The Corner

Shoot First, Aim Later: Obama Administration Edition

Can we pause from our 47 percent feeding frenzy just for a moment to ponder what the media would do with the following facts if George W. Bush was still in the White House?

Barack Obama, September 12, 2012

“There’s a broader lesson to be learned here . . . And I — you know, Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later. And as president, one of the things I’ve learned is you can’t do that. That, you know, it’s important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts. And that you’ve thought through the ramifications before you make ‘em.”

That’s a clever retort, Mr. President, dutifully and gleefully reported by your friends in the media. Did you and your administration meet this standard during a time of international crisis? Let’s start with the basics. Is Egypt an ally?

Barack Obama, September 12, 2012:

President Obama says the U.S. would not consider Egypt an ally, “but we don’t consider them an enemy.”

Mr. Obama said in an interview with the Spanish-language network Telemundo that Egypt is a “new government that is trying to find its way.” He warns that if the Egyptian government takes actions showing “they’re not taking responsibility,” then it would “be a real big problem.”

Obama administration, September 13, 2012:

“‘Ally’ is a legal term of art,” said spokesman Tommy Vietor. “We don’t have a mutual defense treaty with Egypt like we do with our NATO allies. But as the President has said, Egypt is a long-standing and close partner of the United States, and we have built on that foundation by supporting Egypt’s transition to democracy and working with the new government. Just last night the President spoke with President [Mohamed] Morsi to review the strategic partnership between the Unites States and Egypt, while making clear our mutual obligations — including the protection of diplomats and diplomatic facilities.”

Okay, that was perhaps too tough a question. Let’s get more basic . . . was the Libyan attack a spontaneous demonstration or a terrorist attack?#more#

Susan Rice, September 16, 2012:

“Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous – not a premeditated – response to what had transpired in Cairo.”

[. . .]

“We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to — or to the consulate, rather, to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo,” Rice said. “And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons . . . And it then evolved from there.”

Obama administration, September 19, 2012:

The Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was in fact “a terrorist attack” and the U.S. government has indications that members of al Qaeda were directly involved, a top Obama administration official said Wednesday morning.

“I would say yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy,” Matt Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said Wednesday at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, in response to questioning from Chairman Joe Lieberman about the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Okay, well, let’s get even more basic. Who was in the ambassador’s security detail?

Susan Rice, September 16, 2012:

As recently as Sunday, UN Ambassador Susan Rice gave a similar description. “Two of the four Americans who were killed were there providing security. That was their function. And indeed, there were many other colleagues who were doing the same with them,” Rice told ABC’s This Week program.

Anonymous Obama administration official, September 19, 2012:

The two former Navy SEALs killed in last week’s attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi were not part of Ambassador Chris Stevens’ official security detail but took up arms in an effort to protect the facility when it was overrun by insurgents, U.S. officials tell the Washington Guardian. . . . 

The officials provided the information to the Washington Guardian, saying they feared the Obama administration’s scant description of the episode left a misimpression that the two ex-Navy SEALs might have been responsible for the ambassador’s personal safety or become separated from him.

“Woods and Doherty weren’t part of the detail, nor were they personally responsible for the ambassador’s security, but they stepped into the breach when the attacks occurred and their actions saved others lives — and they shouldn’t be lumped in with the security detail,” one senior official said, speaking only on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the State Department.

The Middle East is in flames, the entire foreign-policy premise of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign is collapsing in front of our eyes, and the administration can’t tell allies from enemies, demonstrators from terrorists, or hero civilians from a security detail. But, by all means, let’s focus more on whether Mitt Romney was too insensitive and imprecise when highlighting our nation’s undeniable dependency problem.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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