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Streetwise Professor

November 5, 2012

The Invisible Man

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 10:17 pm

OK.  Back to Benghazi.  Two major stories.

The first is the mystery of Obama’s actions-hell, his location-on the afternoon and evening of 9/11.  The Pentagon has told its story.  The CIA has given us its explanation.  The White has given us . . . the execrable flack David Axelrod (whom I’ve been onto since living in Hyde Park in the ’80s).  Axelrod assures us that Obama did everything that could be done:

David Axelrod was asked this morning on Fox News Sunday about the decision not to deploy military forces to Benghazi the evening of September 11. His response: “The president convened the top military officials that evening and told them to do whatever was necessary and they took the steps that they thought, they took every step they could take.”

But as the Weekly Standard notes, Obama’s involvement in all this was quite peripheral: certainly the White House has provide no evidence whatsoever of Obama’s continued involvement with the decision making (in the way that it has tried to tout his involvement in the OBL raid):

What did or didn’t the president do on the evening of September 11?

The White House has chosen not to answer questions. One has to presume we’d have answers by now if those answers showed a president engaged in managing the crisis. If President Obama had convened meetings, if he had called senior State Department or Defense Department or CIA officials to the White House, if he had held a teleconference from the situation room, one has to assume we would know about it. One therefore has to assume he did none of these things.

Here’s what we know the president did on the evening of September 11. After returning to the White House, he seems to have presided over a previously scheduled 5:00 p.m. meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Martin Dempsey. Apparently the ongoing situation in Benghazi was one topic discussed. It was at this meeting, one assumes—”the minute I found out what was happening,” as Obama has said—that the president gave his “directive” to “make sure that we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to.” There seems to be no actual written record of this directive, so it was presumably a spoken directive to Secretary Panetta and national security adviser Tom Donilon (who, one assumes, was at that meeting as well).

That meeting went until about 6:00 p.m. About an hour later, President Obama placed a call to Prime Minister Netanyahu designed to dampen down the political flap over his refusal to meet with the prime minister at the upcoming U.N. General Assembly meeting. That call went from about 7:00 to 8:00 p.m., and was followed by a press release giving a read-out of the call. So the president was presumably doing nothing about Benghazi during that stretch.

After that … nothing. There’s no evidence the president did anything more than get occasional updates from Tom Donilon or other White House staff. On Fox News Sunday, David Axelrod said of the president, “Every conversation that needed to be had was being had between him and his top security officials” and “he was talking to them well into the night.” The formulation suggests the president was talking on the phone with White House staffers rather than meeting with them in person, and it suggest a president who was being updated rather than a president in charge.

The reticence of the Most Transparent Administration of Leakers in History is pretty telling.

The second revelation is the release of perviously unseen video of a Sixty Minutes interview with Obama on 9/12-hours after the attack and mere minutes after his appearance in the Rose Garden discussing the assault.  In the interview, Obama pointedly refused to characterize the attack as terrorism.

This raises serious questions about CBS.  Why was this tape released only now, at the last minute before the election, and then just by posting it unobtrusively on the CBS website?

This portion of the video would have been particularly newsworthy, and relevant to the public’s deliberations about the election, in the immediate aftermath of the second debate when Obama (with sick-making cheerleading from Candy Crowley) claimed he had called the attack terrorism in his Rose Garden remarks.

Did CBS give the White House control over what portions of the interview would be released?  If not, why did CBS sit on this crucial information until it was too late to matter?

That last question is rhetorical.  I know the answer.

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29 Comments »

  1. Major, major FAIL for the party of Angry White Dudes!!

    So, how’s that “Southern Strategy” working out for you, SWP?

    Lol at the party who spent sixty years building a rabid, lunatic “base” that requires so much “culture war” red meat that a candidate who wants the rethuglican nomination renders himself unelectable on the first Tuesday in November.

    Comment by rkka — November 7, 2012 @ 12:09 am

  2. @red army Just a bump in the road on the race to the bottom and you are suggesting a position that has never been taken.

    Speaking of red meat and culture we all know that it is unhealthy for the environment and contributes to global warming and sea level rise.

    Comment by pahoben — November 7, 2012 @ 7:04 am

  3. Wasn’t SWP saying that 4 more years of Obama would ruin America? In any case, as I said before – looking forwards to the epic rants that are sure to grace this site in the next few days and weeks.

    Also LOL at GOP Latino outreach strategy.

