A virtuosic and tenacious performance from South Carolina's senior Senator, who happens to be a former military prosecutor. Watch below as he holds Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey's feet to the fire on Benghazi, eliciting several eye-opening admissions: (1) The president only discussed the attack once before its conclusion and never asked for a single status update throughout the seven-hour siege. (2) Aside from the small Tripoli support team, no US assets were deployed during the hours-long attack. (3) Gen. Dempsey was "surprised" that Secretary Clinton was unaware of Amb. Stevens' urgent cable warning about the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi and the vulnerability of the consulate. Graham isn't always conservatives' favorite senator, but he earned his keep yesterday afternoon:
A key exchange, via Ed Morrissey:
SEN. GRAHAM: Are you surprised that the president of the United States never called you, Secretary Panetta, and say, ‘how’s it going?’
SEC. PANETTA: I — you know, normally in these situations –
SEN. GRAHAM: Did he know the level of threat that –
SEC. PANETTA: Let — well, let me finish the answer. We were deploying the forces. He knew we were deploying the forces. He was being kept updated –
SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I hate to interrupt you, but I got limited time. We didn’t deploy any forces. Did you call him back — wait a minute –
SEC. PANETTA: No, but the event — the event was over by the time we got –
SEN. GRAHAM: Mr. Secretary, you didn’t know how long the attack would last. Did you ever call him and say, Mr. President, it looks like we don’t have anything to get there anytime soon?
SEC. PANETTA: The event was over before we could move any assets.
SEN. GRAHAM: It lasted almost eight hours. And my question to you is during that eight-hour period, did the president show any curiosity about how’s this going, what kind of assets do you have helping these people? Did he ever make that phone call?
SEC. PANETTA: Look, there is no question in my mind that the president of the United States was concerned about American lives and, frankly, all of us were concerned about American lives.
SEN. GRAHAM: With all due respect, I don’t believe that’s a credible statement if he never called and asked you, are we helping these people; what’s happening to them?
Left unexplored was the reason for Obama's lack of interest and communication when he knew that American lives were in grave danger in the midst of a terrorist attack on 9/11. Most of the damage occurred during the late afternoon and early evening hours (Eastern time) of September 11, so it's possible -- but unlikely -- that the president was sleeping. I'd guess he was attending to his re-election campaign; he didn't alter his plans to attend a rally in Las Vegas on September 12, a day on which he astonishingly skipped yet another intelligence briefing. Graham's interrogation was about much more than the president's shameful lack of curiosity, let alone leadership, throughout the crisis. He also exposed the mismanagement and chaos among other high-level decision makers that reigned throughout the ordeal. He methodically demolished Panetta's litany of excuses, which ranged from dubious to insulting. Panetta claimed that the US government didn't have time to deploy any resources to rescue the besieged Americans. Graham noted that the attack lasted nearly eight hours. Panetta tried to assert that the military only could have helped if they'd had boots on the ground before the attack. Graham correctly called that a grievous violation of the military's "we've got your back" principle. Panetta, covering for the president, said that Obama was made aware that the Pentagon was deploying forces to aid our diplomats. An incredulous Graham reminded him of Gen. Dempsey's testimony that no forces were deployed:
GRAHAM: My question is, did anybody leave any base anywhere to go to the aid of the people who were under attack in Benghazi, Libya before the attack ended.
DEMPSEY: No, because the attack ended before we could get off the ground.
Earlier in the hearings, Sen. McCain helped establish that at no time did the State Department request military help from the Pentagon. Why not? And what are we to make of CBS News' report that rescue teams were told to prepare, then stand down, throughout the night? Four Americans, including a sitting Ambassador, were left to die in an unprotected consulate in a jihadist hotbed, and we still don't know why. Nor do we know what the the Commander-In-Chief was doing as the slaughter transpired.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography