When campaign spokesman Ben Labolt told Fox News there were no plans for President Obama to address the Benghazi debacle in public any time soon, he obviously wasn't "planning" on the subject coming up during the president's appearance at a Univision candidate forum in Miami this afternoon. (Mitt Romney attended yesterday). Credit to the program's hosts for asking some challenging questions on Libya and security; Buzzfeed writes that Obama "dodged" the heart of those inquiries. That's partially true, but he also served up a jaw-dropping statement, particularly in light of the reports we've been covering for days. Here's the full Libya exchange (skip ahead to the 1:55 mark):
I actually stopped and rewound the tape to make sure that I'd heard the president correctly when he spoke about embassy security. I had. "My number one priority is always to keep our diplomats safe and to keep our embassies safe," he said. As you ruminate over that statement, consider these images from September 11, 2012:
US Ambassador Chris Stevens, who had been specifically targeted by Al Qaeda, according to CNN.
The US consulate in Benghazi, which was also attacked in June.
A security breach at the US embassy in Cairo, where officials stood by apologetic statements.
An American flag flying above the US embassy in Yemen is replaced with an Islamist banner (September 14th).
Once again, the president, today (emphasis mine): "My number one priority is always to keep our diplomats safe, and to keep our embassies safe." I'm sorry to say that this assertion represents either a grave distortion (Obama has listed quite a few "top priorities" over the last four years), or a breathtaking self-indictment of utter and unforgivable failure. If Obama's number one priority -- number one -- was keeping American diplomats and their sanctuaries secure, he failed. An ambassador lies dead. Of course, if that had truly been his top concern, perhaps our diplomatic outposts in Libya would have been guarded by heavily-armed US forces. They weren't. They were "protected" by a small handful of Libyan nationals, under rudimentary "lock and key" security measures. Some reports indicate they were operating under light footprint, "no bullets" rules of engagement. Was Obama aware of this? The White House says that he gets detailed security briefing books delivered to him every morning, which is why it's no big deal that he often skips his daily in-person intelligence briefings. He missed numerous briefings in a row in the week leading up to the 9/11 anniversary, then didn't attend the first one following Amb. Stevens' murder. He held a campaign rally in Las Vegas that day. I ask again: Does Obama thoroughly read those booklets each morning as the White House implies? They likely contain crucial information regarding his "number one priority." And why did the president repeatedly invoke the protests over an Islam-denigrating YouTube clip when asked about the Benghazi massacre today? CBS News, Fox News, McClatchy and others report that no such protests ever materialized outside our consulate prior to the deadly raid. Surely those stands of relevant and troubling intelligence made it into the president's daily briefing book, no?