    Comment by The Greatest Sublime — November 7, 2012 @ 2:43 pm

  4. And no one cares about Benghazi. Not the press. Not the voters. We deserve 4 more years of this incompetent. I see absolutely no evidence that BHO has learned ANYthing from his mistakes. And based upon Jarrett’s & Jones’ [unveiled] threats, I don’t see any of his staff as having learned anything about governing, let alone management from the last 4 years. Leadership? HA! And THAT is indeed a pity. Interesting that other comments have absolutely nothing to do w/ the point(s) in question, but only attack the author. Typical Alinsky tactic. Sad. But impressive that they are able to find a blog like this. And that they can read.

    Comment by ObamaPutin — November 7, 2012 @ 8:37 pm

  5. ^ That is the very best blog in the history of the universe. Even better than Da Russophile!

    Comment by The Greatest Sublime — November 7, 2012 @ 8:54 pm

  6. In any case, as I said before – looking forwards to the epic rants that are sure to grace this site in the next few days and weeks.

    Provided he doesn’t dedicate his blog to something as monumentally stupid as the idea that a country will rise to prosperity on the basis that melting ice will result in more ships passing by, I think he’ll do fine.

    BTW, what *did* happen to your Arctic Progress blog? Did the icecaps fail to melt, or was it that Russia failed to progress?

    Comment by Tim Newman — November 8, 2012 @ 12:38 am

  7. It’s in temporary limbo, to be revived at a later date. Sarcasm hardly merited given the unprecedented extent of Arctic melting in 2012 and almost 100 ships passing through Northern Sea Route relative to 0 in mid-2000′s.

    And, by and by, Russia is going to see natural population growth this year, exceeding even my projections. Save the congratulations – appreciated, but not that interested.

    I am working on two big projects. No time or desire to exchange barbs with trolls as I once did, sorry. Have a great day Newman.

    Comment by The Greatest Sublime — November 8, 2012 @ 3:25 am

  8. Sarcasm hardly merited given the unprecedented extent of Arctic melting in 2012 and almost 100 ships passing through Northern Sea Route relative to 0 in mid-2000’s.

    Nobody is denying that Russia will see more ships sailing off its coast if the Arctic ice melts. What is laughable is that this should be considered “progress” in relation to Russia.

    Good luck with your “big projects”. Let me know if they exceed $1bn or a million manhours.

    Comment by Tim Newman — November 8, 2012 @ 3:52 am

  9. “And, by and by, Russia is going to see natural population growth this year, exceeding even my projections.”

    Ah, yes. I well recall the vociferous denial of the very possibility by SWP and his little coven here. They were full of unctuous concern for the well-being of Russians allegedly suffering under the misrule of that awful Putin. And now that the unthinkable (natural population growth in Russia) is upon us, they pass over the fact in silence, and that alleged concern for Russians is exposed as the lie it always was. Nevertheless, it bears repeating that under Yeltsin and his “freemarketdemocraticreformers”, Russia was not a fit place to have and raise children, kinda like “freemarketdemocraticreforming” Latvia is now. Under Eeeevul Putin, Russia now is.

    Comment by rkka — November 8, 2012 @ 4:07 am

  10. I’d characterise myself as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal, and as such, the current Republican party seems to have descended into utter unelectable lunacy.

    There is no coalition that supports a theocracy in any country. Republicans need to learn that other people’s choices are none of their business.

    The most obnoxious aspect of this campaign was that Obama failed to mention climate change, not because he’s dropping it but because he’s learnt to dissemble about it.

    Comment by Green as Grass — November 8, 2012 @ 6:30 am

  11. I’d characterise myself as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal…

    I meet a lot of Americans like this, and it is an utter travesty that for well over a decade (at least) no candidate has been presented which would satisfy anyone of this persuasion. I know a gay doctor in Winsconsin who voted Democrat because of the Republican line on gay issues, but despairs of the idiotic spending of the Democrats. Surely it cannot be difficult for one of the parties to put forward somebody who shows fiscal responsibility but is not a loon on social issues? Apparently it is.

    You have my sympathies, because I face almost exactly the same conundrum in UK politics. There is an utter dearth of candidates who are socially liberal but fiscally responsible. The closest I have seen on the world stage is Australia’s John Howard.

    Comment by Tim Newman — November 8, 2012 @ 11:32 am

  12. @Green. When I have a chance to summarize my reactions to what transpired Tuesday, they will align closely with yours. I was planning to focus on coalition issues. The core may be empty for the Republicans. Although social conservatives and libertarians broadly agree on economic issues, the former’s insistence on the primacy of issues like gay marriage, abortion, etc., is unacceptable to the latter. Moreover, it is particularly unpalatable to the mushy middle.

