Nothing. That is what President Barack Obama did on the night of September 11, 2012, as terrorists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and killed four Americans, among them Ambassador Christopher Stevens. President Obama’s inaction was revealed in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday by outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey.
Under direct questioning by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Panetta admitted that he had no communication with President Obama after their “pre-scheduled” meeting at 5:00 p.m. EDT. The attack on the consulate had already been under way for 90 minutes at that time. Neither the president nor anyone else from the White House called afterwards to check what was happening; the Commander-in-Chief had left it “up to us,” said Panetta.
Panetta’s testimony directly contradicts President Obama’s own claim to have issued “three directives” as soon as he learned “what was going on” in Benghazi. As he told a Denver reporter in October:
I gave three very clear directives. Number one, make sure we are securing our personnel and that we are doing whatever we need to. Number two, we are going to investigate exactly what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Number three, find out who did this so we can bring them to justice.
That same claim was subsequently repeated by other Democrats, including Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, who came to the president’s defense. But if those directives were indeed given–and proof has never been produced–they were given long after the attack, not while the attack was going on, during which time the president did nothing.
Panetta and Dempsey also admitted, under questioning by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), that they were not in touch with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the attacks, and did not receive a request for help from the State Department. Dempsey also testified that he had been “surprised” at Clinton’s testimony last month that she did not know of an urgent cable from Ambassador Stevens last August about the dire security situation.
To borrow a metaphor from the 2008 Democratic primary campaign: when the 3 a.m. call came (at 5 p.m. in the afternoon), neither Clinton nor Obama were there to respond.
Panetta was also forced to admit, in the face of vigorous questioning by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), that no military action at all had been taken to intervene in Benghazi after the attack had begun, promising only that a similar lapse would not happen again.
Later, on Thursday afternoon, during Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan’s confirmation hearing to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) demanded to know why the administration failed to interview a suspect in the attack.
Brennan’s response was merely that the Tunisian authorities who had arrested him “did not have a basis in their law” for allowing the U.S. to question him about the attack.
In sum: President Obama did nothing to save Americans under attack from terrorists. His Secretary of Defense did nothing. His Secretary of State did nothing. The Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff did nothing. His Deputy National Security Adviser defended doing “nothing” to help bring the perpetrators to justice. And the entire administration participated in an effort to cover up the truth. Because there was an election to be won.