The Bigger Picture

Dorothy:         I don’t like this forest! It’s dark and creepy!

Scarecrow:     Of course I don’t know, but I think it’ll get darker before it gets lighter.

Dorothy:         Do you suppose we’ll meet any wild animals?

Tin Man:        Mmmmmmm.  We might.

Scarecrow:     Animals that—that eat straw?

Tin Man:        Some, but mostly lions, and tigers, and bears.

                        —Judy Garland as Dorothy, Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, and Jack Haley as the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz

 

Oh, my.

Those of you who have been following the news—at least as it gets reported by outlets like Fox News and the Drudge Report—are aware that the Benghazi fiasco has resurfaced.  In the wake of fresh emails released after a court order in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by Judicial Watch, House Speaker John Boehner has finally moved to convene a special committee to investigate the administration’s response to the September 11, 2012 attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.  I will touch more on that below, but it occurs to me that there is a broader issue here.

One of the hazards of focusing so much on the news of the day—and, I suppose, a collateral benefit to the administration of having serial scandals—is we tend to forget the news of yesterday.  In so doing, we lose the forest—the broader pattern of behavior—for the trees.  More importantly, we tend not to inquire about the underlying reason for that pattern.

We don’t ask why.

Rewind to October 2008.  Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama was on the campaign trail, talking about bringing “a new era of responsibility and accountability . . . to Washington.”  It was an old message for him.  At a September 4, 2007 roundtable conference in New Hampshire, Obama lamented the “culture of corrosive politics,” and then not only called for more trust and accountability, but touted the pursuit of those virtues in government as his raison d’être:

“The American people want to trust in our government again—we just need a government that will trust in us.  And making government accountable to the people isn’t just a cause of this campaign—it’s been a cause of my life for two decades.” (emphasis mine)

Ah.  So we’re to believe that Barack Obama spent 20 years of his life—when he wasn’t “organizing communities,” collecting a paycheck for being on sabbatical to write the first of two audacious autobiographies about a life with zero substantive accomplishments, and voting “present” in the Illinois State Senate—crusading for government transparency and accountability.

Oh, OK.

As President, Obama signed a directive to the heads of all executive departments proclaiming a new era of government transparency and accountability:

“My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.  Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government . . . Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing.”

Let’s leave for another time the terrifying implications of a Chief Executive who chooses to capitalize “Government,” but not “citizens.”  What’s important for our purposes here is to note that this President has repeatedly and for years emphasized the importance of, and his claimed commitment to, government transparency and accountability.  And lest we get caught up in some Clintonian semantic debate, Obama was clear that what he meant by that was providing information to the public about what the government is doing, if for no other reason than “[i]nformation maintained by the Federal Government (again, his caps, not mine) is a national asset”—in other words, he knows that that information belongs to you.

With that backdrop, let’s return to the issue of Benghazi.  It has been 603 days since the attacks, and the President of the United States still hasn’t substantively addressed the American people about it.  He also has yet to explain where he was or what he was doing during the 10-12 hours the two attacks were taking place, despite having been informed within 2 hours after the first attack began that it was happening, and that it was a coordinated military-style terrorist assault.  We know from others where Obama wasn’t, and what he wasn’t doing: he wasn’t in the Situation Room, and he wasn’t on the phone with his Secretaries of Defense or State, or with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff inquiring as to what was going on.

We now know from the emails finally released to Judicial Watch last week that the bullcrap tale about protests and a YouTube video then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice took to the Sunday talk shows a few days after the attacks came from the White House’s political spinsters.  My question is this: why did it take a Judicial Watch lawsuit to secure the release of that document?  It’s been the subject of a Congressional subpoena for nearly two years, but was withheld after persons unnamed retroactively changed its status to “classified” (and by the way, look for yourself and see if you can figure out just what about that email merits a “classified” designation).  Why does Judicial Watch now have more information than Congress?

While you’re chewing on that, recall that on November 9, 2012 the House Foreign Affairs committee asked then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify on the Benghazi matter, which she refused to do.  It took a subpoena and nearly three months to get her on the record, and even then she hemmed, hawed, whined, and ultimately ran out the clock without providing any substantive information.  This week, current Secretary of State John Kerry likewise refused to honor a subpoena to appear before Congress to discuss the administration’s response.  Meanwhile, the Obama administration has persistently refused to turn over documents, and has blocked access to witnesses.

Why?

This is not an isolated occurrence.

Congress has been trying for years to get information about Operation Fast & Furious, the botched gun-running sting that led to the killing of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.  The Department of Justice has stonewalled the production of documents, eventually hiding behind a bogus claim of “executive privilege.”  Attorney General Eric Holder was caught lying about when he learned of the program, and was ultimately held in contempt of Congress after repeatedly changing his story and withholding documents.  Other DOJ officials have pled the Fifth and refused to testify.

The IRS got caught targeting conservative political groups for delay or denial of tax-exempt status, and sharing taxpayer information with Democrats, then got caught lying about the issue being isolated to low-level line workers in Cincinnati.  Then-IRS official Lois Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights by making a self-serving opening statement, then pled the Fifth and refused to testify—twice.  She has also been held in contempt of Congress.

FUBARCare is, well, FUBAR.  Yet when called earlier this month to testify about it before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Heath, and Human Resources, outgoing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. . . you guessed it . . . refused to testify, even as she delays her “retirement” just long enough to qualify for lifetime federal pension benefits.

Obama administration officials use personal email accounts for official communication so they can shield it from FOIA requests and subpoenas, which can only reach their official public email accounts.

For all of Obama’s bluster about being all about government transparency and accountability, we know nothing about what this administration is doing, and they not only refuse to tell us, but they arrogantly flip us the bird in the process.  And if they manage to hold out long enough, if we continue to ask questions we then face juvenile retorts of “Dude, this was like, two years ago.” The President doesn’t take serious questions from the press.  His administration officials refuse to release documents or testify before Congress, and conduct untold amounts of official business in inaccessible private shadows.  Everything seems calculated to hide, divert, or delay any attempt to learn what is going on.

Meanwhile NSA is tapping your phones (gonna be different this time) and the federal government is watching you through drones, while non-military agencies of the federal government arm themselves to the teeth with no explanation.

Why?  Why is the government going to such lengths to avoid telling anyone (except Vladimir Putin—how does that extra “flexibility after the election” look now?) anything about what it’s doing?  And why is almost no one asking why?  The press won’t do it.  Hell, the GOP will barely do it anymore.  Why?

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

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Can You Hear Me Now?

Edwards:       Drop the weapon and put your hands on your head.

