The "Not My Fault" Administration

Bob Beauprez
Posted: Oct 16, 2012 12:01 AM

Harry Truman had a sign on his desk proclaiming what became his motto; "The buck stops here!" Obama and Biden seem to have turned that completely around; "It's not my fault!"

Even before last Thursday's VP debate, you had to notice the inconsistencies, confusion, even lies coming out of the Obama Administration over the last month following the assassination of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya on September 11. 

After Biden's debate "performance" last week we're left wondering, "Which is it?" Do we have the most incompetent intelligence professionals imaginable or the best in the world? 

Or, maybe another possibility Biden didn't mention; a complete failure of leadership from the top?

Joe Biden elevated the pain already in my head from the Benghazi disaster to a full blown migraine during this exchange with debate moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News:

RADDATZ: What were you first told about the attack? Why — why were people talking about protests? When people in the consulate first saw armed men attacking with guns, there were no protesters. Why did that go on (inaudible)?

BIDEN: Because that was exactly what we were told by the intelligence community. The intelligence community told us that. As they learned more facts about exactly what happened, they changed their assessment. That’s why there’s also an investigation headed by Tom Pickering, a leading diplomat from the Reagan years, who is doing an investigation as to whether or not there are any lapses, what the lapses were, so that they will never happen again.

RADDATZ: And they wanted more security there.

BIDEN: Well, we weren’t told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again. And by the way, at the time we were told exactly — we said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew. That was the assessment. And as the intelligence community changed their view, we made it clear they changed their view.

But, Biden's contention doesn't hold up. U.S. Intelligence officials almost immediately had come to the same conclusion as virtually everyone else that had seen the publicly available video of the Benghazi attack. The following is from the Daily Beast:

Within 24 hours of the 9-11 anniversary attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, U.S. intelligence agencies had strong indications al Qaeda–affiliated operatives were behind the attack, and had even pinpointed the location of one of those attackers. Three separate U.S. intelligence officials who spoke to The Daily Beast said the early information was enough to show that the attack was planned and the work of al Qaeda affiliates operating in Eastern Libya.

As for Biden's contention that "we weren't told they wanted more security there;" – well, even if true, whose fault is that, Mr. Vice-President? The following from Reuters:

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.      

When Biden's statements during the debate are juxtaposed with other evidence we know to be true, we're left to conclude that either:

  1. The VP was being less than honest, or
  2. That some of the highest placed officials within the State Department and Intelligence Agencies responsible for our national security intentionally withhold critical information from the President and Vice-President, or
  3. Obama and Biden are too busy campaigning, entertaining, or golfing to be bothered to show up for briefings wherein they could learn the truth.

I vote for numbers 1 and 3.

Biden's assertions that "the intelligence community told us that" and "we weren't told they wanted more security" must make it a little awkward around the White House these days. In making those statements, Biden threw three of the most prominent and critical members of the Obama Administration right under the proverbial bus: James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, General David Petraeus, Director of the CIA, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

If that were indeed the case – that the President and Vice-President didn't know and hadn't been told – why haven't all three of these apparently incompetent individuals been fired?  

But, after essentially saying that Clapper, Petraeus and Clinton hadn't done their jobs of keeping the President and Vice-President informed, Biden immediately said they were the finest, most trusted professionals in the world. 

Leaving the subject of Benghazi, Raddatz shifted the debate discussion to the issue of what to do about Iran's quest for a nuclear weapon. Biden dismissed any sense of urgency to deal with the threat suggesting there was plenty of time. "They are a good way away" from getting a nuke, he said. Furthermore, contradicting his own criticism of US intelligence failures, Biden said our intelligence regarding Iran was so perfect and sophisticated that, "we'll know if they start the process of building a weapon."

So, which is it? Is our intelligence community the essence of all our problems, or the security blanket to which we can confidently cling? 

One more thing we know is that Obama misses more than 60 percent of his daily intelligence briefings. Even if Biden showed up for the meetings, he'd likely be laughing and interrupting so much as to not hear what was said. 

Of the many failures already exposed by the Benghazi tragedy, the most notable one is the failure by the President and Vice-President to first of all provide leadership, and secondly to be men enough to take responsibility when things go wrong.