How Libya Makes Obama Vulnerable — and the GOP Knows It

  • Share
  • Read Later

Rally-around-the-flag time is over. For the most part, Republicans — with the exception of Mitt Romney — had held their fire in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. embassy in Cairo and consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which claimed the lives of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens. But as questions emerge about how the Libya attack, in particular, went down, Republicans are starting to criticize the Obama Administration for not anticipating the violence and not doing enough to secure Libya after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Republicans almost universally reacted with skepticism and scorn after a briefing on Thursday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. “They’re trying to cover their behinds,” Representative Bill Flores, a Texas Republican, told The Hill upon leaving the House briefing. Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, echoed the sentiment: “That is the most useless, worthless briefing I have attended in a long time.”

(MORE: In Syria, Libya-Style Intervention Remains Unlikely)

In the days following the attacks, the White House at first said it believed the attack in Benghazi in eastern Libya that claimed Stevens’ life was spontaneous, born of protests over an inflammatory California-made video mocking the Prophet Muhammad. “We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sept. 16.

The Administration has since changed course and now admits the attack may have been preplanned. Clinton told Senators on Thursday that she believed it was “self-evident” that it was a terrorist attack. “It seems like it was obvious [there was] some element of preplanning, but how far in advance, that’s hard to say,” Representative Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters. Though, all three briefers were careful to underline that there had been no chatter or warning of an attack, despite six recent al-Qaeda-linked incidents — not aimed at the U.S. — in Benghazi in recent weeks.

Republicans say the Administration potentially dropped the ball in Libya, not doing enough to prevent a terrorist attack that claimed American lives. Some have even likened President Obama’s response as more deer-in-headlights than George W. Bush’s blank stare when told about the twin-tower attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 while reading a book to children. Obama, they note, has admitted to skipping some of his daily intelligence briefings. The Administration did not do enough to secure weapons in Libya following the fall of Gaddafi, they say, and sent in U.S. diplomatic personnel with inadequate security.

(MORE: Timeline: What Happened in Libya and How the U.S. Reacted)

The GOP criticism may be fueled by public reaction to the Middle East debacle. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sept. 18 found Obama’s foreign policy approval rating among registered voters to be at 49%, down from 54% a month earlier. Among independents that fall was steeper, down to 41% from 53% a month prior.

Until the attacks, Republicans have had trouble denting Obama’s strength on foreign policy. Obama, after all, had approved the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and his policies are pretty much in line with those of George W. Bush. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has had a tough time going to Obama’s right on almost any foreign policy issue. And Romney has also suffered from a ham-handed approach to the subject. A Reuters/Ipsos poll out on Sept. 18 found that four in 10 voters felt less favorably toward Romney following his far-too-early and ill-conceived criticism of the attacks. Romney has said little more about the Libya attack other than underlining the importance of bringing the killers to justice. Whether he echoes his GOP colleagues’ criticisms remains to be seen.

PHOTOS: Protests Rage in the Middle East, Sparked by Mysterious Anti-Islamic Film

147 comments
ironyman2
ironyman2

Why shouldn't Libya make Obama vulnerable? The only person in his administration with balls, Hillary Clinton, stepped up and took the fall on his behalf. Most discerning people understand that Obama was not and should not be hands-on with embassy/consulate operations. But what this terrible, tragic incident shows is a lack of overall attention paid to what is going on around him. It seems after he killed bin Laden, Mr. O. seemed to think he could take the rest of his administration off with foreign policy. Reports are widely circulated in foreign policy-related blogs and magazines that Mr. O. seldom meets with any of his top cabinet officials. He is more likely to meet with campaign strategists than with Clinton or even Leon Panetta. Mr. O. is a fairly competent campaigner - those he's lost that 2008 glow - but he is not a leader. Look at his track record with Congress. Look at the way he has handled the Libya incident. He does  not deserve four more years to continue to diminish our country. And even though OBL is gone, al qaeda is still alive and well.