K:                    I warned him.

Edwards:       Drop the weapon!

K:                    You warned him.

Edwards:       Don’t make me kill you.

Jeebs:              You insensitive prick!  Don’t you know how much that stings!

—Will Smith as Edwards, Tommy Lee Jones as K, and Tony Shalhoub as Jack Jeebs in Men In Black

OK, everybody who’s surprised by the colossal failure of the rollout of FUBARCare raise your hand.

Mr. Obama, you can put yours down.

Amazingly, the Progressives are still trying with a straight face to defend this thing, and some are even having the brass stones to blame Republicans for the problems.  But by now it is impossible for any remotely rational person not to see what a pack of lies this has been:

But the FUBARCare debacle over the last week is hardly surprising; to the contrary, it was utterly predictable, because it is merely the most recent illustration of this Administration’s consistent display of incompetence and deceit.  Indeed, is there anything this Administration has touched that hasn’t turned out to be a gigantic steaming pile of cow flop covered with (f)lies?

Afghanistan

The primary goal of our military involvement in Afghanistan was to “get” Osama Bin Laden.  That was achieved—in Pakistan—on May 2, 2011, over two and a half years ago, yet Americans are still dying in Afghanistan.  At last count, over 700 Americans—more than during the entire Bush administration—have been killed there since Bin Laden’s death.  Why?  Perhaps if Obama attended a security briefing once in awhile he’d be aware that our armed forces are still engaged in that theater.

Benghazi

On September 11, 2012, four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in a series of military-style assaults on our consulate—sovereign U.S. soil—in Benghazi, Libya.  Although Stevens had repeatedly warned of the deteriorating situation and requested additional security, although escalating incidents over the preceding several months had led the British to close their facility, and although the 9/11 anniversary posed an obvious symbolic targeting date, the Administration refused to bolster security and left the diplomatic personnel in place.  Although the President knew about the attacks less than 90 minutes after they began, and although they took place over a period of some nine hours as the President and his staff watched in real time via surveillance drone, the President did nothing.  That weekend, Obama sent U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice all over the Sunday talk shows with a series of talking points blaming a silly internet video when they knew it was an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist assault, while he ran around to multiple campaign fundraisers.  Obama later pledged to hunt down those responsible and bring them to justice, yet to date the only person jailed as a result has been the producer of the irrelevant internet film (who just recently got out of prison); no one in Libya has been arrested, and the Benghazi raid isn’t even among the crimes for which the Administration is offering a reward for information.

Economy and Budget

We’ve been told for several years now that we’re in a “recovery” from the Bush recession.  Obama has repeatedly said that he was focused like a laser on jobs, and that he “will not rest” until everyone has one.  Yet as of September, a full ten million people have left the workforce since Obama took office.  Workforce participation is now at a paltry 63%.  A recent Census Bureau report counts more people receiving means-tested government benefits (read: welfare) than with full-time jobs.  Meanwhile the national debt now exceeds $17 trillion, nearly double what it was when Obama took office (just under $10 trillion), Obama is continuing to spend at around a $4 trillion/year clip, and Harry Reid says “everybody” wants to pay more in taxes.

This is some rescue.

Fast & Furious

On December 14, 2010, U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed in a gun battle with Mexican drug runners.  Guns used in the fight were traced back to Operation Fast & Furious, a Justice Department action in which illegal guns were deliberately permitted to be sold and transported outside the U.S. in an effort to track them to Mexican cartels.  Despite multiple memos and emails to Attorney General Eric Holder mentioning the program—including some from before Terry’s murder—Holder has steadfastly denied (read: lied) knowing anything about it.  Since then, he and the President have spent the better part of the last three years doing everything possible to avoid providing Congress, the American people, or the Terry family any information about it.

Government “Investments”

Obama the investment banker, in his infinite wisdom, illegally diverted $80 billion in TARP bailout money effectively to nationalize GM and Chrysler.  On the GM side alone, taxpayers are still out nearly $20 billion, and the GM stock still held by the government would have to triple in value for John Q. Public just to break even.  To put that in perspective, the first time in our entire history that the total federal budget reached $20 billion was 1942, and here we’re talking about the loss on a single piece of a single program.  Meanwhile as I have reported previously, Obama’s Energy Department has lost billions making high-risk loans to unproven “green energy” firms—many, not coincidentally, owned by huge Obama donors—that have gone belly-up.  And the few jobs “created” through the bailout and loans have in large part been overseas.  Not a particularly good rate of return.

IRS & NSA

When the IRS hasn’t been gearing up to serve as the jack-booted enforcers of FUBARCare, it turns out they’ve been selectively targeting conservative political groups to delay or deny them tax-exempt status.  Originally passed off as the isolated action of a couple of rogue low-level employees in Cincinnati, it is becoming increasingly clear that this was actually a deliberate program to weaponize the IRS as a political tool for the Left, overseen at the highest levels.  Meanwhile, we’re learning that the NSA has been—without a warrant—effectively spying on millions of innocent private U.S. citizens.  Once again, however, the Administration absolutely refuses to discuss either issue with Congress or the American people.

World Image

Obama took office pledging to restore America’s image in the world.  Then in his first official act, he embarked on a global apology tour, basically denouncing everything America has ever been or done.  Since then, he has displayed a breathtaking lack of leadership in the Middle East, he’s been horrifyingly weak in dealing with Russia, and he’s alienated and offended our European and Western Hemisphere allies by repeatedly getting caught spying on them (compounded by the fact that he never sits down with those leaders one-on-one to foster those relationships).  The Saudis have recently severed diplomatic ties.  And Obama’s relationship with Israel is so deteriorated that one suspects the only circumstance in which he wouldn’t piss on Benjamin Netanyahu is if the Prime Minister were on fire.  If there is left any nation that would count us as a friend, or at least acknowledge any respect for us, I don’t know who that would be.

At this point the grim reality has to be inescapable.  Even the true believers on the Left can’t avoid recognizing—without engaging in an unconscionable self-fraud—that this President is an embarrassingly epic failure.  He has accomplished exactly nothing positive, and the level of arrogance, ignorance, incompetence, and paranoia that permeates this Administration is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.  At the end of the day, we’re left with nothing but angry lectures, empty platitudes, cheesy staged political stunts, fundraisers, and golf.

And lies.  Upon lies.  Upon lies.

This is what you get when you elect a community organizer with literally zero real-world experience, whose sole drivers are a blind adherence to radical ideology, and a limitless thirst to erect a monument to his own ego, real-world results and consequences be damned.

Some of us tried to tell you . . .

