So Who Knew What, and When? Does it Matter?
The conservative media is alive with the discussion of what the President knew about the security concerns in Libya and the cover-up, or lack of details on the event itself following the 9/11 assault on our embassy. The mainstream and liberal media are equally invested in saying this is much adieu about nothing. It was just an unfortunate tragedy that the President had very little involvement or influence over.
Since we are deep into the election season, this has obviously become a big campaign issue and the social media sites like Google+ and facebook are alive with the various support organizations, media outlets, and individuals posting and reposting accusations, rationalizations and defenses. In fact, facebook itself has gotten into the act of censoring the postings.
So why am I throwing my two cents in? There was something I saw today from an acquaintance, posted in defense of the President, that said she did not believe any sitting President of the United States, no matter what party, knowingly allows American citizens or soldiers [to] die! It went on to say “All these men carry tremendous weight on their shoulders, we do not know the full story of what they face. Shame on anyone who would point a finger in this way!”
I would like to respond to that posting on why these issues solicit criticism and continue to circulate.
First things first, it is a simple, unavoidable, fact that all our Presidents have been in a position where they knowingly send American’s into harms way with an understanding that some of them will die. That is the nature of the job of Commander in Chief. There is risk in almost every endeavor we set out in, whether it is a survey of the Louisiana Purchase, the Civil War, a couple of World Wars, support for an invasion of a small Caribbean island, setting off to explore our nearest neighbor the Moon, or opening a consulate in a newly liberated country. Those who are involved in these things know and accept the risks inherent in them. What they ask of their commanders and leaders is that they do what they can to reduce those risks and improve the possibilities of success and their safe return.
So the first legitimate question to ask is did our senior political leaders do what they could to reduce the risks to US personnel in the Libyan consulate, especially as we approached the anniversary of a momentous event in the Jihadist-terror campaign? This should be any easy question to answer, did they recognize the increased potential for violence and have plans in place to deal with it? Unfortunately, in retrospect it is too easy to answer – no they did not. You can rationalize this in many ways, but in the end it comes down to the President and the Secretary of State did not take adequate precautions to safeguard the US Consulate.
The second and much harder question to answer is how did our senior political and military leadership react when they were presented with evidence the consulate was under attack? The details of when they recognized they had a serious problem, and what decisions they made both immediately and in response to changing situations are really at the center of what all this controversy is about. I am reminded of the events of the summer of 1972 when they discovered a break in at the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate building. What started as a low-level burglary, ultimately brought down the President because of his stonewalling and cover-up. What we see from this administration are shifting stories and opposing statements that appear to serve politically expedient purposes rather than to uncover the truth. When linked to a President who has spent a great portion of his administration laying the blame for all the ills of the country on his predecessor it leaves open the question of where the President thinks the buck stops!
Because we are in the last weeks of the campaign, the immediate political implications of burying or highlighting it are exasperated even more so than would be normal. Add to that the main stream media’s attempts to bury the story, and the conservative media’s push to expose it, you have the makings of a political firestorm the President seems unable to make go away with a simple wave of his hand and is unable or unwilling to lay out the verifiable facts as he knows them for the public to put this issue to bed. It seems a lot like the swirling around over the release of his birth certificate that he used for a couple of years to create an us versus them issue. For a President who was elected on the promise of open and transparent government I am still waiting for the window to open.
Last question, does it matter? It will matter to historians, but I expect it won’t matter to very many voters. If you are a supporter of the President you will empathize with the agony he must feel and ignore the hard questions. If you are not a supporter you will believe he made bad choices and will use those belief’s to reinforce your vote. In either case it won’t change whom you were going to vote for. I don’t know how those who are truly undecided will process the conflicting stories, but I would guess they will decide on domestic issues like employment or health care, and not use this abstract event that does not directly affect their life as the tipping point.