President Obama’s deputy campaign manager denied today that the September 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi, during which the U.S. Ambassador to Libya was killed, amounted to a ‘foreign policy failure’ for her boss.
“Will the president concede this was a foreign policy failure?” NBC’s Willie Geist asked Stephanie Cutter this morning in anticipation of the debate tonight.
“No,” Cutter replied. “We live in a dangerous world. Any time American lives are lost, it’s a terrible tragedy. And the president acted quickly to make sure that every other embassy was protected, we’re getting to the bottom of it, and we need to work this investigation through. It’s really important that we not politicize this process.”The investigation to which Cutter alluded – especially the State Department’s Accountability Review Board – will not be completed until after the election.
Cutter’s attempt to distance the attack from Obama’s foreign policy comports with Obama’s public commentary on the attack since it took place.
The day after the assault, the president suggested that Stevens and the three other murdered Americans died because of a protest against an anti-Islam Youtube video that, his story suggested, had turned violent.
“We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others,” Obama said in the Rose Garden on September 12. “But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations reiterated that position four days later during a round of Sunday talk shows. “Our current assessment is what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, prompted by the video,” Rice said on Meet the Press.
There was never a protest at the Benghazi consulate.
The State Department told reporters that that Rice’s story was never their official position, and the Obama team has blamed that characterization on the attack on faulty intelligence.
“The CIA station chief in Libya reported to Washington within 24 hours of last month’s deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate that there was evidence it was carried out by militants, not a spontaneous mob upset about an American-made video ridiculing Islam’s Prophet Muhammad,” the Associated Press reported last week.
Questions have been raised about the fact that the State Department rejected requests for extra security at the U.S. mission in Libya – the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is pressing the White House for answers about its role in that decision – and the Obama administration’s changing account of the assault.
Bing West, former assistant Defense Secretary, raises another important issue. “Our diplomats fought for seven hours without any aid from outside the country,” West observed at National Review. “Four Americans died while the Obama national-security team and our military passively watched and listened.” West wants to know “why?”