Who’s Who In Syria?

 

You love me, but you don’t know who I am

I’m torn between this life I lead and where I stand

And you love me, but you don’t know who I am

So let me go, let me go

            —3 Doors Down, Let Me Go

 

Consider this as the Obama administration is preparing to begin military intervention in the civil war in Syria.

Last week the New York Times published a piece telling the story of Matthew Schrier, an American free-lance photojournalist imprisoned for seven months in Syria.  Schrier was attempting to travel to the city of Aleppo when his cab was stopped and he was taken into custody.  He was told he was on trial before an Islamic court, but was not told what the charges against him were.  His prison guards looted his bank accounts and shopped in his name on eBay.  They hacked his email account and sent messages to his mother.  They beat him so badly he could not walk, and he could regularly hear the screams of other prisoners being similarly beaten.

Rusty, isn’t this why we have to go in and get rid of Assad?

The problem is, Schrier was a captive/victim of rebel forces, not the Assad regime.  And his story highlights the basic problem with the administration’s blindfolded and naive policy in the Middle East:  it’s a dangerous game to go picking winners and losers when you don’t really know who the combatants are, because it’s nearly impossible to tell who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.  Yet the administration has for some time verbally supported the rebels in Syria, even if it doesn’t know exactly who the rebels are or what (if anything) they represent. 

But the current positioning of naval assets to launch strikes into Syria represents a new escalation of involvement.  Ostensibly, any strikes would be in retaliation for what we’re told is Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

Haven’t we heard the whole crusade-against-WMDs tale before?

The administration assures us that it’s virtually certain that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons last week, killing between 300 and 1300 people, depending on who you ask.  Of course, we’ve previously seen dubious and even false claims of this nature before.  Secretary of State John Kerry—he of the “seared—searedin me” memory† of being in Cambodia in Christmas 1968, except that it didn’t happen—tells us it is “undeniable,” but offers no proof other than his say-so.  And, conveniently, we’re already being warned that the actual evidence to support the allegation that (a) chemical weapons were used, and (b) it was Assad’s forces that used them may have been destroyed.  So we’re left to accept on faith this administration’s claim that military intervention in someone else’s civil war in which we do not know who the combatants are is justified because the administration says one side has used WMDs.

At least Bush 43 made some attempt to demonstrate his case for moving into Iraq.

You’ll forgive us if we’re just a wee bit skeptical at this point of anything anyone in this administration says:

  • It has yet to tell the truth about Benghazi, and has gone to some lengths to stonewall, obfuscate, and outright cover it up;
  • It has yet to tell the truth about Fast & Furious, and has gone to some lengths to stonewall, obfuscate, and outright cover it up;
  • It has yet to tell the truth about NSA spying, and has gone to some lengths to stonewall, obfuscate, and outright cover it up;
  • It has yet to tell the truth about the IRS being deployed as a political weapon against conservative groups, and has gone to some lengths to stonewall, obfuscate, and outright cover it up;
  • It lied about the practical and fiscal effects of Obamacare (“if you like your coverage/doctor you can keep it,” “I won’t sign anything that adds one dime to the deficit,” “premiums will go down under Obamacare”).

For those of you true believers, recall that Obama promised you he’d end the war in Afghanistan, and close Guantanamo Bay, neither of which has come to pass.  In fact, I defy you to give me a single example of anything over the last six or seven years on which this administration has told the truth or kept its promise, other than the promise to enact “fundamental change,” (and notice they never told you what that change was going to be).  And now Obama wants us to take him at his word that new military intervention in Syria is justified.

Trust me.

The fact of the matter is this administration has been consistently and spectacularly on the wrong side when it comes to sticking its nose in to pick winners and losers in the rash of civil wars in the Middle East.  The situation is not better, and U.S. interests are not more secure as a result of Obama’s support of rebels in Libya and Egypt; Libya turned a relatively benign but stable regime into a chaotic maelstrom of fundamentalism, ultimately costing the lives of four Americans in the military-style assault on our diplomatic compound in Benghazi, and in Egypt a stable and pro-U.S. regime was replaced with an unstable soup of military control and Islamist extremism.  In both instances, the administration seems to have been woefully ignorant as to just what they would be getting as a result of regime change.  And in the one instance where there was a clear “bad guy” to remove that would have resulted in real and positive change for American interests in the region—Iran 2009—the administration did . . . nothing.

Obama has made no case for intervention in Syria.  He has offered no explanation as to what risk of harm the Assad regime posed or poses to American interests or those of any of our allies;  Assad never threatened the U.S. or Israel.  Indeed, I don’t recall that Obama’s made any effort at all to communicate to his employers—the American public—what’s going on, why it matters, and what he proposes doing.  It is impossible for this administration to make an intelligent choice in taking sides, because when it doesn’t and can’t know who the players are or what they represent, it can’t know on which side U.S. interest—if any—lies.

I hear the human rights argument.  But it is not our business—nor is it a legitimate function of the federal government under our Constitution—to be the world’s policeman, particularly if it’s going to involve the expenditure of vast amounts of taxpayer money or cost so much as a single American life.  Otherwise, why aren’t we also deploying to Sudan, Somalia, Burma, the Philippines, Kashmir, Balochistan, Nigeria, Yemen, and the many other places around the globe where there are ongoing armed domestic conflicts?

And the stakes are much, much higher this time.  Nobody was really all that bent over American involvement in Libya and Egypt.  But Syria’s different.  They are a client state of Iran, and pretty chummy with Russia.  One suspects Vladimir Putin is itching for a chance to assert himself on the global stage, and you know he’s morally certain that when push comes to shove, our Commander-in-Chief is a pussy.  Iran and Syria have both made clear that they will respond to a U.S. attack by retaliating against Israel.  All three of them know perfectly well that the American public does not have the stomach or attention span for a fresh military engagement in the Middle East.  This isn’t the time or place to be provoking either the Russians or the Iranians, especially with so little U.S. upside, if any.

At the end of the day, the conflict in Syria is a civil war.  It’s their fight, and they need to be left to fight it, particularly when we can’t possibly have enough information to take sides.

_______________

† Ironically, when Kerry said this in 1986, he was giving a speech denouncing U.S. military involvement overseas when the White House wasn’t—in his view—telling the American people the truth about it.

Dereliction Of Duty

“This national security stuff boring you?”

            —Tom Arnold as Albert Gibson in True Lies

 

This is unbelievable, and I can’t fathom why it’s not getting more coverage than it is.

Last week Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding the September 11 attacks on the U.S. consulate compounds in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, dead.  And I have to tell you, the story they told was simply shocking.

