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Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

The Next Big Campaign Issue: Benghazi Diplomatic Security



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

State Department Professionals: Hey, We Never Said the Benghazi Attack Was About a Video!

Here’s a twist: the professional government employees are throwing their appointed and elected bosses under the bus for a change.

Say, professional U.S. State Department employees who have seen four of your coworkers slain, and many more endangered by violent, enraged mobs surrounding our embassies and consulates around the world, how do you feel about your role as the administration’s scapegoat for the September 11 attacks?

Hmm. It appears they don’t like it.

The State Department said Tuesday it never concluded that the consulate attack in Libya stemmed from protests over an American-made video ridiculing Islam, raising further questions about why the Obama administration used that explanation for more than a week after assailants killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

asked about the administration’s initial – and since retracted – explanation linking the violence to protests over an anti-Muslim video circulating on the Internet, one official said, “That was not our conclusion.” He called it a question for “others” to answer, without specifying. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter, and provided no evidence that might suggest a case of spontaneous violence or angry protests that went too far.

So one big question is where the “it was because of the tape” conclusions were coming from, since the intelligence community said they saw strong indications it was al-Qaeda within 24 hours, and now State is saying they weren’t giving that report up the chain.

That’s one big question. Another one is who turned down those requests for additional security in the weeks and months before the attack in Benghazi.

You’re going to hear a lot about this today:

A U.S. security officer twice asked his State Department superiors for more security agents for the American mission in Benghazi months before an attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, but he got no response.

The officer, Eric Nordstrom, who was based in Tripoli until about two months before the September attack, said a State Department official, Charlene Lamb, wanted to keep the number of U.S. security personnel in Benghazi “artificially low,” according to a memo summarizing his comments to a congressional committee that was obtained by Reuters.

Nordstrom also argued for more U.S. security in Libya by citing a chronology of over 200 security incidents there from militia gunfights to bomb attacks between June 2011 and July 2012. Forty-eight of the incidents were in Benghazi.

A brief summary of Nordstrom’s October 1 interview with the Republican-controlled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was contained in a memo prepared by the committee’s minority Democratic staff.

Nordstrom’s actions and those of his superiors are likely to figure prominently in a House committee hearing on Wednesday that will be Congress’ first public examination of what went wrong at the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi.

David Freddoso: “Wow, so there was a real story in Libya that ISN’T about Romney gaffes? Nuh-uh, they didn’t say so on TV.”

And in a sign of what a small world we live in:

But Romney waited a day to share his ties to the events in Libya, telling his story at a rally in Iowa, one of a handful of battleground states where he has been getting personal to help persuade undecided voters to support him.

The story begins with a chance encounter at a Christmas party in southern California in 2009 or 2010. He couldn’t be sure which.

On a blustery day on an Iowa cornfield, Romney explained that he had gotten a flier at his home in southern California for a neighborhood Christmas party. He hadn’t planned on going but, after noticing a party getting started at a house almost across the street, he and his wife, Ann, changed their minds and decided to pop over.

It wasn’t until after dinner that they realized they were at the wrong house.

“Turns out, this wasn’t the neighborhood party. This was a family having a party with their friends,” Romney said as his audience laughed. “We were a little embarrassed but they treated us well nonetheless and I got to meet some really interesting people.”

Then the story turns serious, as has become the custom in Romney’s campaign speeches in recent days.

At rallies in Florida, Virginia and now Iowa, he has swapped the tales of hard-working entrepreneurs that had filled his speeches for months in favor of anecdotes about people in his life who have died. He talks about a 14-year-old leukemia patient, a quadriplegic classmate and an American soldier killed last year in Afghanistan.

Then there is Doherty, the former Navy SEAL Romney met at a party he wasn’t supposed to attend.

Both were from Massachusetts. Both enjoyed skiing. And Doherty, who was 42 at the time of his death, talked about his work in the Middle East for a private security company after he finished his tour of duty as a Navy SEAL.

“You can imagine how I felt when I found out that he was one of the two former Navy SEALs killed in Benghazi on Sept. 11,” Romney said in Iowa, pausing to stay composed. “It touched me obviously as I recognized this young man that I thought was so impressive had lost his life in his service of his fellow men and women.”

Romney said he learned that Doherty was in another building across town when he and his colleagues found out the consulate was under attack.

“They went there. They didn’t hunker down where they were in safety. They rushed there to go help,” Romney said. “This is the American way. We go where there’s trouble. We go where we’re needed. And right now we are needed. Right now the American people need us.”

ADDENDA: The Rick Wilson: “The beautiful thing about the liberal meltdown is that Obama is being flooded with earnest, utterly wrong advice.”


Tags: Barack Obama , Mitt Romney , State Department


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