    What’s particularly frustrating is that the socialcon agenda has zero probability of being implemented. It is a minority issue. The problem is that this minority’s preferences are intense, and they apparently believe it superior to go down in flaming defeat over issues they could never prevail on, and in so doing also undermine the achievement of potentially winning issues, specifically less intrusive government policy and the restoration of budget sanity.

    Here we see a perfect illustration of what Churchill said about fanatics: “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — November 8, 2012 @ 11:53 am

  13. In principle I agree. I could care less what substances someone ingests so long as they accept full responsibility for their choices. In practice I fear a larger population out of the workforce, chronically sedatinng themselves with another legal intoxicant, and receiving assistance from the taxpayers. The mix of nanny state and social liberlism seems like a potentially very expensive mix.

    Comment by pahoben — November 8, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

  14. “I’d characterise myself as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal, and as such, the current Republican party seems to have descended into utter unelectable lunacy. There is no coalition that supports a theocracy in any country. Republicans need to learn that other people’s choices are none of their business. ”

    “What’s particularly frustrating is that the socialcon agenda has zero probability of being implemented. It is a minority issue. The problem is that this minority’s preferences are intense, and they apparently believe it superior to go down in flaming defeat over issues they could never prevail on, and in so doing also undermine the achievement of potentially winning issues, specifically less intrusive government policy and the restoration of budget sanity.”

    The bleating and whining is truly musical.

    This rabid, lunatic “culture war” base you now moan about is something the rethuglican party cultivated with painstaking care for decades. And while they outnumbered the targets of their endless bile and venom, you gloried in the victories they helped you win. Truly, you never paid more than lip service to their goals, hoping they would never notice.

    Well now the targets of their bile and venom outnumber them, so the rest of us now get to watch as your Red faces turn blue, then black as the rethuglican party slowly chokes politically on the bile and venom their carefully-cultivated base spews.

    Comment by rkka — November 8, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

  15. @rkka. What victories would those be, exactly? I started this blog in January, 2006, and Republican victories have been pretty few and far between in that time.

    Your homework assignment is to go through the blog, post by post, and actually find any references to the Republicans, let alone those praising them, and certainly let alone “glorying” in their (non-existent) victories.

    Take your time. I’ll wait. After that’s done, you can search for the Higgs Boson. I think you’ll have better luck in that quest.

    To the extent I have commented on US politics (and a rough guesstimate would be that represents less than 10 percent of the posts I’ve written, and an even smaller fraction of the words) I openly acknowledge that I have focused my writing on criticizing-vociferously-Obama. That’s because I believe that he, and the progressivism he represents, are the greatest threat to our liberties, and our future. After all, he and his ilk have been pretty much in charge since the blog started: Bush was clearly the lamest of ducks by the time I started writing.

    You confuse criticism of A with support/endorsement of A’s leading opponent. That’s not logically correct. To the extent I support Republicans, it’s not out of conviction that they are somehow a constructive force. Just a less destructive one. It’s definitely a lesser of two evils thing.

    Enjoy your schadenfreud. It’s not very accurately directed, but such emotional things seldom are. Though it is revealing that you focus it on me. Quite flattering. I didn’t know you cared.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — November 8, 2012 @ 6:48 pm

  16. So as far as SWP is concerned the world came into existence, ex nihilo, in January 2006. Good to know.

    Comment by rkka — November 8, 2012 @ 6:52 pm

  17. @rkka. One other thing. Might want to check the dosage.

    And one other other thing. I started writing about Russia because it is a living example of a libertarian dystopia. A real life example of what happens in the absence of a rule of law, an unconstrained government, and a highly personalized political system. The US is converging to that from above.

    As for your crowing about Russia’s progress . . . well, it’s better than in the 90s, which is like the old joke with the punch line “you don’t sweat too much for a fat girl.” But it is becoming widely understood that Putinism is a recipe for stagnation, and that the spurt of growth in the mid-2000s was aberrational. I have long called Putinism “Putin’s purgatory” and “the hamster wheel from hell”-a verdict that is becoming conventional wisdom, not least among Russians.

    And apropos the convergence point, the US is likely to be in for a similar stretch of stagnation and stasis, especially inasmuch as the last election demonstrates that there is no politically credible alternative to the statist policies that produce such stagnation. The lack of political credibility exists precisely because the socialcons split the coalition that would support a less statist appraoch.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — November 8, 2012 @ 6:59 pm

  18. @rkka. So you know what I gloried in before I started the blog? Interesting.