Panetta told the committee that he met with President Obama and Vice President Biden in person at the White House at 5:00 p.m. the afternoon of the 11th.  This was a previously-scheduled security briefing, but Panetta confirmed that in the course of that meeting he informed the President of the attack, which had begun a little over an hour earlier.  This in itself raises an interesting issue.

Panetta testified that he knew “immediately” that the Benghazi raid was a terrorist assault, and presumably he so informed the President.  This echoes earlier statements by then-CIA Director General David Petraeus, who has said that CIA likewise knew and told the White House that the incident was a terrorist attack (contrast that with complaints from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice that CIA gave them bad intelligence in this regard).  So we have both the head of the Defense Department and the head of Central Intelligence now both saying they knew that the assault was a terrorist attack, and that they told the President so.  Why, then, would the Obama Administration—including the President himself, the Secretary of State, the Ambassador to the U.N., and the White House Press Secretary—repeatedly and for weeks afterward have been publicly so garbled and confused about the attacks simply being a protest over an internet movie?

With all due respect to Hillary Clinton and her disingenuous indignation when asked about this very issue, this matters a great deal once you overlay the Administration’s messaging against the timeline and what we now know about what the President actually did (or, more aptly, didn’t do).

The first attack began around 3:45 p.m. Washington time.  At that time, according to the published White House schedule, the President was at Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, visiting injured troops.  By 5:00, Obama was meeting in person with his Secretary of Defense and learning of the attack.  According to Panetta—there has been no comment from the White House to rebut this—Obama gave him no instructions other than to “do whatever you need to do to be able to protect our people there,” which I suppose is fine so far as it goes.  But according to Panetta, Obama didn’t ask how long it would take to deploy any assets, or even what assets and options were available.  Basically, the inquisitive professor asked nothing about any details, and punted to Panetta.

Panetta, armed with the vague directive to do “whatever,” spent the next two hours debating options, and ordering anti-terrorist teams to “prepare” to head to the region.  A six-man security team from Tripoli arrived at Benghazi around 7:30 p.m. Washington time.  A second attack was launched at 11:15, some 7 ½ hours after the first attack began, and more than six hours after Panetta met with President Obama.  Yet during that period, other than an unarmed surveillance drone (which arrived in about an hour), and a single six-man security team, Panetta confirmed that not a single armed aircraft nor a single military unit left the ground to come to Benghazi’s aid.

Six hours.  You can fly from New York to London (about 3400 miles) in that time.  Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany is less than half that distance from Benghazi.  Military assets in Spain, Italy, Greece, and Turkey are closer still.  And there is always at least one Navy carrier strike group in the Mediterranean.  But although nobody knew how long the first attack would last or how many additional assaults there might be, not a single unit was even ordered to attempt to get there.

But here’s where it gets really disturbing.

During the seven or so hours between the time he met with the President and the end of the second attack, while Panetta was wringing his hands but taking no action, he also never called the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Nor did he call the Secretary of State.  And neither of them called him.  Not once.

Worse, the White House has now confirmed what Panetta told us last week, that while the President’s security staff periodically checked in with Panetta, the President himself never once contacted him to follow up on the status on the ground in Benghazi.  Although his calendar shows no official events for the remainder of the evening, the President couldn’t be bothered to pick up the phone and see if Panetta was doing what he had instructed him to do.

Nor did he call Secretary Clinton.

Nor did he call the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

In fact, according to the White House itself, President Obama didn’t call anybody all night.

No one.

To sum it up, the consulate came under attack at 3:45 p.m. Washington time, and for the next eight hours the Secretary of Defense, charged by the President to do “whatever you need to do,” in fact did essentially nothing.  The heads of the Defense Department, the Joint Chiefs, and the State Department weren’t talking with each other.  Meanwhile the Commander-in-Chief of the United States, with sovereign U.S. soil under armed siege and Americans being killed, went to sleep without talking to any of his senior defense leadership the rest of the night.

Now, I understand the concept of delegating, and frankly I’d just as soon Obama leave to the experts the nuts and bolts of, well, anything.  But delegation doesn’t mean you hand it off and wash your hands of it completely; we’re not talking about a Ronco rotisserie toaster oven where you can just set it and forget it.  The President is ultimately responsible for national defense, which means he’s ultimately responsible for defending you.  Yet Benghazi demonstrates that Obama simply can’t be bothered with these things.  For the Commander-in-Chief not to have enough passing curiosity to ask what the plan was, when it would be implemented, or even whether the situation was under control is terrifying.  Whether it’s a lack of spine or interest, faced with a situation in which immediate action needed to be taken to defend Americans on American soil, he was utterly and in every way absent.

And now he’s running from it.  It’s 158 days and counting, and Obama still hasn’t addressed the nation about what happened in Benghazi, or explained where he was and what he was doing (or not), nor accepted any responsibility whatsoever.  Contrast that with the killing of Osama Bin Laden.  Obama went on national TV within hours to announce—and claim credit for—the success of that mission, and the White House was quick to release photos from the situation room depicting Obama and Clinton in a very hands-on, real time role.  But, of course, that’s one that went well.  With Benghazi, he’s nowhere to be seen; he lets Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice face the questions and throw Petraeus under the bus.

This was just a mob-sized attack on a small consulate.  What’s he going to do if a very belligerent Iran becomes nuclear?  What’s he going to do if an even more belligerent North Korea actually figures out how to get a missile from the Korean peninsula to Seattle or San Francisco?

He won’t be able to hide behind a drone or a teleprompter then.

No Real Bias For Action

“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

            —William Shakespeare, Macbeth

 

Once again, President Obama has demonstrated that he’s all political style, and zero substance.

On Wednesday—once again emphasizing the urgent need to take decisive action to save lives—he announced a series of executive actions he is undertaking unilaterally to reduce gun violence.  Further highlighting the importance that we do this to protect the safety of children, and in an impossibly cynical and sophomoric bit of political showmanship, he surrounded himself on stage with a bunch of grade-schoolers.  We have to do this for the kids.

It’s too bad that the executive orders he signed have essentially nothing to do with preventing gun violence.

Consistent with everything else this man has said over the last four years, the list—up to 23 items from the advertised 19—is chock full of vague platitudes like “launch a national dialogue . . . on mental health.”  What the hell does that mean?  In all, there were five items relating to data sharing and tracing (i.e., knowing which law-abiding citizens have guns, and where they go after a crime has been committed) two on research, two on safety standards and practices, and one each on the prosecution of gun crimes (again, after  the crime has already been committed) and administrative matters.  In fairness, three items related to training and response plans for law enforcement and school officials, although query how that’s in any way a legitimate federal responsibility or even prerogative.  But a whopping FIVE—basically a quarter of the entire list—dealt with issuing or clarifying new regulations under Obamacare.