DeeDee
DeeDee

It is sooooo Republican that Obama dare mention that he successfully obliterated bin Laden, saying HOW DARE HE "politicize" this event, yet the Repubs are falling all over themselves to politicize Bengazhi. I didn't feel much one way or the other about the nutty Repub Party, but now I fully DESPISE the party. Creating a voter fraud issue where there is none, becoming the party of the rich, the party of exclusion, the party of secrecy (just compare the opennesss of Mitten's super pacs with Obama's, oh, and their tax returns). Geez, I could write a book. Repubs, you have become a really, really creepy group of people. Thank God when Mittens loses, you will have to figure out what you all REALLY stand for. Sure can't tell by Mittens, the candidate who will say and do ANYTHING to get elected.

Staff Iran-Conoco
Staff Iran-Conoco

The Department of State (DoS), and Congressional Repubicans and Demicats leadership know that Stevens was ordered to Benghazi to negotiate for the protection of "American interests" (translation: "international oil company (IOCs) assets." Bill Van Auken gives a succinct historical prospective in "'The Quiet American': the death of J. Christopher

Stevens," http://www.wsws.org/articles/2.... Specific cases of why Libyans who are not closely connected to the current political elite or employed by IOCs object to allowing the DoS and the DoS's client IOCs continue to steal the country's public wealth is discussed in "ConocoPhillips Shareholder Proposal -- 2012," http://UnCoverUp.net.

superlogi
superlogi

"Until the embassy attacks, Republicans have had trouble denting Obama’s strength on foreign policy. Obama, after all, had approved the daring raid that killed Osama bin Laden and his policies are pretty much in line with those of George W. Bush."

Yes, we all know only too well what a hero the messiah is.  It's been published ad nauseum by every leftist journalist in the business.  In fact, that and the circumstances surrounding it, most of it classified.  We'll even get to see what "really" happened on the big screen along with the rest of the world.  And, won't that be a hoot.  Do you suppose, after the riots "caused" by a short film "trailer", there may be a bit of censorship exercised on our hero's film debut?  Hmm.  It will be interesting to see.

53underscore3
53underscore3

Stuporlogi:

Why is it that i only see Obama connected with the word 'messiah' when you post.

It seems that some of you on the right must be worshiping him, because you're the only ones saying this.

How odd...

Anne Lieber
Anne Lieber

This does not surprise me because I think Obama was disingenuous and he looked very small and with all these demonstrations he has so much american blood on his hands, but the media is giving him a pass and therefore they perceive that he is doing a good job.  I wish people would wake up and really think about their choice this fall. He also looked incompetent at the Telemundo conference and the reporters there made him look insignificant

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Of course you do. I'm sure you also believe that Romney is a true Patriot and Ryan has never uttered a lie in his life. Amazing what right wing media brainwashing will do for your perception of reality.

superlogi
superlogi

Well, you'll have to admit, the buffoon has lied so many times, he doesn't even remember them.  Seriously, it's as if from one day to the next, he tells a different story about the same event.  The latest one has to do with an Ambassador's murder.

PS And acting the buffoon like your messiah only diminishes you. Why do you keep on doing it? Dumb, dumber and dumbest. What's the problem. We all know the first time you voted for the fool, it was a matter of ignorance. But, the second time is a matter of self-destruction, not just for you, but for your children and the rest of us. Think!

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

I freely admit Romney has lied multiple times, however I'm not sure that I would call him a buffoon. More like an out of touch plutocrat trying to escape the shadow of his father who was a much greater, more honorable and more self made man than Mittens can ever be.

smallberries
smallberries

The latest developments in Libya with the raid on the brigades base and popular protests against the attackers of the consulate should make everyone pause before condemning the President.

53underscore3
53underscore3

I really should.  It kinda takes the air out of the sails of those who want yet another war and that claim that Libya is our enemy.