    Hint: not Republican victories.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — November 8, 2012 @ 7:22 pm

  19. @rkka. I’ve been an academic for 20+ years, so I can tell when somebody is coming up with a lame excuse to avoid a homework assignment.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — November 8, 2012 @ 7:23 pm

  20. Well, I’m not American and don’t live in America, so I don’t have much of a dog in the fight.

    When a significant figure in the Romney campaign starting banging on about “legitimate rape”, however, it became clear that a decent person couldn’t really contemplate supporting him. He was aligned with whackjobs keen to take power mainly in order make life that little bit worse for people they imagine the Bible instructs them to hate. Riiiiiiight.

    Now, I think gay marriage is a bit of a weird idea too, and I generally imagine that it works best for a man and a woman. But they aren’t hurting anyone, so my view is lightly held, and I thus wish them well; go in peace.

    Several religions, however, think marriage can be between a man and four women. Now that sounds bad for at least three of the women, and probably also for three men who presumably miss out. So why weren’t Mitt’s team campaigning to ban Islam and Mormonism, as well? Sadly, apart from the obvious reason, it feels like it’s because some of Mitt’s backers just, well, really hate fags.

    In the UK, the situation is reversed – it is largely the left that wants power to harass people they hate. People who drive, people who work in the private sector, people who live in the south-east, people who are men, people who aren’t black, people who earn more the average wage, self-employed people, people who think diversity can sometimes be a bad thing, people whose parents have died with an estate they want to pass on to their children rather than to the state – the Labour Party totally doesn’t get them. In some cases, Labour actually downright hates their guts like Stalin hated the kulaks (exactly like that, now I think about it).

    Our last PM, Gordon Brown, personified all this. He made a party ad once in which he spoke approvingly of the young people he meets who all want to be nurses and firemen and ambulancemen. Apparently, our then PM met absolutely nobody who wanted to be a DJ, a sportsman, an aeroplane mechanic, or an entrepreneur. No, everyone wants to work in the public sector, and private workers’ wages and pensions are just a bottomless well of rich bastards’ money that’s there to fund it.

    In the UK, the result is that the party that hates everyone is also the party that screws the public finances. It’s thus an easy call who to vote for. Mitt, however, presented his potential supporters with a dilemma. The guy who intended to address the debt / deficit issues honestly was backed, unfortunately, by a lot of people loudly in it for the hatred and the finger-pointing.

    “Vote for me because I’ll screw everyone you hate” has rarely been an election-winning slogan, and I think Mitt just found this out. Without wanting to go all Godwin, a vote for Mitt was a bit like someone who declined to vote for Hitler in 1932 on the reasonable grounds that you don’t elect Nazis just because they’ll fix the economy.

    Comment by Green as Grass — November 9, 2012 @ 6:39 am

  21. @Green As Grass-I agree with much of your analysis but the stupid comments about rape were made by two idiot senatorial candidates (Akin and Mourdock) who had nothing to do with the Romney campaign. By the time the media was done it only seemed as though their views represented the views of the Romney campaign. For the record I am not a Republican ideologue and judge many issues by the tax impact they are likely to have over the long term. I see gay marraige largely as an increased burden on already shaky entitlement programs through spousal and survivor benefits. It is the combination of nanny state and liberal social policies that is the concern for me not what people do in their private lives and at their own expense.

    Comment by pahoben — November 9, 2012 @ 7:24 am

  22. @Green as Grass. Pretty much agree. And your description of the UK is depressing indeed, inasmuch as it is like the Ghost of Christmas future to the US.

    @pahoben. Yes, Akin and Mourdock were not formally associated with the Romney campaign, but they demonstrate that Senate and House candidates can have strong negative externalities. They confirmed the fears that many have about the Republican Party and you know that the Democrats have an incentive to play that for all it’s worth-which they did.

    And there is something to that. It is often argued that the differences between presidential candidates’ positions are very small: “not a dime’s worth of difference.” But what has always concerned me is the camp followers that come in the train of a Democratic administration, the people you never hear of that burrow their way into the agencies and wreak havoc. To moderates who have similar concerns, utterances by an Akin or a Mourdock provide an insight on the kinds of people that will come in the train of a Republican administration, and tend to confirm their fears.