Health care regulations are going to prevent gun crimes?  Really?

In all, roughly half the list dealt with tracking law-abiding citizens and the unconstitutional health care law.  Not surprisingly, Wednesday’s actions also included some $4.5 billion in new spendingBy all means throw some money at the issue.  Among the whoppers in the spending are $150 million for new school resource and guidance counselors, $50 million for schools to create “safer and more nurturing” environments, and $50 million to train social workers, counselors, psychologists, and other mental health professionals.  I guess we’re now turning these people into either the new gun-control enforcers or at least government informants; they’ll eventually be subject to liability if they fail to turn someone in and that person later shoots someone.  Worse, the prospect that they in their sole judgment have the power to put people under federal scrutiny has to have a chilling effect on people’s willingness to go seek help when they need it.  Sounds like a positive step, doesn’t it?

Like so much from this President, Wednesday’s announcements contained a lot of noise, but at the end of the day didn’t do much.  I suppose I should be thankful that, at least for now, Obama has kept his exercise of Imperial authority to a relatively modest level on this issue.  On the whole it’s a bunch of nothing at least as it relates to the stated goal of actually preventing gun violence.  But at least he acted, and he did so within a month of the school shootings in Connecticut.

And boy, did it make for good political TV.

But contrast his swift, if meaningless, action in this instance with some other notable issues facing his administration.

It’s been now five years, and he has never presented Congress with a meaningful budget.  What little effort he has made in this regard has been routinely and unanimously rejected even by his own party.  Given his current insistence that Congress must raise the debt ceiling yet again and do so without placing any contingencies concerning reducing future spending, one begins to suspect that the underlying problem may be he has absolutely no idea what a budget is.

It’s been 129 days since the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked in what now appears to have been a large military-style assault.  Four Americans were killed while the White House and/or CIA watched live via spy drone.  These were Americans that, unlike the children in Connecticut, actually were the federal government’s—and, more to the point, this Administration’s—responsibility.  Obama’s own State Department put these people in harm’s way, and kept them there despite obvious warning signs and repeated pleas for help.  Yet for all his talk about the urgency to take action to save even one life, President Obama hasn’t even had the temerity to address the nation on what happened.  Not exactly a bias for action there.

It’s been over two years since federal agent Brian Terry was killed near the Mexican border; yet another dead American.  Ironically, in this instance not only was Terry’s safety the responsibility of the federal government, but he was killed by guns; guns allowed into the hands of Mexican gangsters by this Administration.  Yet there’s still been no real explanation to the American public or to the Terry family, and no real fallout from the incident.

We are still in Afghanistan with no mission, even though Osama Bin Laden was killed nearly two years ago.  Meanwhile, over 1500 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan during Obama’s four years and three weeks on the job.  That’s nearly three times more than killed during the entire eight years of the Bush administration, in half the time.  Indeed, just in the time since Bin Laden’s death, the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan has nearly matched the total Bush-era fatalities (606 vs. 630).

This guy is all about what makes him look good, and nothing more.  For all his flowery talk about saving lives, the actions he took Wednesday have little to do with that.  When it’s been time to face up to real issues in a substantive way, particularly when there’s no good political theater to be had, he’s a complete no-show.  Even on other issues when there’s been real action he could legitimately take to save American lives, if it won’t make him look good on TV, he’d rather just wait out the news cycle and hope everyone moves on to American Idol and forgets about it.

At least his handicap is going down.

What Are You Doing, Dave?

“All these documents are yours.  The people’s property; you paid for them.  But because the government considers you children who might be too disturbed or distressed to face this reality, or because you might possibly lynch those involved, you cannot see these documents for another seventy-five years.  I’m in my early forties, so I’ll have shuffled off this mortal coil by then.  But I’m already telling my eight-year-old son to keep himself physically fit, so that one glorious September morning in the year 2038 he can walk into the National Archives and find out what the CIA and the FBI knew.  They might even push it back then.  Hell, it may become a generational affair, with questions passed down from father to son, mother to daughter.  But someday, somewhere, somebody will find out the damn truth.”

            —Kevin Costner as District Attorney Jim Garrison in JFK

 

Unpleasant as it is, I want to return to the subject of Benghazigate.

It’s already bad enough that the same President who shamelessly co-opted himself into the Navy SEALS for political gain in the killing of Osama Bin Laden turned his back on them when they needed his help in a life-or-death situation.  But there’s a potentially telling question gnawing at me that I don’t think is being asked.

We know now that one or more surveillance drones were over Benghazi viewing and recording the attack on the consulate compound and CIA safe house in real time.  It appears there were also security cameras recording from inside the compound.  Senators John McCain (R(sort of)-AZ) and Rob Portman (R-OH) of the Senate Armed Services Committee have been trying to obtain those tapes, but have been stonewalled by the FBI, which is claiming all that material is classified top secret.

Leaving aside the issue of why CIA or military surveillance data is with the FBI, and where the FBI gets the authority to determine what is/isn’t top secret classified material, here’s my question:

Why was there a drone over Benghazi at all?

I know Obama has a drone fetish, but unless it’s just standard operating procedure to have drones in the air everywhere at all times—which begs a whole other set of disturbing questions—what was going on at the consulate compound that merited an unmanned surveillance drone that happened to be over just the right place at just the right time?

Carried a step further, what was going on at the consulate compound that makes what the drone captured on tape so sensitive to national security that it has to be classified top secret and kept from the Senate Armed Services Committee (and in that event, why is it with the FBI, and not CIA or the Joint Chiefs of Staff)?

Rusty, you know perfectly well that national security requires a certain amount of classified intelligence, and that there are things the federal government has to be able to do without public scrutiny.

Quite so.  Sun Tsu preached the importance of gathering intelligence and that some of that has to be done covertly.  And I am the last one to suggest that every breath the government takes from a security standpoint should be open for all to see.  But that leads to a whole other set of questions.

For a minute let’s give the President the benefit of the doubt that there were sensitive top secret national security activities going on and the situation on the ground was such that it merited the use of unmanned surveillance.  As an initial question, then, if that’s the case why send in a drone to film it and run the risk of it—and its footage—crashing or being shot down and captured?  But more to the point, if it was so secret and so dangerous, then why wasn’t there adequate military security already in place?  If the activities there were so sensitive that the surveillance footage is so top secret it can’t even be shown to the Senate Armed Services Committee, why weren’t the assets and personnel already there to protect them from prying eyes in such a dangerous locale?  Moreover, if what was going on there was so important and so classified, why was there no rescue effort made, and why no immediate attempt to move in afterwards and secure the premises and whatever sensitive material might still be left there?

