The word “Benghazi” was never mentioned in the first presidential debate. It was only mentioned once in the second debate. And it was ignored again in the third debate. (The vice presidential debate ignored it, too.)
That sole mention of Benghazi occurred when Donald Trump brought it up in his own defense, in response to a question about why he had tweeted at three o’clock in the morning. about a dispute with a former Miss Universe.
Yes, the debates were that trivial.
Here, for the record, is the only mention of Benghazi:
COOPER: Mr. Trump, let me follow up with you. In 2008, you wrote in one of your books that the most important characteristic of a good leader is discipline. You said, if a leader doesn’t have it, quote, “he or she won’t be one for very long.” In the days after the first debate, you sent out a series of tweets from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m., including one that told people to check out a sex tape. Is that the discipline of a good leader?
TRUMP: No, there wasn’t check out a sex tape. It was just take a look at the person that she built up to be this wonderful Girl Scout who was no Girl Scout.
COOPER: You mentioned sex tape.
TRUMP: By the way, just so you understand, when she said 3 o’clock in the morning, take a look at Benghazi. She said who is going to answer the call at 3 o’clock in the morning? Guess what? She didn’t answer it, because when Ambassador Stevens…
COOPER: The question is, is that the discipline of a good leader?
TRUMP: … 600 — wait a minute, Anderson, 600 times. Well, she said she was awake at 3 o’clock in the morning, and she also sent a tweet out at 3 o’clock in the morning, but I won’t even mention that. But she said she’ll be awake. Who’s going — the famous thing, we’re going to answer our call at 3 o’clock in the morning. Guess what happened? Ambassador Stevens — Ambassador Stevens sent 600 requests for help. And the only one she talked to was Sidney Blumenthal, who’s her friend and not a good guy, by the way. So, you know, she shouldn’t be talking about that.
We never had “what happened at Benghazi?” — but we did have “did you tell people to check out a sex tape at 3 a.m.?”.
Trump deserves some criticism for neglecting Benghazi, which he should have brought up in every debate. But the real blame rests with the moderators.
Even Fox News’ Chris Wallace, who earned praise by conducting the only fair debate of the three, failed to mention Benghazi.
Patricia Smith, mother of the late Benghazi hero Sean Smith, told me before the third debate that she hoped to hear about what happened on Sep. 11, 2012 — and told me afterwards how disgusted she was that it was ignored.
A simple, straightforward question would have sufficed.
“Secretary Clinton, the Benghazi terror attack happened while you were Secretary of State. Should the voters consider that a test of your ability to perform as commander-in-chief?”
For balance, he could have asked Trump a tough follow-up.
“Mr. Trump, you have criticized Secretary Clinton on Benghazi. But she has been in the Situation Room, and you have no experience in national security. Are you, sir, ready to be commander-in-chief?”
But the only time we heard anything about “commander-in-chief” was in the first debate, when Clinton invoked the phrase — to argue that Trump was unfit to serve in that role.
No one — neither the moderators, nor the candidates — mentioned it again.
It might be argued that Benghazi was an issue for 2012, not 2016; that the person in charge that night was Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton; that after years of investigation there was no “smoking gun” — “no scandal at all,” the Washington Post said.
All of that could be true, and the omission of Benghazi would still be a disgrace, not only because so many of the other issues raised were so meaningless, but fundamentally because we still do not know why Americans in danger were left to die alone.
What about the future? Will the next president seek the whole truth? What steps will the next president take to ensure that never happens again? How will the men who died — and saved dozens of others, thanklessly — be honored for their sacrifice?
We have some idea — from portions of Trump’s speeches — but voters deserved to hear answers in the debates.
History will not care whether Miss Universe once had sex on television. History will judge our neglect of the dead, and the carelessness with which we treat our future security.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.