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The Incredible Shrinking President
Two videos distill the meaning of a campaign, and a presidency.

President Barack Obama watches as a casket is placed into a hearse at Joint Base Andrews, September 14. 2012.

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Mark Steyn

‘We’re going to have that person arrested and prosecuted that did the video,” said Hillary Clinton. No, not the person who made the video saying that voting for Barack Obama is like losing your virginity to a really cool guy. I’ll get to that in a moment. But Secretary Clinton was talking about the fellow who made the supposedly Islamophobic video that supposedly set off the sacking of the Benghazi consulate. And, indeed, she did “have that person arrested.” By happy coincidence, his bail hearing has been set for three days after the election, by which time he will have served his purpose. These two videos — the Islamophobic one and the Obamosexual one — bookend the remarkable but wholly deserved collapse of the president’s reelection campaign.

You’ll recall that a near-month-long attempt to blame an obscure YouTube video for the murder of four Americans and the destruction of U.S. sovereign territory climaxed in the vice-presidential debate with Joe Biden’s bald assertion that the administration had been going on the best intelligence it had at the time. By then, it had been confirmed that there never had been any protest against the video, and that the Obama line that Benghazi had been a spontaneous movie review that just got a little out of hand was utterly false. The only remaining question was whether the administration had knowingly lied or was merely innocently stupid. The innocent-stupidity line became harder to maintain this week after Fox News obtained State Department e-mails revealing that shortly after 4 p.m. Eastern, less than a half hour after the assault in Benghazi began, the White House situation room knew the exact nature of it.

We also learned that, in those first moments of the attack, a request for military back-up was made by U.S. staff on the ground but was denied by Washington. It had planes and special forces less than 500 miles away in southern Italy — or about the same distance as Washington to Boston. They could have been there in less than two hours. Yet the commander-in-chief declined to give the order. So Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods fought all night against overwhelming odds, and died on a rooftop in a benighted jihadist hellhole while Obama retired early to rest up before his big Vegas campaign stop. “Within minutes of the first bullet being fired the White House knew these heroes would be slaughtered if immediate air support was denied,” said Ty Woods’s father, Charles. “In less than an hour, the perimeters could have been secured and American lives could have been saved. After seven hours fighting numerically superior forces, my son’s life was sacrificed because of the White House’s decision.”

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Why would Obama and Biden do such a thing? Because to launch a military operation against an al-Qaeda affiliate on the anniversary of 9/11 would have exposed the hollowness of their boast through convention week and the days thereafter — that Osama was dead and al-Qaeda was finished. And so Ty Woods, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, and Chris Stevens were left to die, and a decision taken to blame an entirely irrelevant video and, as Secretary Clinton threatened, “have that person arrested.” And, in the weeks that followed, the government of the United States lied to its own citizens as thoroughly and energetically as any totalitarian state, complete with the midnight knock on the door from not-so-secret policemen sent to haul the designated fall-guy into custody.

This goes far beyond the instinctive secretiveness to which even democratic governments are prone. The Obama administration created a wholly fictional story line, and devoted its full resources to maintaining it. I understand why Mitt Romney chose not to pursue this line of argument in the final debate. The voters who will determine this election are those who voted for Obama four years ago and this time round either switch to the other fellow or sit on their hands. In electoral terms, it’s probably prudent of Mitt not to rub their faces in their 2008 votes. Nevertheless, when the president and other prominent officials stand by as four Americans die and then abuse their sacrifice as contemptuously as this administration did, decency requires that they be voted out of office as an act of urgent political hygiene.

At the photo-op staged for the returning caskets, Obama et al. seem to have been too focused on their campaign needs to observe even the minimal courtesies. Charles Woods says that at the ceremony Joe Biden strolled over to him and by way of condolence said in a “loud and boisterous” voice, “Did your son always have balls the size of cue balls?” One assumes charitably that the vice president is acknowledging in his own inept and blundering way the remarkable courage of a man called upon to die for his country on some worthless sod halfway across the planet. But the near-parodic locker-room coarseness is grotesque both in its inaptness and in its lack of basic human feeling for a bereaved family forced to grieve in public and as crowd-scene extras to the political bigshot. Just about the only formal responsibility a vice president has is to attend funerals without embarrassing his country. And this preening buffoon of pseudo-blue-collar faux-machismo couldn’t even manage that.

But a funny thing happened over the next six weeks: Obama’s own cue balls shriveled. Biden had offered up a deft campaign slogan encompassing both domestic and foreign policy: “Osama’s dead and General Motors is alive.” But, as the al-Qaeda connections to Benghazi dribbled out leak by leak, the “Osama’s dead” became a problematic boast and, left to stand alone, the General Motors line was even less credible. Avoiding the economy and foreign affairs, Obama fell back on Big Bird, and binders, and bayonets, just to name the “B”s in his bonnet. At the second presidential debate, he name-checked Planned Parenthood, the General Motors of the American abortion industry, half a dozen times, desperate to preserve his so-called gender gap. Yet oddly enough, the more furiously Obama and Biden have waved their binders and talked up Sandra Fluke, the more his supposed lead among women has withered away. So now he needs to enthuse the young, who turned out in such numbers for him last time. Hence, the official campaign video (plagiarized from Vladimir Putin of all people) explaining that voting for Obama is like having sex. The saddest thing about that claim is that, for liberals, it may well be true.

Both videos — the one faking Obamagasm and the one faking a Benghazi pretext — exemplify the wretched shrinkage that befalls those unable to conceive of anything except in the most self-servingly political terms. Both, in different ways, exemplify why Obama and Biden are unfit for office. One video testifies to a horrible murderous lie at the heart of a head of state’s most solemn responsibility, the other to the glib shallow narcissism of a pop-culture presidency, right down to the numbing relentless peer pressure: C’mon, all the cool kids are doing it; why be the last hold-out?

If voting for Obama is like the first time you have sex, it’s very difficult to lose your virginity twice. A flailing, pitiful campaign has now adopted Queen Victoria’s supposed wedding advice to her daughter: “Lie back and think of England.” Lie back and think of America. And then get up and get dressed. Who wants to sleep with a $16 trillion broke loser twice?



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