These are important questions that I don’t really hear anyone asking.  And when you start trying to connect the dots of the information we do have, it gives every appearance that there’s something really sinister going on here.

Bear in mind that for all its bluster about transparency, this is already an administration that stonewalled a House investigation into Operation Fast & Furious for the better part of a year, and when it was finally backed into a corner it threw up a bogus claim of “executive privilege” to hide its internal documents discussing the program (or, to be more precise, its after-the-fact documents discussing how to spin the fiasco to the media).  In Benghazi we have a situation where the administration knew enough about what was going on to have an unmanned surveillance drone watching the attack as it happened.  Yet although it had no security assets at the compound ahead of time, made no attempt to intervene in the attack at the compound while it was happening—despite watching it live, and what appear to have been multiple calls for help on the ground—and made no attempt to secure the compound afterwards, the administration now claims what the aerial and surface surveillance apparatus recorded in that compound is “top secret.”

You can’t have it both ways.  If there were top secret activities in Benghazi that now justify keeping surveillance material from the Senate, those people and assets should have been protected.  If you were worried about what was going on there becoming public from a legitimate national security standpoint, there should have been some kind of intervention.  You certainly shouldn’t have left the place, and whatever top secrets it might still have contained, open for three weeks before being secured, searched, and cleared of all sensitive material.  If there weren’t top secret activities in Benghazi, then there’s no reason to keep data and information from the Senate.  As it stands now, however, your average resident of Benghazi knows more about what was going on there than the Armed Services Committee.

I have no illusions about it happening before next Tuesday.  But there’s a lot of smoke here, and I suspect when we finally get to the bottom of this we’re going to find quite the fire.

Oooh, That Smell

“Did you hear that?  He just let the guy die, man.  He just gave him up.  Gimme that headset.  That’s like pulling the trigger yourself.” 

            —Paul Gleason as Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson in Die Hard

 

To quote Genius Joe (albeit speaking in another context), “This is a big f***ing deal.”  And the longer it goes on, the more disgusted I get.

You are no doubt well aware that on September 11 the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked and burned, resulting in the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.  What we now know is that there were actually two separate coordinated attacks—one on the consulate proper, the other on a “safe house”/CIA base about a mile away—carried out over several hours.  But as this story continues to unravel, it increasingly demonstrates—once again—the colossal naiveté and gross incompetence of this administration.

And its pathological inability to tell the truth.

On September 12, President Obama gave a five minute address in the Rose Garden before jaunting off to Vegas to raise campaign money.  Now 49 days later, this is the one and only time Obama has addressed the nation on the attack.  Lest I be accused of taking something out of context, the entire transcript as published by the White House itself is available here.  But at the beginning of his remarks, Obama said this:

“Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths.  We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.  But there is absolutely no justification to [sic] this type of senseless violence.”

Plainly, the President was drawing a connection (i.e., suggesting a motivation) between the Benghazi attack and the stupid anti-Mohammed video Innocence of Muslims.  Obama made no mention—none—of the nearly simultaneous riot and burning of the embassy in Cairo, no mention of al Qaeda, and only once at the end did he make a single generic reference to “acts of terror.”

Over the next several weeks, the message out of the White House was garbled at best.  On September 13, Press Secretary Jay Carney linked the regional unrest to the video: “The protests we’re seeing around the region are in reaction to this movie.”  On September 16 U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice made the same connection on Meet the Press.  On September 18 Carney reiterated it: “Our belief based on the information we have is it was the video that caused the unrest in Cairo, and the video and the unrest in Cairo that helped—that precipitated some of the unrest in Benghazi[.]”  And as late as September 20—nine days later—President Obama was still linking the two during a town hall interview on Univision.

But when this it was a spontaneous protest narrative began to unravel, the administration began looking for scapegoats; so it blamed bad intelligence.  The message was confusing and inaccurate, you see, because they were only reporting what CIA was telling them, and CIA was getting it wrong.  There’s just one problem:

The administration had the actual information in real time.

It turns out, an unmanned Predator drone was over Benghazi, watching the attack as it happened.  And the administration—including the White House—was informed of the situation via email during the attack.  You can argue about what was motivating the attack or who, specifically, was behind it, but those issues are totally irrelevant while the attack is going on.  The immediate issue during the attack is defending against it—whoever is behind it or why—and protecting Americans in danger.

Not only did the Obama administration know that Benghazi was under attack as it was happening, but there now are reports that the CIA detachment in Benghazi made multiple requests for military help and they were not only denied that help, but told to stand down and not go to the aid of the besieged consulate.  This, despite having military assets available at multiple locations within short travel times of Benghazi.

What’s worse, it didn’t take much to see this coming.  The Benghazi mission was bombed twice in the five months leading up to the September 11 attack.  U.S. and British diplomats were attacked in June, and the British closed their consulate their shortly thereafter.  And the U.S. diplomatic mission had repeatedly requested additional security, but was denied.  Not only that, but it was denied ostensibly due to a lack of funding, even as the State Department was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy Chevy Volts for the embassy in Vienna.  Say what you will about whether the administration had specific advance warning of an attack; even without an engraved invitation specifying the time, place, and manner of the assault, it should have been obvious that Benghazi, Libya was an exceedingly dangerous place for a U.S. diplomatic mission, and it begs the question why there wasn’t enhanced military security—i.e., heavily armed Marines—already in place heading into the 9/11 anniversary.

Maybe if the President attended a security briefing once in awhile, he would have had a better grasp on this situation in advance.  Maybe if he weren’t spending literally millions of dollars hosting lavish State dinners there would have been room in the budget for additional security in Benghazi.  Maybe if he spent less time partying with Beyonce and more time protecting American lives and American interests, Chris Stevens and the other 3 Americans would still be alive.

