitt Romney this time around.  Actually, that seems pretty certain after reading this broadside from their editorial board over the White House’s “incompetence or dishonesty” in their handling of security in Libya and the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Benghazi consulate.  Calling the deaths of four Americans in the attack a “preventable tragedy” — in fact, that’s the title of the editorial — the editors blast Obama and his team for its ridiculous cover story in the days following the terrorist attack:


For at least a week, State Department officials blamed the attack on a spontaneous demonstration against a rogue video, made in the U.S., that mocks Islam. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said onMeet the Press on Sept. 16, “What happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, prompted by the video.”

That explanation came under withering scrutiny, with pundits mocking the notion of “spontaneous” demonstrators showing up armed with rocket-propelled grenades.

Even as military and intelligence officials flatly stated the obvious as early as Sept. 13 — that the attack was a planned terrorist operation — the statements of those closest to the president, including Press Secretary Jay Carney, vacillated. On Sept. 18, Carney said, “Our belief … is it was the video that caused the unrest in Cairo… and that precipitated some of the unrest in Benghazi and elsewhere.”

And they give equal treatment to the “demoralizing and infuriating” inattention to security — especially on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks:

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb, who helps oversee diplomatic security, acknowledged in the hearing that she had told security officials at the U.S. Embassy in the capital city of Tripoli not to bother asking for more security help after the assignment of a supplemental security team ended in August.

Security officer Eric A. Nordstrom told Congress members he took Lamb’s refusal to mean “there was going to be too much political cost.”

In March and July, Nordstrom cabled his superiors in the State Department asking for more security at Benghazi, which had much less protection than the embassy in Tripoli. He got no reply.

His further comment at Wednesday’s hearing is damning: “The takeaway from that, for me and my staff: It was abundantly clear we were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an incident. And the question that we would ask is, again, ‘How thin does the ice have to get before someone falls through?’ ”


Their conclusion?

What is equally evident is that, despite repeated concerns by diplomats working in Libya, the administration shortchanged security. And when the worst happened, it wasn’t willing to tell the truth to the American people.

It’s not as if the Dispatch’s editors didn’t warn their readers about the risks of voting for someone with no executive or diplomatic experience for President.  These passages from their 2008 editorial seems especially prescient:

A resume containing so little evidence of leadership and accomplishment leaves in question Obama’s ability to handle the most responsible and difficult job in the world, especially at a time when the nation faces a combination of problems so large and complex that they would challenge even the most seasoned leader. ….

At a time when the nation faces serious problems, including international economic turmoil, immigration, health care, war in Afghanistan, nation-building in Iraq and foreign-policy challenges from the Middle East, Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela, the president should have an extensive resume and long experience in grappling with tough decisions. Few new presidents have faced an assignment as tough as the one facing the winner of the November election.


Obviously, though, the Dispatch endorsement didn’t carry enough weight with Ohio voters in 2008 to swing the state for McCain.  It’s also debatable whether newspaper endorsements have any impact at all these days, although campaigns certainly like to brag about them.  In a bygone era, people put more trust in newspapers (deservedly or not); these days, they can get commentary wherever they desire.

Still, this is noteworthy for its still-lonely example in the mainstream media for calling out the Obama administration on its cover-up on Benghazi, and its lack of attention to security in one of the most dangerous corners of the world.  That may well have some impact on voters in a state that Romney must win, and that Obama would dearly love to keep in his column as a defense against the surging Republican.

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