Benghazi and the Potomac two-step

Tom Rogan Commentator
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Vice President Biden would have us believe that the ongoing Benghazi furor is the creation of Republican partisans. Accepting this proposition would be an act of profound delusion. The truth is that the Obama administration’s reaction to the Benghazi attack reeks and serious questions are being asked. Sadly, so far only seriously deficient answers are being given. I wrote on this topic on Saturday. However, with the continued equivocation from Obama administration officials on the Sunday news circuit, further questions must now be asked.

There are a number of important issues which require clarification.

1) As former CIA director Michael Hayden has asked, what confidence level (low, medium or high) did the intelligence community give to its initial theory that the Benghazi assault was the product of spontaneous mob violence?

I argued on Saturday that the standard “intelligence cycle” would suggest that the intelligence community’s confidence in this theory was low. If I’m correct and a low-confidence assessment was made, another major question needs to be asked: Why did Obama administration officials suggest high confidence in a low-confidence assessment? And why, if not for domestic political reasons, do they persist in holding to this argument? The notion that the administration might be playing politics with intelligence worries me. Effective national security requires that intelligence is used to help inform judgment. Where intelligence is manipulated into a partisan tool, intelligence products lose credibility and America is made less safe.

2) Did President Obama, Vice President Biden or any other senior administration officials neglect the evolving diplomatic security situation in Libya?

They claim that they didn’t. However, as Marc Thiessen has pointed out, the president failed to attend his daily intelligence briefings for the entire week that preceded the Benghazi attack. The day following the attack, the president canceled his briefing in order to attend a Las Vegas fundraising event.

While the president receives and (we would assume) reads his President’s Daily Brief (PDB) intelligence document every day, this document is not intended to be a stand-alone product. Rather, the PDB’s are intended to be consumed along with the president’s daily intelligence briefings. The briefings are supposed to give the president a fuller picture of the national security concerns of the day and ensure that he is able to ask any questions that he might have after reading the PDB. Knowing that President Obama missed a number of briefings, we must ask whether any PDB’s in the run-up to the Benghazi attack noted relevant concerns and if so, whether missing his briefings prevented the president from attaining a necessarily full picture of the threat.

3) Why is the Obama administration incapable of taking responsibility?

Aside from questions of what was known and when, as president, Obama must take responsibility for what has happened. When America is attacked, the buck stops at the Oval Office. That was the case on September 11, 2001, it was the case on September 11, 2012 and it is the case today.

So far, the administration and the Obama campaign have greeted questions about Benghazi with spin instead of serious answers. This shouldn’t just be unacceptable to Republicans, it should be unacceptable to all Americans who care about their government telling them the truth.

It’s time for the Obama administration to end its Potomac two-step and come clean with the American people.

Tom Rogan is an American blogger and writer currently living in London, England. He recently completed a law course and holds a BA in War Studies from King’s College London and an MSc in Middle East Politics from SOAS, London. His blog can be found at TomRoganThinks.com. Follow him on Twitter.