The people of Libya themselves have spoken, and loudly, too.  Their move makes Obama look good and pretty much moots the GOP effort to smear Obama.

Diane
Diane

The Obama administration created a power vacuum in Libya when it decided to overthrow Quaddafi. Now various groups are vying to fill that space, including al-queda-like extremists. And they have LOTS of weapons that were left unsecured after the regime fell.  Lack of planning and foresight....hmmm....where have we heard that before??

53underscore3
53underscore3

The Obama administration had nothing to do with Libya, except to support the people's revolt against Quaddafi. 

Did you know that Libya is not our 51st state?  Did you also know that Obama is president of the United States?

I don't know about you, but the United States is the country I live in. 

Do you live in Libya?

Diane
Diane

The US led the NATO airstrikes that drove Quaddafi from power. The USA and NATO had EVERYTHING to do with Libya.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 So what would you have done instead? Let Khadaffi massacre the opposition?

Bill Pearlman
Bill Pearlman

With King Obama and Hillary in charge what could possibly go wrong with our foreign policy. Maybe they just aren't bowing and scraping enough to the Moslems

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Yes we would be so much better with Bishop Mitt and Marathon Boy Romney.

AlexVallas
AlexVallas

This is a huge stretch.  The Ambassador was traveling with four guards.  No amount of security within the consulate compound would have prevented this attack, even if it had dozens of marines on duty.  Further, in our missions there is usually only one or two marines on duty at any one time.  They could not have prevented a strike  by 70 or more terrorists firing  rocket propelled ammo from a distance.  I have served in numerous embassies while a member of the US Foreign Service, including post in dangerous countries.  The embassies cannot be made inaccessible.  That applies seven more so for the consulates that deal with visas at American interest.   You cannot build a fortress to house a mission and then expect it to function.  The Congressmen who are critical know this as they have traveled to many countries and visited our embassies and consulates. They just want a stage for their personal exposure.  Further, The GOP cut funding for more security though in this case it would not have made a difference .  Members of the Foreign Service know they are in danger while serving overseas, even in some very friendly countries where there are terrorist elements.  Finally, the President or Secretary of State cannot be expected to monitor or approve every movement of our diplomats.  That would make them totally ineffective. 

rmcd5504
rmcd5504

The two SEALs killed were not assigned to the Ambassador as we were originally misled. They voluntarily went in to try and help a situation escalating out-of-control. This makes their actions that much more honorable and their senseless deaths that much more egregious.

It is also misleading to say what could or could not have been prevented since no action was taken to enhance protection for the 11th anniversary of 9/11 and an advance warning about a planned attack 3 days prior. Doing nothing can not be glossed over when four Americans are killed on sovereign soil abroad. 

Instead, we got it was a spontaneous event arising from a reaction to a video and footage of a filmmaker being hauled off by the government for interrogation. Clearly this was the intended message by the Obama administration since Ambassador Rice pushed it on the Sunday talkies and Carney in lockstep during press conferences. Obama even continued to reiterate this during the Univision interview long after Independents like myself saw the absurdity in it all.

And while the violent protests continue to rage on, we Independents still want some serious answers to some serious questions about the safety and security of Americans.

AlexVallas
AlexVallas

I think my comments were clear.  You cannot defend an embassy or consulate unless you build them in a fortress.  Most of our embassies and consulates throughout the world are located in busy sections of town and thus are easily exposed to attacks.  In short, they have to be accessible.  There is no way a detachment of US Marines could have prevented a rocket attack.  They are located within the building -- usually at the front entrance.  In some large embassies, they are also located in the political section and outside the Ambassador's office.  As a former member of the US Foreign Service, I was extremely saddened at the loss of these lives.  The Ambassador was a professional and a credit to this country.  A huge loss.  