And this highlights the most disappointing aspect of this whole episode.  Rather than stand up and deal with the issue, once again this administration’s first instinct was to hide, deflect, distract, and blame.  Interestingly, when he spoke in the Rose Garden on September 12, Obama said nothing about the drone coverage or emails telling them about the attack in real time—4 p.m. in D.C.  Instead, he said “ . . . last night, we learned the news of this attack in Benghazi,” as though they found out about it after-the-fact on the nightly news like the rest of us.  Obama went on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart—as an aside, isn’t Comedy Central sort of beneath the office of President?—and the best he could say was that the deaths of four Americans was “not optimal.”  Meeting with the father of slain Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods in a staged-for-TV service at Andrews Air Force Base, Obama gave him a dead fish handshake, wouldn’t (couldn’t?) look him in the eye, and managed only an insincerely mumbled “sorry.”  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for her part, blamed the video and said they would prosecute the filmmaker, even though we now know she knew better.  This is not the behavior of genuinely sympathetic human beings, but of pure political hacks with something to hide, looking for cover.

This administration, and this President, are simply incapable of telling the truth or accepting actual responsibility for anything.  We’re going to learn more over time, although I fear the real core telling truths won’t come out until after the election.  But what is apparent now is this:

  • The administration had ample information ahead of time that there was a need for additional military security in Benghazi and didn’t provide it;
  • They watched the attacks as they were happening and refused to send help, and four Americans are dead as a result;
  • Then the administration lied about the whole thing.

Mr. President, the smell of death surrounds you.

Our MIA President

Where, oh where, are you tonight

Why did you leave me here all alone?

—Roy Clark, Where Are You Tonight?

I remain very disturbed about this.

A mob—or an organized terrorist brigade, take your pick—has attacked a U.S. consulate in Libya, murdering our ambassador and three of his staff.  An unverified report from a Lebanese news organization claims the ambassador was sodomized.  Mobs have set fires at U.S. diplomatic installations in Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, Somalia, Tunisia, Yemen, and even in London.  Mobs are gathering outside U.S. interests in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Embassies of our (at least for the moment) allies Germany and Switzerland have been overrun and set on fire in Sudan and Iran, respectively.  Meanwhile, whether related or not, campuses are being evacuated due to “al Qaeda threats” at the University of Texas, North Dakota State, and Valparaiso.

The situation in the Middle East, and possibly with Islamist sympathizers here at home, is quickly spiraling out of control.  So I have one simple, but important question:

Where the Hell is the President?!?!

He did a flat and disingenuous five minute dry-read speech at the Rose Garden, and a cynical photo op with the coffins returning the bodies of our dead diplomats, and that was it.  He sent out Jay Carney to make the laughable denial that all the violence and chaos is directed at the U.S., insisting that it’s all about a stupid movie—and, BTW, I’ve seen it, and it’s so beyond stupid no rational person could possibly take it seriously enough to be offended.  His surrogates have been running around castigating Mitt Romney for trying to politicize the crisis, when all he’s been doing is explaining the problems with Obama’s rudderless policy of appeasement and how he would do things differently—a perfectly legitimate thing for a presidential candidate to do.  All the while Obama is off partying like it’s 1999 with Jay-Z and Beyonce, or raising more re-election cash in Vegas, or doing softball campaign interviews for 60 Minutes.  He’s everywhere but out front and leading.

You mean he can’t take an hour or two off of his re-election campaign to actually do his freaking job?!?!

The message coming from the administration, such as it is, is garbled and self-contradictory.  Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel, then it is, then it is but only until a final solution on Palestine is negotiated.  We apologize for the video, then we don’t, then we do but still “condemn” the violence.  Egypt is not an ally, then it is.  This is a religious mob, then it’s a coordinated al Qaeda revenge attack, then it’s just a mob again.  A UK paper is reporting that U.S. intelligence was warned of a possible impending attack a week ago; not surprisingly, the administration denies that.  Our foreign policy in the Middle East gives every outward indication that it’s being managed and implemented by the Keystone Cops (at least there’s one Keystone this administration can embrace).

This is what happens when you have a complete absence of leadership.  And I don’t mean just a lack; Obama is literally MIA.

At times of national crisis, we as citizens need to know that our Commander-in-Chief is in charge.  That he’s on the job and in control of the situation.  That’s why Presidents for decades have given prompt national TV addresses to the nation at critical moments.

Kennedy did that with the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Reagan did that with the Beirut bombing and the Challenger explosion.

Bush 43 did that after 9/11.

Obama himself has used national TV addresses as a pulpit, but not to reassure the nation that he was in command.  He did it to boast about the killing of Osama bin Laden (important closure, but in itself hardly the apex of an urgent national crisis), and to use the BP Deepwater Horizon incident to further his anti-oil environmental zealotry agenda.  He did it from the floor of the House when he wanted to brow-beat Congress for not adopting his “jobs” spending agenda.  As a candidate he did it when he needed to distance himself from the volatile Rev. Jeremiah Wright (throwing his own grandmother and Wright under the bus in the process).   So we know Obama knows how to use national TV time, because he’s done so in the past when it has suited him politically.

Where is he now?  When it’s time to take some responsibility and demonstrate that he grasps the gravity of the situation and has it under control, why are we now five days into the crisis and we as a nation haven’t heard so much as boo from him?

Leaders lead, and that’s a must-be-present-to-win proposition.  You can’t phone it in, and you can’t staff it out.  You can’t run away on vacation (like he did last year during the debt ceiling crisis and the downgrading of our credit), or hide behind celebrity fundraising bashes and cupcake staged media appearances when a hot situation is reaching critical mass.  You have to stand up—yourself—and take charge.  Almost as important, you have to be visible to the rest of us in doing it.  That doesn’t necessarily mean dropping bombs or sending in troops.  But the face of the nation needs to be seen by America and the world.  It needs to express the full measure of our outrage, calm the fears of those of us at home, and make clear to the rest of the world that we are still the biggest kid on the block and we won’t have sand kicked in our face.

That’s part of leadership.  And it’s totally missing.

Present.

Not.

Dangerous Liaisons

“Up until now, Dallas hasn’t been afraid of you.  And they should be, because you have a very powerful weapon working for you.  There is no tomorrow for you, and that makes you all VERY DANGEROUS PEOPLE!!”

            —Gene Hackman as Coach Jimmy McGinty in The Replacements

 

Resetting something from my last post, in supposed outrage over a movie disrespecting Mohammed, rioting mobs stormed our embassy in Cairo and tore up American flags.  It turns out rioters (possibly also over the movie, possibly as a 9/11 thing—does it really matter why?) also burned our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing our Ambassador and three other Americans.  Understand: a U.S. embassy or consulate is every bit sovereign U.S. territory as New York City.  So what we have is two armed invasions of U.S. territory and the killing of Americans, which begs two questions of our Commander-in-Chief, whose primary job description is protecting Americans and American interests.  One, why weren’t these installations already adequately defended with heavily-armed Marines, especially (and obviously) on the anniversary of 9/11?  Two, why is the President giving this breach of our sovereignty and security nothing more than a five minute address in the Rose Garden before heading off to Vegas?

