"I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"
- Capt. Renault, "Casablanca"
I am shocked, shocked that for the past 18 months sophisticated public servants could allow themselves to be so diverted from the scandal that is Benghazi by the comic opera emanating from The White House.
There is no question that The White House was involved in a political sleight of hand to provide cover for the president and Democrats looking to re-election later in the fall of 2012.
It is regrettable that politicians have done what they always do to hide their failings, but it is hardly unexpected.
By making lots of noise about what amounts to petty misbehavior, and "business as usual," Republicans provided a gift to the opposition in diverting attention from the real problem elsewhere.
I say petty because the public can see for itself the daily distortions and lies that pour from the capital while what amounts to the administration's shocking incompetence and neglect for the welfare of those we send abroad in our name is cloaked by the hoopla.
Why Republicans have played this game with them is a mystery.
This script has been seen before. What is different is that the Republicans have allowed the administration and Democrats to get away with it for so long.
The public is bored with allegations they have long since understood and come to accept, and the real misbehavior has been lost in the background.
Though clearly deceit is at the core of the administration officials' behavior as to the talking points, what is shocking is their egregious neglect of our diplomats. Not only did they not protect our diplomats and security personnel, they invited the attack by their conduct and then abandoned our men and senior diplomat to death and desecration.
Now that is worth national shock and real anger.
As early as late March 2012, the State Department knew our personnel in Benghazi, Libya, were in a deteriorating security situation.
In mid-April, the department, in a dispatch signed by Secreatry of State Hillary Clinton, turned down additional security for Benghazi.
Two weeks later, terrorists blew a large hole in the consulate gate.
Again, the State Department turned down a request for a DC-3 to permit fast escape by our ambassador.
In May and June, terrorists were openly operating in vicinity of the consulate, but State was silent on enhanced security.
In June, terrorists openly rallied as Great Britain shut down its consulate as being too dangerous to defend.
U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, despite a demand from State that he not request extension of his MST/MSD Security teams, asked in July for at least 13 more security personnel.
Despite the request from Stevens and the warning of heightened danger to personnel, in August the State Department ordered removal of Stevens' security team.
Stevens, in a request directed to Clinton, asked for emergency security detail and temporarily left the region for a meeting with State Department.
On Sept. 10, al-Qaida leader Al-Zawahiri called for revenge for his deputy, and Stevens warned the State Department of deteriorating conditions. One day later, Stevens and three defenders were slaughtered, and his body was brutally desecrated.
Now I am really shocked and angry. Seldom have I beheld, despite my many decades as a Washington practitioner, such incompetence, shallowness and cynical posturing for the media.
What must be changed going forward is the current public focus on the talking points rather than the incompetence and heartless disregard for the lives of our own citizens sent to represent us to a dangerous part of the world and abandoned.
Robert E. Freer Jr., a former assistant to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, is the BB&T Visiting Professor in Ethics & Free Enterprise Leadership in the School of Business at The Citadel and chairman of the Free Enterprise Foundation.