The appalling Obama foreign policy team: The case of Tommy Vietor
Former National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor appeared last night on Bret Baier’s Fox News Channel program Special Report, in an attempt at damage control, but only made things worse for the Obama Benghazi cover-up. Two pieces of actual news were generated, but perhaps the greatest damage was done by Vietor’s immature self-presentation, revealing the low level of qualifications necessary for high responsibility in the Obama White House.
First, the two pieces of actual news:
- President Obama wasn’t in the Situation Room the night of September 11, 2012, as our ambassador to Libya and three other men were being attacked, captured, and eventually killed after being dragged through the streets of Benghazi and tortured in hideous fashion.
BRET BAIER: People on the ground testified that they knew where the ambassador was, that they were military in their precision. It was not guys coming to protest. They had mortars and heavy weapons.
TOMMY VIETOR: Bret, a couple of things. I was in the Situation Room that night, okay. We didn't know where the ambassador was definitively.
BAIER: Was the president in the Situation Room?
VIETOR: No. And the fact that your network at one time reported that he watched video feed of the attack as it was ongoing is part of what I think is a pattern of inaccurate --
BAIER: Where was the president?
VIETOR: In the White House. Let me finish my initial statement. The notion that we could, you know, divine motives from a drone feed I think is wrong. And I also think this idea that the military had the capability to rescue those individuals but chose not to is I think extremely unfair to the military. And Admiral Mullen said basically the opposite.
BAIER: In the ARB report.
BAIER: Where was the president?
VIETOR: In the White House.
BAIER: He wasn't in the Situation Room?
VIETOR: At what point in the evening?
BAIER: Any point in the evening.
VIETOR: It's well known that when the attack was first briefed to him it was in the Oval Office and he was updated constantly. And during that briefing he told Tom Donilon and his Joint Chiefs and Sec Def to begin moving all military assets into the region.
BAIER: So when Hillary Clinton talks to him at 10:00 p.m., he's where?
VIETOR: I don't know. I don't have a tracking device on him in the residence.
BAIER: But you were in the Situation Room and he wasn't there.
VIETOR: Yes, I was in the White House.
BAIER: And the president wasn't in the Situation Room?
VIETOR: Not in the room I was in. Let's just be clear. You don't have to be in the Situation Room to monitor an intelligence situation. The PDB is in the Oval Office.
The key word here is “monitor.” Do we expect the Commander in Chief to monitor or to lead? This is no mere verbal distinction. We now know, thanks to sworn testimony yesterday by “Retired Air Force Brigadier General Robert Lovell that the State Department ‘didn’t come forward with stronger requests for action’ in Benghazi while he served in the U.S. Africa Command’s headquarters in Germany.” Then Secretary of State Clinton, like her boss, was not leading, and may have also been in the passive “monitoring” mode (at best).
- Vietor may have been the person who changed “attacks” to “demonstrations” in the talking points, in other words, going from a planned attack to a spontaneous demonstration-orientation in the story fed by the White House, ultimately to Susan Rice’s now legendary 5 show Sunday deception. He doesn’t remember, and expressed himself in way that makes some kind of history, a former senior official employing the word “Dude.”
BRET BAIER, HOST: You're a communications expert. If you're prepping an official for a Sunday show, you're probably going to prep on the biggest question of the Sunday show.
TOMMY VIETOR: Yes.
BAIER: Which probably, maybe, would have been the U.S. ambassador and three others who died.
VIETOR: That's fair. And I was among people who prepped Susan Rice. And we talked about, you know -- the protests were front and center in Ben [Rhodes]'s e-mail because there was still concern about additional violence in the region.
BAIER: Let's go to the talking points.
VIETOR: It was and there were Friday prayers in a number of countries like Pakistan and we were extremely worried.
BAIER: The 14th is the day you're talking about.
BRET BAIER: According to the e-mails and the time line, the CIA circulates new talking points after they've removed the mention of al Qaeda and then at 6:21 the White House, you, add a line about the administration warning on September 10th of social media reports calling for demonstrations. True?
TOMMY VIETOR: I believe so.
BAIER: Did you also change attacks to demonstrations in the talking points?
VIETOR: Maybe. I don't really remember.
BAIER: You don't remember?
VIETOR: Dude, this was [like – omitted in the transcript but audible nonetheless] two years ago. We're still talking about the most mundane thing.
BAIER: Dude, it's what everybody is talking about.
VIETOR: We're talking about the process of editing talking points. That's what bureaucrats do all day long. Your producers edit scripts multiple times.
Now, on to the real news: the grave affairs of state in the Obama administration are in the hands of incompetent, inexperienced people who are not up to the responsibilities they wield. If you are wondering how someone so callow came to such a position, read this and weep. He started as a van driver. Jonathan Karl, Richard Coolidge, and Jordyn Phelps wrote over a year ago:
Tommy Vietor started working for Barack Obama when he was still Senator Obama--well before he became a presidential candidate--and until Friday, the 32-year-old Vietor hadn't stopped. His first job for Obama was as the driver of a press van, and he rose up the ranks through the 2008 campaign, and then the White House press office, to become the National Security Council spokesman.
Now leaving the White House to open a political communications firm with the president's departing speechwriter Jon Favreau, Vietor says it's been the privilege of a lifetime to work for the president.
"It's been kind of a front seat at some historic events--killing bin Laden, ending the Iraq war, a whole bunch of things--so it's been extraordinary," Vietor says.
In 2010, Ed Lasky examined the appalling lack of qualifications of Ben Rhodes, now at the center of the storm:
Who is Ben Rhodes and what qualifies him to be the Deputy National SecurityAdviser?
He was Barack Obama's speechwriter (albeit, on foreign policy topics) during the campaign. He also played a role in the Cairo speech that presented a highly fictionalized history of both Islam (praised it for accomplishments that were not Islam's) and Israel (a legacy of the Holocaust guilt).
Maybe he has a certain talent for fiction. After all, it was only a few years ago that "he was an aspiring fiction writer working on a novel called "The Oasis of Love" about a megachurch in Houston, a dog track and a failed romance.
Rhodes has enjoyed a rapid rise -- because why?
Granted he is quite the wordsmith. That must qualify him for one of the top jobs involving our national security. It must have been a symbiotic relationship -- a talented speechwriter with a talented speech reader.
Does Rhodes have any educational experience or military experience or, for that matter, international experience? No... on all three counts.
His bio, such as it is:
Rhodes had just earned a master's degree in fiction writing from New York University when he was offered a job as a writer for Hamilton in 2002. A Manhattan native, Rhodes went on to write the Iraq Study Group Report and help draft policy recommendations for the 9/11 Commission, which Hamilton co-chaired.
Rhodes keeps in regular contact with Hamilton, who said Obama has thanked him "for making Ben available."
Rhodes said Hamilton still reviews Obama's major foreign policy addresses.
"We run most of the big foreign policy speeches by him," he said. "Just kind of like, ‘What do you think of this?'"
So far Obama's Iraq speech has been the most meaningful for Rhodes. Aides credit him with the part where Obama spoke directly to the Iraqi people. Rhodes is also behind Obama's telling the story of two Marines who died trying to stop a suicide bomber from entering an American military compound in Iraq.
Then there is Valerie Jarrett, who appears to be running the country while Obama plays golf, shoots hoops, parties, and has “downtime,” as Michelle Obama recently called it, with his family, watching TV.
Even among foreign policy appointees with actual credentials, such as UN Ambassador Samantha Power who has a PhD, it is all theory and no actual experience and an inability to follow through on all the fine words she has written.
As Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit so often sarcastically remarks, “The country is in the best of hands.”