Former National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor made news recently when he told Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier, “Dude, this was like two years ago.” Vietor’s juvenile comment regarding the Benghazi terrorist attack plunged jaws from coast to coast.
With somewhat less fanfare, Vietor also revealed that he “was in the Situation Room that night.” Asked if Obama were there, too, Vietor replied: “No.” He then challenged Baier, saying, “The fact that your network at one time reported that he watched video feed of the attack as it was ongoing is part of what I think has been a pattern of inaccurate — ”
Baier interrupted: “Where was the president?”
“In the White House,” Vietor said, but “not in the room I was in.” He added: “I don’t have a tracking device on him in the residence.”
So, where was Obama and what was he doing while al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists were busy killing four American public servants?
“We’ve got no info on the whereabouts of the president the night of the Benghazi attacks,” one top House staffer probing this matter told me. “Wish we did.”
“Over a year and a half has passed since the terrorist attacks, and the American people still do not have an accounting of your activities during the attack,” GOP senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and John McCain of Arizona wrote Obama on May 2. “Mr. President, can you now confirm that Mr. Vietor’s account of your absence in the White House Situation Room is accurate?”
One would expect that Obama followed the real-time drone images of the horrific onslaught as they poured into the Situation Room, just as he famously viewed live video of the Navy SEALs’ Osama bin Laden raid.
But beyond just watching, why was Obama not huddled with his advisors, organizing a robust counterattack, ordering a surgical rescue operation, or at least scrambling fighter jets to make noise and drop flares overhead? Perhaps the “spontaneous demonstrators” — who just happened to bring mortar launchers to the U.S. compound — might have had trouble fatally targeting their volleys against Americans if they also had to eye American military aircraft. Instead, these militant-Islamic killers calmly aimed their weapons at Americans and murdered them without the distraction of the U.S. armed forces.
As Jack Cashill recounted for AmericanThinker.com on May 5, then–Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saw Obama at a White House meeting previously scheduled for 5:00 p.m., about 80 minutes into the attack. They discussed the still-devolving calamity for 15 to 30 minutes. As Panetta later told a Senate hearing, Obama “directed both myself and General Dempsey to do everything we need to do to try to protect the lives” in Benghazi. They then returned to the Pentagon to handle the crisis.
According to the House Armed Services Committee’s February 2014 Majority Interim Report: Benghazi Investigation Update, Panetta and Dempsey “testified they had no further contact with the President, nor did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ever communicate with them that evening.”
So, while al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists slaughtered U.S. ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, Obama evidently failed to drop by the Situation Room — where even Tommy “Dude” Vietor managed to present himself. As the attack roared on until about 11:15 PM Washington time, neither Panetta nor Dempsey heard from Obama.
Aloof and detached, the commander-in-chief was elsewhere in the White House. Perhaps something was more pressing than preventing — or at least observing — the assassinations of four American government officials at the hands of al-Qaeda franchisees.
With any luck, Congress’s brand-new select committee on Benghazi — chaired by tungsten-tough former federal prosecutor and current U.S. Representative Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.) — will exhume the answer to this question: What did the president know and where the hell was he?
— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.