    In brief: there is no upside to having idiot senatorial candidates. Their impact extends far beyond their own races.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — November 9, 2012 @ 10:24 am

  23. By the time the media was done it only seemed as though their views represented the views of the Romney campaign.

    That’s certainly how the BBC portrayed it. Made sure it stayed on their front page for nigh-on two weeks, too.

    Comment by Tim Newman — November 9, 2012 @ 11:29 am

  24. @Tim. Which points out why the Republicans have to be especially conscious of nominating loons. Yeah. There’s obviously a double standard: their loons will get wall-to-wall coverage, while the idiocies of Dem loons (e.g., Elizabeth Warren) get virtually no play. You can rail against the double standard, but that’s the way it is and the way it’s likely to stay for the foreseeable future. You have to play the hand you’re dealt, which means that Republicans have to be especially conscious about how their candidates will play even outside their states/districts.

    The social conservative right in particular is critical of media double standards, but also insistent on pushing candidates who are most vulnerable to those standards.

    That’s not very bright.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — November 9, 2012 @ 11:43 am

  25. @Professor By the same token when the Republican establishment candidate is someone like Richard Lugar it is an invitation for defeat in the primary by a loon like Mourdock. This is true in large swaths of the country and is unlikely to change. Anyone Obama labels my favorite Republican Senator will not survive a primary in the Mid West-no how no way.

    Comment by pahoben — November 9, 2012 @ 6:45 pm

  26. @pahoben. I don’t disagree. But this suggests institutional weakness in the party-inability to persuade doddering has beens to move on, or to advance non-loons to challenge has beens who don’t take the hint.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — November 9, 2012 @ 7:35 pm

  27. @Professor-yeah and in the case of Lugar it is a moot point now but one that will last for six years. Indiana has produced some notable conservative bad apples like Lugar and Chief Justice Roberts.

    They revived the UN small arms treaty the day after the election and that is really scary considering the make up of the new Senate.

    Comment by pahoben — November 9, 2012 @ 8:10 pm

  28. @ pahoben

    I take your point re entitlements, but I think you have to keep the widest possible picture in mind. If the 1.5% of people who are gay were not, they’d get all those entitlements as of right. Should they not have them simply because they are gay? Also, a gay couple can’t have a child, but they aren’t excused on that score from the large part of their tax bill that funds things for children. If you exclude them from entitlements because they’re not man and woman you should, if being fair, also exclude them from the related liabilities too.

    There is the rejoinder that a gay couple can adopt a child, or purchase one, like Elton John, and hence would use things like the school system after all. However, the child already exists independent of anything the gay couple did. The benefits bill follows the child, and it exists anyway. So it follows that gays getting married and adopting children are doing little if anything that has an net detrimental impact on the public finances. In fact, if they adopt children, they’re probably having a beneficial one, in that they are volunteering to pay privately for the raising of a child – a bill that the state would otherwise have had to meet.

    While adoption by an X and Y chromosome is the better outcome for a parentless child, it’s not always actually available to each such. The other options are then adoption by a same sex couple, or life in a state care home – in which, in the UK certainly, they are very, very likely to be abused. If it were my children, I think I’d prefer the former for them if I had to make such a choice, because it’s much better approximation of a family life than what the state would provide.

    Like I said before, though, I don’t really care that much about the matter. The issue is the vehemence with which some of Mitt’s loonier backers would disagree with me. It feels like what they really like is the lecturing, the hectoring and the finger-wagging. Even without looking at the arguments, I only need to look at the proponents to know which side I don’t want to be on.

    This is also why I’m a climate change sceptic, incidentally, but that’s another story.

    Comment by Green as Grass — November 12, 2012 @ 3:50 am

  29. “As for your crowing about Russia’s progress . . . (snip) I have long called Putinism “Putin’s purgatory” and “the hamster wheel from hell”-a verdict that is becoming conventional wisdom, not least among Russians.”

    Before Putin forced the energy oligarchs to submit to the state taxing away the energy windfall, by making an instructive example of the biggest and most defiant one, deaths in Russia were exceeding births by about a million per year. Seriously, that a government with US support, aid, and “advice” can botch something so basic as fostering conditions suitable for people to have and raise kids, and continue doing so for a decade, just boggles the mind. And for you to bleat endlessly about the guy who, in the teeth of constant vituperation in the English-language press, turned that appalling catastrophe around, shows that you care more that Russia conforms to your ideology than that Russians continue to even exist.

    In other words, you’re Procrustes. Everyone who does not fit on your bed gets mangled until they do.

    Comment by rkka — November 13, 2012 @ 4:25 am

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