President Barack Obama, during Wednesday’s White House news conference, repeatedly cited ongoing investigations as reasons not to give specific answers about the Sept. 11 terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
That’s generally a good enough reason.
But how much longer must we wait until the president answers the following simple question, posed to him Wednesday, about that assault, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens?
“On 9/11, as commander in chief, did you issue any orders to try to protect their lives?”
From the president’s reply:
“We will provide all the information that is available about what happened on that day. That’s what the investigation is for. But as I said repeatedly, if people don’t think that we did everything we can to make sure that we saved the lives of the folks who I sent there and who were carrying out missions on behalf of the United States, then you don’t know how our Defense Department thinks or our State Department thinks or our CIA thinks.”
Yet two months after that attack, we still don’t know nearly enough about what the Defense Department, State Department and CIA were thinking before, during and after it.
And after the latest edition of presidential spin, we still don’t know what he was thinking.
We do know, though, that the Obama administration for far too long advanced the absurd theory that the Benghazi violence was not a planned terror attack but a “spontaneous protest” over an anti-Muslim video. Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, led that charge on five television news shows five days after the attack.
President Obama defended Amb. Rice Wednesday. He even displayed anger over warnings from Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain that they will oppose her if she is picked by the president to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.
The president heatedly suggested: “If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. For them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.”
However, if the president were so concerned about Amb. Rice’s reputation, why did the White House send her out to spread such faulty information?
Last Friday’s resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus over an extramarital affair raises troubling questions of its own. At least the president said Wednesday that he’s seen no evidence that the case involves any security breaches.
Then again, according to the White House, the president didn’t even know about the Petraeus situation until last week, when he was “surprised” to learn of it on Thursday.
Yet the FBI had been investigating the affair, and Attorney General Eric Holder had known about it, since last summer.
If you were president, wouldn’t you want to know if your attorney general knew that your CIA director — and in this case a man who had previously been a key U.S. military figure for the last decade — was the target of such an investigation?
An even more pressing questions: Why wasn’t our security strengthened at our consulate in Benghazi after multiple incidents prompted staffers there to request such upgrades?
Sens. Graham and McCain persuasively advocate creating a combined House-Senate select committee to find overdue answers to that and other questions. They correctly point out that with the CIA, Pentagon and the State Department all deeply involved, separate hearings by intelligence, armed forces and foreign affairs committees would produce a disjointed, ineffective process.
Yes, as the president said, the Benghazi attack remains “under investigation.”
But at some point, that investigation must deliver honest answers to lingering questions about what went so horribly wrong before, during and after that murderous terror attack on our consulate.
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