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.