The President “condemns” the actions of the rioters.  Oooh.  I’m sure they’re so shaken by that they’ll never do it again.

The answer lies in the disorganization and lack of preparedness that results from a complete absence of leadership.  Witness the administration’s inability even to get its messaging coordinated.  The State Department is apologizing for the movie offending Muslims religious sensibilities, while the White House says it’s not.  The State Department says Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel, while the White House says (now) that it is (at least until it’s negotiated away).

The lack of any kind of a rudder, backbone, or sensitivity to the seriousness of this issue is frightening.  We learned this week that since taking office, President Obama has skipped more than half of his daily intelligence briefings, and attended exactly none for the whole week prior to Tuesday’s attacks.  The White House says it’s OK because he’s thoroughly reading the daily reports, but this is the same administration that said Eric Holder couldn’t possibly be expected to have read all the memos sent to him regarding Operation Fast & Furious.  This administration has also been a sieve of leaked security information, and that’s on top of the official publication of withdrawal timetables; any would-be enemy need only pick up the New York Times to know what we’re going to do and when.

But not only is the Obama administration’s foreign policy apparatus a complete cluster you-know-what from an operational perspective, he has also missed the boat from a substantive policy perspective at every possible turn:

  • In 2009, a pro-democracy uprising challenged the re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, a man who is undeniably unstable, ferociously anti-American, and easily the single most dangerous ruler in the region, if not on the planet.  Anybody, sight unseen, would be an improvement.  Obama’s response?  He maintained neutrality, taking the position that the Iranians needed to work it out for themselves.  Without active U.S. support, the uprising was soon crushed in a brutal and violent crackdown.
  • In 2011, the “Arab Spring” ousted Hosni Mubarek in Egypt, and Moammar Gaddafi in Libya.  Mubarek had long been a stable and non-antagonistic presence, if not a U.S. ally in the region, yet Obama backed the protesters.  And while no friend of the U.S., Gaddafi had at least kept his mouth shut and had largely been a non-factor in the region for some 15 years, yet Obama illegally lent military support to a U.N. expedition sent to aid the rebels.  In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood stepped into the resulting void, and Islamist parties including the Brotherhood also did so in Libya, meaning that Obama’s policies have swapped regimes that were known entities and friendly or at least under control for varying degrees of unknown radical Islamists.  Shockingly, it’s Egypt and Libya where we now see them storming and torching our embassies and consulates.
  • In Syria, the Obama administration has thrown its lot in with the anti-Assad rebels, even though the Assad administration has never posed any real problem for the U.S.  Those rebels have been infiltrated by elements of al Qaeda.  In Pakistan the Obama administration provides billions in aid and falls all over itself to apologize for every perceived slight, meanwhile Pakistani intelligence harbors Osama bin Laden for years right under their nose, and calls the U.S. their “worst enemy.

How can anyone be so tone deaf as to miss all of this?

It is against this backdrop that we have to view the situation with Israel, the only truly stable government and our only friend left in the Middle East.  The Israelis understand that threats to erase them from the map are very real—they’ve been living with Muslim guns and rockets pointed at them since 1948.  The rise of radical Islamist governments around the region is in itself cause for alarm in Jerusalem.  Combine that with the fact that it’s all been happening with the overt support of their only real ally in the world, and you should understand how dire they have to be viewing their situation.

And of course, there’s that pesky problem of Iran daily getting ever-closer to becoming a nuclear power (even the UN recognizes this, but won’t do anything about it).

Not only is Israel surrounded by an increasingly hostile (and potentially nuclear-armed) collection of Islamist regimes, but they’re not getting any help from us.  To the contrary, for all its lip-service to being a great friend of Israel, the Obama administration has repeatedly publicly humiliated the Israeli government, specifically on these very issues of Israel’s security:

  • Obama left Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cooling his heels in a White House meeting room while he left to have dinner with his wife and daughters.
  • In yet another hot mic gaffe, Obama was caught bad-mouthing Netanyahu behind his back with then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy, basically saying “You can’t stand him [Netanyahu]?  I have to deal with him every day.”
  • Heading into crucial U.N. discussions about the Palestinian request for statehood recognition, Obama publicly undercut the Israelis’ negotiating position by saying Israel had to revert back to at least the pre-1967 borders (i.e., give up the Sinai, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and old Jerusalem), leaving Netanyahu with nowhere from which to negotiate.
  • And then there was Tuesday’s flat rejection of a meeting with Netanyahu to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, the single most important security issue facing both nations today.  Obama was too busy getting on Letterman and setting up fundraisers.

All of this is telling the Muslim world, the Israelis, and everyone else plain as day that if push comes to shove, we won’t have Israel’s back.  And our failure to set concrete benchmarks and timelines for Iran—and to stand up to Russia and China in the process—tells them push won’t come to shove.  For all the crowing about how bold he was for “doing the right thing” in bailing out GM and Chrysler (not the entire auto industry, Ms. Granholm—please shut up and go back to your cocktail), this President has no stones when it matters.

And the Islamists know it.

What choices are left to Israel?  With all indications being that she’s left to fend for herself, Israel will now be forced to take pre-emptive military action against Iran unilaterally, and that powder keg will be volatile indeed.  I don’t know if this could have been avoided, but it was surely made more likely by this administration’s chronic weakness, and its refusal to confront and deal with the issue decisively.  Instead they’ve just let it fester, and now it may be too late.

What the Israelis understand, and this President just doesn’t seem to grasp, is that you cannot negotiate with or appease these people.  No apology for anything is going to win you any good will, because they are not interested in your apology.  They do not care what you say.  And no amount of diplomacy or negotiation is going to get you to an agreement, because they are not interested in any negotiated peaceful co-existence.  They do not care what you give them.  What they want—and the only thing they want—is Israel gone, and once that happens they’ll be looking at us next.

And what makes these people really dangerous—and the reason even threats are unlikely to get you anywhere with them—is they’re fundamentally suicidal anyway.  They’re after the eternal reward of 79 virgins (or however many it is) awaiting martyrs for Allah, so they don’t care what you do to them, and they’re happy to die if they can kill you in the process.  I made this point some time ago, and Charles Krauthammer made it last month:  the Islamists are fundamentally different in this respect than dealing with the Soviets.  Mutually Assured Destruction and negotiations worked with the Soviets, because in the end they didn’t really want to die, and they didn’t really want to wipe us off the planet.

These people do.

If only our Commander-in-Chief understood that.