Politics & Policy

Dazed and Deceptive on Libya

Jay Carney fields questions in the White House press room, October 12, 2012.
The catastrophe in Benghazi is a snapshot of a failed foreign policy.

Having misled Americans for weeks about the September 11 attacks in Libya, the Obama administration is now attempting to mislead us about how it misled us.

The president himself used this tactic during last night’s debate, claiming that he immediately recognized the violence in Benghazi as a planned terrorist attack and that he leveled with Americans just one day later. In truth, President Obama and his top aides were anything but straightforward in the aftermath of this deadly violence, and their mixed messages are only the latest example of the Obama administration’s flawed foreign-policy strategy.

Five days after the attack, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was dispatched on multiple national television shows, where she repeatedly insisted that Libya was a “spontaneous” eruption of violence by people who were justifiably offended by a YouTube video. She claimed the events were not premeditated — directly disputing statements from top Libyan officials. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney piled on, contending that the administration “saw no evidence to back up claims by others that this was a preplanned or premeditated attack.”

More than a week after the violence erupted, President Obama declined to call the attacks “terrorism” on several occasions — including a Univision town hall, during which a reporter asked him whether terrorist groups were behind the attacks, and a session on The View, when Joy Behar directly addressed the president: “I heard Hillary Clinton say it was an act of terrorism. Is it? What do you say?” During his speech before the U.N. on September 25, the president mentioned the YouTube video six times while still failing to call the attacks an act of terrorism.

#ad#Just one day later, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took a different approach when she first suggested that Benghazi was, in fact, a calculated terrorist attack with possible links to al-Qaeda. And Defense Secretary Leon Panetta revealed on September 27 that it was “clear that there were terrorists who planned that attack.”

Amid the Obama administration’s confused response, media outlets made it to Libya within days after the attack, yet an FBI forensic team didn’t gain access until weeks later — leaving the consulate and sensitive intelligence information unsecure.

The Obama administration still didn’t have its story straight nearly a month after the attack. When asked during last week’s debate whether the Libyan consulate requested more security, Vice President Joe Biden contradicted the sworn testimony of his own administration and insisted, “We weren’t told they wanted more security again.” Just 24 hours earlier, senior State Department officials testified before Congress that the Obama administration refused requests to send more military personnel to Libya and instead scaled back security prior to the attack.

The White House tried to undo Biden’s misstep — by having Carney allege that our nation’s top leaders were unaware of the consulate’s requests. These claims came on the heels of recent reports that our commander-in-chief regularly skips his own daily intelligence briefings, and nearly four years after President Obama told Americans, “The buck will stop with me” when it comes to national security.

Unfortunately, this catastrophe is merely the most visible snapshot of President Obama’s failed foreign policy.

In Afghanistan, our troops are being killed by the people they’re supposed to be training. Egypt is now run by the Muslim Brotherhood. Secretary Panetta recently warned that the Syrian regime is moving its chemical weapons. Iran has refused to comply with requests to take specific, concrete steps to stop its nuclear pursuit. And the president’s disregard for our longest-standing allies was most recently highlighted when he declined a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel.

With less than three weeks until the election, we’re facing a historic moment in America when we’ll decide who we’re going to be as a nation. We need leadership in the White House to face the real threat of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism, and we need a president who will tell the truth instead of spinning the facts to serve his political needs. Osama bin Laden may be dead; so, too, is our ambassador to Libya — reminding us in yet another terrible attack that al-Qaeda and its allies are still alive.

Mitt Romney represents a decisive break with the current administration on all these fronts, and he has a clear plan to renew America’s leadership and influence around the world.

— Roy Blunt, a Republican senator from Missouri, serves as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

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