'The Absentee Commander in Chief'

Rick Moran
In one of the strongest condemnation of President Obama's actions on September 11, 2012, Bill Kristol and Peter Wehner excoriate the Commander in Chief for going AWOL when Americans were under attack.

If Americans are under attack, presidential attention must be paid. Due diligence must be demonstrated. A president must take care that his administration does everything it can do. On Sept. 11, 2012, as Americans were under attack in Benghazi, Libya, President Obama failed in his basic responsibility as president and commander in chief. In a crisis, the president went AWOL.

Thanks to the congressional testimony of outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey late last week, we know they met with President Obama on Sept. 11 at 5 p.m. in a pre-scheduled meeting, when they informed the president about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The meeting lasted about a half-hour. Mr. Panetta said they spent roughly 20 minutes of the session briefing the president on the chaos at the American Embassy in Cairo and the attack in Benghazi, which eventually cost the lives of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, security personnel Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, and information officer Sean Smith.

Secretary Panetta said the president left operational details, including determination of what resources were available to help the Americans under siege, "up to us." We also learned that President Obama did not communicate in any way with Mr. Panetta or Gen. Dempsey the rest of that evening or that night. Indeed, Mr. Panetta and Gen. Dempsey testified they had no further contact at all with anyone in the White House that evening-or, for that matter, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

That's not all we discovered. We now know that despite Gen. Dempsey having been informed of Ambassador Stevens's repeated warnings about the rise of terrorist elements in Benghazi, no forces were put in place or made ready nearby to respond to possible trouble. It also seems that during the actual attacks in Benghazi, which the administration followed in real time and which lasted for some eight hours, not a single major military asset was deployed to help rescue Americans under assault.

And we learned one other thing: Messrs. Panetta and Dempsey both knew on the night of the assault that it was a terrorist attack. This didn't prevent President Obama, Secretary Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice from peddling a false version of events in the days and even weeks that followed, as the administration called the incident spontaneous, said there was no evidence of a coordinated terrorist attack and blamed the violence on an anti-Muslim video.

Senator Graham has threatened to put a hold on the Hagel and Brennan nominations unless the White House is more forthcoming about the president's actions - or inaction - on the night of September 11. He is not likely to get much more. The president has decided that the issue is in the past and will not cooperate further with Congress. He simply wants the American people to forget.

He may get his wish.


In one of the strongest condemnation of President Obama's actions on September 11, 2012, Bill Kristol and Peter Wehner excoriate the Commander in Chief for going AWOL when Americans were under attack.

If Americans are under attack, presidential attention must be paid. Due diligence must be demonstrated. A president must take care that his administration does everything it can do. On Sept. 11, 2012, as Americans were under attack in Benghazi, Libya, President Obama failed in his basic responsibility as president and commander in chief. In a crisis, the president went AWOL.

Thanks to the congressional testimony of outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey late last week, we know they met with President Obama on Sept. 11 at 5 p.m. in a pre-scheduled meeting, when they informed the president about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The meeting lasted about a half-hour. Mr. Panetta said they spent roughly 20 minutes of the session briefing the president on the chaos at the American Embassy in Cairo and the attack in Benghazi, which eventually cost the lives of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, security personnel Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, and information officer Sean Smith.

Secretary Panetta said the president left operational details, including determination of what resources were available to help the Americans under siege, "up to us." We also learned that President Obama did not communicate in any way with Mr. Panetta or Gen. Dempsey the rest of that evening or that night. Indeed, Mr. Panetta and Gen. Dempsey testified they had no further contact at all with anyone in the White House that evening-or, for that matter, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

That's not all we discovered. We now know that despite Gen. Dempsey having been informed of Ambassador Stevens's repeated warnings about the rise of terrorist elements in Benghazi, no forces were put in place or made ready nearby to respond to possible trouble. It also seems that during the actual attacks in Benghazi, which the administration followed in real time and which lasted for some eight hours, not a single major military asset was deployed to help rescue Americans under assault.

And we learned one other thing: Messrs. Panetta and Dempsey both knew on the night of the assault that it was a terrorist attack. This didn't prevent President Obama, Secretary Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice from peddling a false version of events in the days and even weeks that followed, as the administration called the incident spontaneous, said there was no evidence of a coordinated terrorist attack and blamed the violence on an anti-Muslim video.

Senator Graham has threatened to put a hold on the Hagel and Brennan nominations unless the White House is more forthcoming about the president's actions - or inaction - on the night of September 11. He is not likely to get much more. The president has decided that the issue is in the past and will not cooperate further with Congress. He simply wants the American people to forget.

He may get his wish.