Sunday, October 28, 2012

So what does the President do when he takes responsibility?

After Hillary Clinton beat the President to playing the responsibility card, the President chimed in to say he also takes responsibility. This is what he said in an interview with MSNBC to be aired on Monday.
“What my attitude on this is is if we find out there was a big breakdown and somebody didn’t do their job, they’ll be held accountable,” said Obama in an interview with MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, according to a report on that network’s website.

“Ultimately as Commander-in-Chief I am responsible and I don’t shy away from that responsibility," Obama added.
Well, what exactly does that mean - to take responsibility? Does it mean being the guy who comes in after the fact to criticize those who made the wrong decisions in the first place? Sometimes that is all that a leader can do. No one expects him to be aware of the multitude of quotidian decisions being made in the federal government.

Though when it comes to national security we do have the right to expect that the President is being made aware of hot spots around the globe particularly in situations where he has sent Americans. We expect him to be asking pertinent and demanding questions of those briefing him - not just reading the reports on his blackberry while he's out campaigning. Shouldn't he have already known that parts of Libya were still under very ominous threats from terrorist groups especially when there had already been several attacks on westerners in that part of Libya? I'd read that on the internet myself before September 11. Did Obama ever ask about these attacks and what was being done to assure ourselves of the safety of Americans who might be in the region including our own diplomats?

And when news of the attack in Benghazi was known in Washington so that people in the State Department were watching it as it unfolded, what was the President doing and what advice was he getting.

William Kristol has some good questions for the White House about whom the President was consulting with on September 11 while the seven-hour battle was going on in Benghazi.
THE WEEKLY STANDARD understands that it will take some time to "gather all the facts" about what happened on the ground in Benghazi. But presumably the White House already has all the facts about what happened that afternoon and evening in Washington—or, at least, in the White House. The president was, it appears, in the White House from the time the attack on the consulate in Benghazi began, at around 2:40 pm ET, until the end of combat at the annex, sometime after 9 p.m. ET. So it should be possible to answer these simple questions as to what the president did that afternoon and evening, and when he did it, simply by consulting White House meeting and phone records, and asking the president for his recollections.

1.) To whom did the president give the first of his "three very clear directives"—that is, "make sure that we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to?"

2.) How did he transmit this directive to the military and other agencies?

3.) During the time when Americans were under attack, did the president convene a formal or informal meeting of his national security council? Did the president go to the situation room?

4.) During this time, with which members of the national security team did the president speak directly?

5.) Did Obama speak by phone or teleconference with the combatant commanders who would have sent assistance to the men under attack?

6.) Did he speak with CIA director David Petraeus?

7.) Was the president made aware of the repeated requests for assistance from the men under attack? When and by whom?

8.) Did he issue any directives in response to these requests?

9.) Did the president refuse to authorize an armed drone strike on the attackers?

10.) Did the president refuse to authorize a AC-130 or MC-130 to enter Libyan airspace during the attack?
The CIA has denied that they denied any request for help for those on the ground and the White House has issued its own denial. So it seems that it is all on Leon Panetta's shoulders. But didn't the President get consulted at all during these discussions? The President is saying that we need an investigation to find out what was wrong, but presumably he should be able to find out pretty quickly what was going on in Washington D.C. as decisions were being made. And Kristol further points out that the White House was quick to send out information to the media about an hour-long phone call that he had with Benjamin Netanyahu that very same day. It was important to get that information to the press to alleviate criticisms that he had snubbed the Israeli prime minister by not meeting with him earlier when he was in New York at the U.N.
While Americans were under assault in Benghazi, the president found time for a non-urgent, politically useful, hour-long call to Prime Minister Netanyahu. And his senior national staff had to find time to arrange the call, brief the president for the call, monitor it, and provide an immediate read-out to the media. I suspect Prime Minister Netanyahu, of all people, would have understood the need to postpone or shorten the phone call if he were told that Americans were under attack as the president chatted. But for President Obama, a politically useful telephone call—and the ability to have his aides rush out and tell the media about that phone call—came first.

So here are a few more questions for the White House: While President Obama was on the phone for an hour, did his national security advisor Tom Donilon or any other aide interrupt the call or slip him a piece of paper to inform him about what was happening in Benghazi? Or was President Obama out of the loop for at least an hour as events unfolded and decisions were made? On the other hand, national security staff were obviously with the president during and immediately after the phone call—otherwise how could they have put out their statement right away? Surely his aides told the president about what was happening in Benghazi. Was there then no discussion of what was or what wasn't being done to help, pursuant to the president's first directive that everything possible be done?
Now we're hearing leaks that the President was indeed watching this as it unfolded in real time. Literally watching it, as Biden might say. That makes sense. We have the capability and had the drone in place transmitting pictures. With the President in the White House, wouldn't he have watched some of this unfold? There had to have been discussions as this was going on of what to do. The Secretary of Defense had to have consulted with the President. He would need permission either way to send military help or not send military help. If the rumors are true that the CIA in Benghazi was painting a target on the ground and calling in air support, why would they have been doing that if there was not an armed air attack that could have been called in?

The White House was quite happy to distribute a picture of Obama in the Situation Room while the raid on Osama bin Laden was going on. They even have cooperated with a Hollywood filmmaker to make a movie about the raid and one of their big supporters is tweaking his own film to give more credit to Obama as his film will air days before the election. The information that the White House leaked has even landed the doctor in Pakistan who helped us identify OBL's remains into a Pakistani prison. So they have no compunction about leaks of what should be classified information when it makes their guy look good. Is that what Obama's idea of responsibility truly is?

What about now? He can mouth words about taking ultimate responsibility but it sure doesn't seem that he is doing anything to own up to what taking responsibility really means when something doesn't go right and may tarnish his image as the guy who killed OBL and has al Qaeda on the run.

No wonder that both he and his administration preferred to mislead the American public that it was all about some video instead of acknowledging that he had misjudged the damage to al Qaeda and that it was still a threat, one against which he had not protected Americans on the ground beforehand and presumably while the attack was going on. Instead they are spinning madly and sending blame anywhere but at the man who then goes on TV to claim that he is ultimately responsible. Well, if that is so, how about acting like it?