A BuzzFeed article released last night seeks to throw the head of the White House Counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, under the bus for the missteps in the Benghazi aftermath. On the surface BuzzFeed parrots the talking points given to them presumably by Ben Rhodes which goes like this: President Obama wanted so badly to give the public a timeline of events surrounding Benghazi, but the mean White House Counsel was afraid that by telling the truth Obama would end up in more trouble if anyone took the time to investigate it later.
It’s a classic case of misdirection by the White House in order to deflect blame away from President Obama. In the article, Ben Rhodes seeks to throw Ruemmler to the wolves for disapproving of a Benghazi timeline being released just weeks before the election. Even if they had released a timelime, it would still leave all of the same questions up in the air that have dogged the White House since the initial days after the terrorist attack in Benghazi:
- Why did the White House blame a YouTube video for the attack when no one on the ground believed it to be a factor?
- Where was President Obama the night of Benghazi and what role did he play?
- Who gave the order for the military to stand down?
- Why were the talking points edited 12 times to remove all traces of terrorism while adding in the spontaneous demonstration which no one on the ground believed at any point?
None of those questions would be answered by a timeline released in mid-October unless Obama walked out in front of the cameras and admitted that his administration willfully mislead the American people. And, of course, if that happened none of that would be a problem in further investigations if it was the truth. So the idea that Ruemmler is to blame for all of the controversy surrounding Benghazi at the present is laughable at best. The result of the BuzzFeed article is that the administration that claimed to be the most transparent in history has only become transparent in revealing the next victim to get tossed under the Obama bus.
With the BuzzFeed article set aside, the main questions about Benghazi still remain with the most intriguing among some conservatives being where was President Obama on the night of Benghazi? Some speculate that he went to bed and checked out of his responsibility because of the early flight for the Las Vegas fundraisers the next day, but the timeline doesn’t seem to mesh with that idea.
On the night of September 11th, President Obama had a pre-arranged meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff. That meeting ended at just after 5:30 at which point there is no record whatsoever of what the President did until a phone call with Secretary of State Clinton at 10PM. Between those two events, some speculate President Obama went to bed or just skipped out entirely.
There has always been a perception that Barack Obama is the constant campaigner. From his first position in Illinois through his first term as President, Obama has always been campaigning for the next election. The idea that during the home stretch of his bid for re-election he would just cut out early in the midst of a terrorist attack is unimaginable.
In a piece for National Review by Victor Davis Hanson, he sets the stage for where the race was on September 11th. Two national polls showed a one point race, unemployment was stuck at 7.8 percent, and the debates were just weeks away. The “47 percent” comments were still days away, meaning this race was neck and neck with one of Obama’s biggest campaign focuses being on the death of bin Laden and “Al Queda on the run.”
After being told of the Benghazi attack by the end of the 5:00 meeting, it is hard to imagine that President Obama did not convene with campaign aides and staff to determine how to deal with the situation politically. Because the White House still refuses to give any specifics as to where the President was or who he spoke with, it does not seem far fetched to believe he was focused on being Campaigner-in-Chief much more than he was focused on being Commander-in-Chief. As the bin Laden death proved, this is an adminstration that will provide photos and stories in abundance when they are on a politically winning side of any event, and in this case we have yet to even receive an explanation as to what the President was up to aside from the generic “in constant contact” narrative.
This gave Obama’s election team just hours to run opposition research on his own administration to anticipate what could be leveled against them in the final two months of the campaign. They had to determine what warnings were missed, what concerns had been previously raised, and how they could maintain “Al Queda is on the run” in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on US interests overseas.
If this wasn’t a difficult enough task to do in mere hours, Team Obama would also have to coordinate with Team Hillary on the best way to approach Benghazi with the public as she has her own focus on potentially running to be Obama’s successor in 2016. Both sides have much to lose from the fallout of Benghazi, and both politicians would need to be on the same page in order to keep whatever public response they decided to present from unraveling.
With this information in hand along with updates from his staff that was in contact with Secretary Clinton and State Department, the Obama re-election team apparently determined that they would blame the attack on a spontaneous demonstration sparked by the YouTube video that was the cause of the Cairo demonstrations on the same day. This allowed them to continue to boast success against Al Queda while combining the two events into one confusing mess that would be much harder for Romney’s team to gain traction on, let alone a complicit press that wouldn’t spend the time on its newscasts to differentiate the two events clearly. It would also shield Hillary from what appears to be many denied requests for extra security as well as warnings stemming from multiple attempted attacks in the region.
From this point the only actual event we know occured is that President Obama spoke with Secretary Clinton around 10PM that night. There has been no comment on the discussion or length of the call, but Secretary Clinton released a statement just minutes later at 10:08PM blaming the video for the attack. One could reasonably conclude that Obama was working with Clinton to craft the messaging coming from the White House regarding the attack throughout the night and the 10PM phone call was to have one last discussion before it was released to the press. It would be reasonable to assume as this point that both Team Obama and Team Clinton had signed off on this narrative and considering the CIA and people on the ground felt it was an Al Queda premeditated attack, that the reasoning and decision process was purely with politics, and the upcoming election, front and center.
Just as the official statement from the State Department was provided to the press, Romney’s campaign released his statement without the knowledge of the death of a US Ambassador in Benghazi which the press relentlessly hammered him for in the following days. President Obama happily ran with the new narrative by declaring that Romney’s strategy is to “shoot first and aim later.”
Of course he President Obama never mentioned that he had a whole night to craft a narrative that best suited him politically while spending the rest of the week working with the State Department to scrub the CIA talking points twelve times in order to correlate with their initial release to the press. Once the CIA removed all references of Al Queda from the official talking points, the press was happy to take Susan Rice at her word as she blamed a spontaneous demonstration due to the YouTube video for the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi. As we now know, Team Obama and the State Department did indeed aim first but very deliberately aimed far away from the truth while working together to maintain the most politically expedient excuse for the attack.
From that point, Obama relied on the press to ignore the story long enough to get through the election before asking the questions about where he was or why anyone could possibly think a YouTube video caused this when the CIA clearly believed this was an Al-Queda attack from the first minute. Even now many in the media are focused on claims from Obama officials such as Dan Pfeiffer that Republicans “doctored emails”, immediately proven to be a false claim by the Washington Post, instead of asking the important questions such as who President Obama met with or spoke to between his 5PM meeting and 10PM phone call.
If they ever do get to the bottom of what happened in the White House that night, they may very well find that the Commander-in-Chief did step out for the night with the Campaigner-in-Cheif taking over in his most comfortable role, focused on what was most important to him: Winning.