The more the details of the tragic misdaventures in Benghazi continue to trickle out, the more I keep asking myself, "Who's making the political decisions here?" Does no one remember Watergate, where a third rate botched burglary and its ensuing cover-up brought down an American President? If you recall, the Nixon Administration "ran out the clock" on all things Watergate and won re-election by a landslide. Yet, the cover-up proceeded to bite Nixon and "friends" in the hind quarters until it unravelled his entire Presidency.
Did they all miss that class in U. S. History?
I'm no political genius, but if I was advising President Obama, here's what I would have done.
First, when the first request for additional security from Ambassador Stevens came in, I would have fulfilled it. Quietly. No need to tip your hand, but the fact is, if you beef up security at the compound, you never HAVE a problem. Terrorists (and demonstrators) understand one thing: superior force. If you have it, you probably don't ever have to use it. Problem solved.
Second, if I have a whiff of real time info that says my compound is under attack, instead of trying to figure out what it is, and on whom to blame it, I am calling every available force in the area to determine what I can do about it. Bear in mind, to make these decisions, I HAVE to get the President involved. Since we now know that this attack lasted over 7 hours, it is entirely possible that even if I used forces from Italy, I can have "boots on the ground" in an hour or so. This would have been plenty of time to rescue most of the group under attack.
If this move is successful, I have a foreign policy "coup" that amounts to a September Surprise. We came, we saw, we kicked a** and took names. Message delivered to the terrorists, and, as a bonus, Obama is a hero and probably wins re-election in a semi landslide. Problem solved.
Even in the unlikely event that the mission fails, we have beautiful political cover. Obama comes out with big, sad eyes and says, "We did our best to save our people," and, in all likelihood, the American people give him a pass and he still wins reelection. Worst case scenario, I've done no harm to the campaign and there is no "detail to be released later" that can come back and haunt me later. Again, problem solved.
What I am NOT doing is sending my Secretary of State out to Dover to blame the deaths of four Americans on some stupid video, when I already have information that this was clearly terrorism. What I am NOT doing is sending the President out there with the same message. What I am NOT doing is letting "Spiro" Joe Biden anywhere near any of the parents of the victims.
What I am NOT doing is sending my U. N. Ambassador around to five Sunday shows on the weekend following the attack, telling everyone who will listen that this whole thing was a spontaneous demonstration, when my own intel has told me this was a planned terrroist attack mere HOURS after its occurence
What happened, however, is almost the polar opposite of everything I have delneated above.
After two previous terrorist attacks on the compound in Benghazi, Ambassador Stevens requested additional security. Because some State Department "lifer" wanted to recruit Libyans to carry out this mission, request denied. No additional security provided. Problem NOT solved.
When the September attacks began, and an overhead drone is providing a look into what's happening in real time, in addition to the humint (human intelligence) on the ground, the administration continues to deny all attempts to help those under attack in the compound, telling CIA operatives to "stand down" rather than come to the aid of the Ambassador. Problem NOT solved.
When the inevitable tragic outcome occurs, the administration spends the next 14 days trying to sell the idea that it's all the fault of the video through Secretary Clinton,and press secretary Jay Carney, even though, at the end of that period, Secretary Clinton call "Bulls**t" on the idea, admitting that State had a live stream of what was going on. Clinton even tries to fall on her sword, citing the Harry Truman line, "The buck stops here." Problem exacerbated by mixed messaging, and definitely NOT solved.
In the second debate with Mitt Romney, the President and his co-conspirator Candy Crowley float the idea that the President actually called the attack terrorism on September 12, even though his administration spent the next 10-14 days saying otherwise AND the context of his September 12 statement is universally challenged, as referring to previous terror attacks. Credibility sinks to an all time low. Problem NOT solved.
When it is learned that the Situation room had real-time intel that the attack was terrorism and there was a denial of use of additional force, the administration went into shutdown mode, Obama stating, "This election is not about that." Sorry, Mr. President, but it IS about that. People died. Problem NOT solved.
When asked on "The Daily Show" about the deaths in Libya, President Obama calls the deaths of four Americans "not optimal." More Americans are outraged, and the perception is that the President is arrogant. Problem is still NOT solved.
In short, the administration has been politically tone deaf at almost every turn. When presented with an opportunity to enhance the President's foreign pollicy resume weeks before the foreign policy debate, they could not have done much more to prove themselves either inept or dishonest. They have single handedly revived the question, "What did the President know and when did he know it?"
Perhaps the best indication of how serious this problem has become is that Bob Woodward, the journalist who, along with partner Carl Bernstein, sank the good ship Nixon, is asking this same question and dumping on the Obama administration for its non-answers.
With just over a week to go before the election, problem NOT solved.