AlexVallas
AlexVallas

How can they respond if  they were killed by rockets?  Further, as I have stated only one or two marines are on duty at any one time.  Remember the attack on the Marine Quarters in Lebanon that killed hundreds.   They were defenseless.  

rmcd5504
rmcd5504

You also cannot defend an embassy or consulate located in an area with known insurgents if you dismiss advance warnings as "not actionable" and do nothing while concurrently deliberately misleading the American public about the facts which we were made aware of in part by the Libyan president himself  only to be dismissed again by Rice on "Face The Nation".

Diane
Diane

 A contingent of 20 marines may not be able to prevent an attack, but they sure as hell would know how to RESPOND to one. They would know how to protect the Ambassador and wouldn't "lose" him, I assure you.

Marisol Holmes
Marisol Holmes

Some comments criticize Bush (and I agree), but forget that Al Qaeda grew under Clinton. Had Clinton not been busy with blue dress issues in the Oval Office, and later defending himself from impeachment, he might have done much more to stop Al Qaeda and capture OBL. Who knows, if he had known how to be Commander-in-Chief, maybe there wouldn't have been a 9/11.... 

StanleyCupp
StanleyCupp

If the GOP had been interested in governing instead of barking up trees, Bill Clinton could have been doing his job better.

What ever happened with that Republican farce besides wasting a bunch of money and emboldening Al Qaeda? A big fat nothing.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

I see, so 9/11 is Clinton's fault but the bad economy and the current trouble in the Middle East, trouble which started with our illegal invasion of Iraq, is Obama's fault. Is there any thing Republicans had a hand in or are we just attempting to revise history wholesale?

bloopville
bloopville

I have seen several variations of this exact Op-ed from different writers.  The argument is something like:

1.  Obama should have predicted the uprising.

2.  Security should have been better.

3.  The assessment that it was a spontaneous reaction to the film is a grand failure of intelligence and a lie to the American people.

4.  This shows the failure of Obama's promotion of free elections in the middle east.Since Op-eds seemed to be part of a coordinated plan, on both sides of the political spectrum (Hey Krauthammer, give me a piece on Obama's Egypt failure.  I need 600 words), I am going to assume that this is something that Republicans focus group tested as something that might "have legs".But, I think it's a pretty arcane argument won't gain any traction.  1.  Americans know that the middle east is volatile.  Except for the most partisan, they realize it is the two wars that have been going on for nearly 10 years that has increased instability.2.   Of course security should have been better, but it is not a detail that is the direct responsibility of the president.  He is not the Embassy Inspector in chief.

3.  Initial assessments are often wrong.  Details will come out.  Views will be modified.  There is no grand plan to fool the American people, here.  There is no "We will be greeted as liberators, the war will pay for itself, they have weapons of mass destruction" here.

4.  Obama inherited a destabilized middle east lurching to democracy.  Libya got a secular government and Egypt got an Islamacist goverment elected.  Should he have rigged the elections?

As a dispassionate strategist, I don't understand why so many words are being wasted by Obama opponents on a storyline that will gain no political traction.  

StanleyCupp
StanleyCupp

 GOP slashed State Dept. budget. There's your better security.

Marisol Holmes
Marisol Holmes

Romney's "far-too early and ill-conceived criticism of the embassy attacks"? Are you kidding me? It's never too early to defend American values. The US embassy in Cairo had been attacked and the Obama administration's reaction was to apologize. Obama allowed the apology to stand for nine hours until Romney condemned it. What is really ill-conceived is Obama's foreign policy, which is starting to collapse. It is sad that we had to rely on UK newspapers, a leak from senior US diplomatic sources, and even the President of Lybia for 10 days. The media was too busy criticizing Romney to do their job! 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Which American value did Romney defend? The values to score cheap political points of a tragedy or the value to lie and misinterpret statement for one's own advantage?

Tim_Buck_II
Tim_Buck_II

I've read - more than once - that our ambassador was raped and sodomized before being murdered.

