The chief obligation of the federal government – and in particular, the President of the United States – is the security of the country and her people. It is for this reason it is included, in specific terms, in the opening sentence – the Preamble – to our country’s Constitution; “…provide for the common defense,…”
The security of our nation, therefore, is not subject to the prioritization of any given President but is job one for all Presidents, regardless of party affiliation and regardless of ideology. So, when I hear elected officials – and their position to the aisle is irrelevant – saying it is important to call President Obama on what he knew and when he knew it where the intelligence on the Benghazi attack is concerned, I scoff. It’s a question that misses the point.
“What did the President know and when did he know it” was an appropriate question for Watergate because it was a crime of opportunity. By that, I mean it was perpetrated exclusively for political gain and literally harmed no one by having been executed. The issue of the al Qaeda attack on the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya, is far from a crime of opportunity for the simple reason that there was loss of life. This “crime” – which, in reality was not only an act of terror but an act of war – is different because a sitting US ambassador was purposely targeted, tortured, and murdered along with a skeleton crew security team.
That said – and in light of new information that establishes the fact national security officials, Secretary of State Clinton, and even President Obama were all well aware of requests for enhanced security at the diplomatic missions throughout Libya – the more appropriate question that begs to be asked is this: Why didn’t the Obama Administration, with the Middle East more volatile than during any time in the past 25 years and on the anniversary of the September 11th, 2001attacks, know everything that was happening everywhere a US diplomatic mission existed across the Middle East? As embassy grounds are considered sovereign soil, this falls under providing for the common defense.
More succinctly, why wasn’t the Obama Administration on top of the happenings in Libya – and for that matter across the total of the Middle East – regardless of the date and regardless of the volatility in the region? The raw truth about this issue is that it was Mr. Obama’s job to be on top of this issue; to make sure he and his national security team knew everything about every threat, in real time, to our embassies and embassy personnel attached to that locale. The end game on this is that Mr. Obama was delinquent in doing the one job that he is constitutionally bound to not lay subject to prioritization: the security of our nation, in this instance the sovereign soil of our embassies and the lives of our diplomats.
I would put it to you that because Mr. Obama, as President, is mandated to embrace this obligation, and because he did not (whether he wants to argue his efforts or not there are four dead Americans from his diplomatic charge that serve as undeniable proof he did, in fact, fail at this responsibility) we are faced with legitimate (read: non-political) grounds for impeachment.
“Really,” you say. “Sounds a bit politically motivated,” you add. Well consider this.
Mr. Obama did in fact allude to the notion that the United States will not be shaken by acts of terror. In his September 12th Rose Garden press conference on the Benghazi attack he said: “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.”
But just like any good Chicago politician, he left himself room for plausible deniability in that he didn’t say, for the record, that the Benghazi attack itself was an act of terror. His statement was a general statement that may have or may not have been specific to Benghazi. This may sound like the splitting of hairs, but keep in mind that Mr. Obama departed later that day for a campaign fundraiser in Nevada and remained on the campaign trail.
Let us add to this a duplicate declaration by campaign adviser David Axelrod. When asked by Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace:
Question. Before [President Obama] went to the fundraiser in Nevada, did he meet with his National Security Council to try to sort out the shifting stories, because State says they never said it was a spontaneous demonstration, Intel did…did he meet with the National Security Council before he went to campaigning in Nevada?
Chris, I assure you that the President was in contact with all those who, ah, had had information and responsibility in the national security chain about this incident. And again, let me stress, there isn’t anyone on this planet who feels a greater sense of responsibility for our diplomats, for our service people, who takes this more personally that the President of the United States.
Can you find an affirmative answer to Mr. Wallace’s question in that response? If you say no, it’s because there isn’t one… and it’s intentional. Mr. Axelrod, the quintessential Progressive Chicago political operative, was establishing plausible deniability just like the President established in his Rose Garden press conference statement.
Both of these statements were crafted so that it sounded like Mr. Obama was in direct communication with his National Security Council team, but leave room for deniability should having been in touch with the NSC team become, in the end, a liability politically. It leaves Mr. Obama and his senior staff room to say they weren’t informed of the specifics so that someone down the chain of command could be set up to take the fall. In that light, isn’t it interesting that Secretary of State Clinton accepted “complete responsibility” for the security lapse at the Benghazi outpost on the same day as the second presidential debate?
Mr. Obama has placed his political well-being ahead of governing for his entire tenure in office. He has never really stopped campaigning. He has never taken on the responsibilities of leadership – either politically or as the chief elected officer in the Executive Branch. And he has never taken responsibility for the failures that were cultivated and executed on his watch. Now, Mr. Obama can add to the list of his abdications from his constitutional responsibility the chief task of his office: “to provide for the common defense.”
The questions that beg to be answered are not what did the President know and when did he know it. The question – singular – that must be asked is this: Why didn’t the President know anything about anything at all?
I am sure at some point people will understand the answer. He was too busy campaigning.