Rich Lowry: President Obama missing in action

On "Fox News Sunday" recently, White House aide Dan Pfeiffer was asked about President Barack Obama's whereabouts the night of the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi.

This was the night when we lost our first ambassador in 30 years, and when three other Americans were killed in an attack lasting for hours at multiple locations. Since the president is commander in chief, one would think that where he was and what he did during such an event would be of obvious public concern.

Not according to Pfeiffer. He deemed the president's location, and specifically whether he was in the Situation Room, "a largely irrelevant fact." If it is so unimportant, why not simply tell us? It's not as if we haven't heard largely irrelevant information before.

Obama's actions and nonactions on that terrible night are a blank spot in his presidency. We simply don't know much about them, and the White House has always been perfectly content to leave it that way.

We know he was meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey on an unrelated matter at 5 p.m. Washington time, when he learned of the attack. In congressional testimony, Panetta said he had no contact with the president or the White House after that point. Dempsey said he didn't hear from the president, either.

We know that the president talked to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at 10 p.m., when the assault that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and State Department computer expert Sean Smith was over but the mortar attack that killed two former U.S. Navy SEALs at another facility hadn't yet taken place.

(We also know he had an hourlong conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, but according to the White House, the call was about Iran.)

What about the rest of the time? Pfeiffer assures us that the president kept "in constant touch that night with his national-security team and kept up to date with the events as they were happening."

He must have experienced the loneliness and responsibility of command during all his unspecified phone calls with unspecified national-security personnel from an unspecified location until unspecified hours of the night.

When the White House has a good story to tell, we hear about it. As Boston Herald columnist Michael Graham points out, the president has been in constant evidence responding to the Moore, Okla., tornado. Two days after the storm, the White House blog informed us, among many other things, that the president spoke to Mayor Glenn Lewis and Gov. Mary Fallin "to reiterate that he had directed his administration to provide all available resources to support the response led by the governor and her team."

The Osama bin Laden raid will be one of the most documented episodes of his presidency. Immediately after killing bin Laden, Obama gave a long, detailed interview to "60 Minutes."

He talked about what information the CIA first brought him about bin Laden's location and what orders he gave in response. When the planning began and how it proceeded. How involved he was in multiple meetings. Every nuance of his thinking. The dynamic of the debate among his advisers. The mood in the Situation Room during the operation. And so on.

In the case of Benghazi, the military maintains that nothing could have been done to save the lives lost that night, and it may be right. But no one could say how long the attack in Benghazi would last, or if there would be follow-on attacks in Tripoli. An engaged commander in chief would have been coordinating with his military and prodding it to see if it could do more, faster to respond to an attack that resulted in a national humiliation.

The day after his mystery night, Obama emerged. He gave a statement at 10:35 a.m. condemning the Benghazi attack — and left Washington at 2:20 p.m. for a fundraiser in Las Vegas.

Rich Lowry is a syndicated columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.

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Comments

 's picture

After 9/11 2001 Bush's first

After 9/11 2001 Bush's first act as President was to make sure that the Bin Laden family was safe and provided a plane out of the country

Steve  Dosh's picture

Rich Lowry: President Obama missing in action

Richy rich ? " President Obama: ' Rich Lowry missing . Inaction and stupidity cited as cause .'" hth ? / Steve

RONALD RIML's picture

We know where Pres Bush was when we were attacked on 9/11

"On the morning of September 11, 2001, George Bush was reading the story (The Pet Goat) along with a group of schoolchildren at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota County, Florida, when White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card informed him that a second airplane had just hit the World Trade Center. Bush remained seated for roughly seven minutes and followed along as the children read the book. After spending about 20 minutes total with the children, Bush was scheduled to give a short press conference at about 9:30 a.m. At the conference inside the school, Bush made his first speech about the attacks and was later taken to a secure location by the Secret Service aboard Air Force One before returning to the White House later that evening"

What, as Rich Lowery writes would "An engaged commander in chief would have been coordinating with his military and prodding it to see if it could do more, faster to respond to an attack that resulted in a national humiliation?"

Besides later attacking Iraq - which had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11, costing thousands of American lives and hundreds of Billions of $$$$.

An answer??

Steve  Dosh's picture

Ron , -->

Ron , --> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_W._Bush_substance_abuse_controversy <-- there was a great joke at the time about a train in TX hitting something and providing US with a horse's ass and . him . Where are those WMD's ? Just a joke ed . Not factual . At all . And his daughters didn't use their secret service detail to purchase alcohol either /s, Steve

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