If true, it is absolutely mandatory for Obama to launch a very quick and vigorous response. A superpower simply can not permit its ambassador to be brutalized and do nothing without suffering an instant and total loss of credibility. That ambassador represented our entire country and if he was assaulted, we all were assaulted. This will not be a mere loss of face but rather will be a total national humiliation - literally no recovery will be possible. All American credibility in the region will be gone and will probably gone for good.

Do Obama, Hillary and Rice have any understanding of this basic reality? Did they know of the assault on our ambassador before they responded with the sundry appeasing comments we've seen thus far? If so, we're talking of an utter incompetence and fantastic unfitness to hold office because they literally have no idea what they're doing. None.

Doing nothing will simply put all of our other diplomats in jeopardy and endanger every American abroad. Allowing our top officials to stand around wringing their hands over an utterly irrelevant movie is the worst response possible: It positively screams weakness and confusion and will cause us to be held in even greater contempt in the region.

This is the REASON we spend all those billions on aircraft carriers and the like: To protect our people. We will not fix this problem by deploring some very minor bad movie or with TV ads in Pakistan.

Does anyone in this administration have any idea what just happened? Or are they as removed from reality as they,appear?

heterarch
heterarch

How many sites are you copying and pasting this stuff on to?

In any case, the circumstances of the deaths here are deplorable, but they don't change the way the situation should be handled. Spouting this stuff everywhere you can will possibly get Americans emotionally fired up and pissed off (and, I suspect your other goal, to motivate them to vote against Obama, which, if true is an even more sick politicization of the situation than Romney has so far pursued, and not much better than the crappy innocence video), but it is the job of government in the realm of foreign affairs to react intelligently, with long term goals and implications in mind, not to shoot from the hip or the heart. If you really think the US should react like a pissed off child, then grow up, and if you're just trying to score political points against Obama, then you are as sick and depraved as the lunatics that killed our ambassador.

Tim_Buck_II
Tim_Buck_II

Let's try another approach because I can see I completely failed to make my point.

Some things cannot be argued. Not everything is political. Republicans, Democrats, blacks, whites, etc., can all agree on some things.

An example is our current economy. You may have one opinion and I may have another. But the nation's top economists - those on the Federal Reserve Board - all agree that the economy needs to be on life support. That's why they just announced QE3. Very low interest rates for at least three more years and the purchase of $40 billion per month in mortgage-backed securities - all with newly printed money. So, we all know that there is something terribly wrong with the economy because the Fed's entire job is to keep unemployment and inflation low in a non-political manner.

So I would point out that the state of our economy is really beyond rational dispute. It sucks and the Fed seems to concur.

Now, I have to admit that it's quite beyond me how anyone of any political stripe can look at riots extending around the globe, our flags aflame, our ambassador and others slaughtered, our top officials apologizing for instead of defending the First Amendment and still conclude that everything's fine.

Obama and the Democrats had 100% total control of government for two years. We all see the results and we now have the objective opinion of the Fed to confirm their economic performance.

Obama did Egypt and Libya and the Arab Spring. Not Bush. Sorry. Those are the facts. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion. But not to their own facts.

By the way, is everyone with an opinion different from your own really "...as sick and depraved as the lunatics that killed our ambassador?" If so, then you share the mind-set of those now rioting in the streets and who never tolerate dissent.

Please do try to get this right before Iran gets its nukes.

StanleyCupp
StanleyCupp

" Obama and the Democrats had 100% total control of government for two years. We all see the results and we now have the objective opinion of the Fed to confirm their economic performance."

You seem to have left out the record number of filibusters by the GOP. Intentionally, I'm sure.

53underscore3
53underscore3

So we should attack Libya?

This after their own moderates overran the offices of the militias responsible?

I agree with mantis on this one.

Tim_Buck_II
Tim_Buck_II

Should you ever lose a tooth, be sure to put it under your pillow. The Tooth Fairy will come while you sleep and will leave you some coins.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Keep watching Fox News. The only thing that was raped and sodomized is the truth and your sense of reality.