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Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Incredible Shrinking President

Mark Steyn
Two videos distill the meaning of a campaign, and a presidency.

‘We’re going to have that person arrested and prosecuted that did the video,” said Hillary Clinton. No, not the person who made the video saying that voting for Barack Obama is like losing your virginity to a really cool guy. I’ll get to that in a moment. But Secretary Clinton was talking about the fellow who made the supposedly Islamophobic video that supposedly set off the sacking of the Benghazi consulate. And, indeed, she did “have that person arrested.” By happy coincidence, his bail hearing has been set for three days after the election, by which time he will have served his purpose. These two videos — the Islamophobic one and the Obamosexual one — bookend the remarkable but wholly deserved collapse of the president’s reelection campaign.

You’ll recall that a near-month-long attempt to blame an obscure YouTube video for the murder of four Americans and the destruction of U.S. sovereign territory climaxed in the vice-presidential debate with Joe Biden’s bald assertion that the administration had been going on the best intelligence it had at the time. By then, it had been confirmed that there never had been any protest against the video, and that the Obama line that Benghazi had been a spontaneous movie review that just got a little out of hand was utterly false. The only remaining question was whether the administration had knowingly lied or was merely innocently stupid. The innocent-stupidity line became harder to maintain this week after Fox News obtained State Department e-mails revealing that shortly after 4 p.m. Eastern, less than a half hour after the assault in Benghazi began, the White House situation room knew the exact nature of it.

We also learned that, in those first moments of the attack, a request for military back-up was made by U.S. staff on the ground but was denied by Washington. It had planes and special forces less than 500 miles away in southern Italy — or about the same distance as Washington to Boston. They could have been there in less than two hours. Yet the commander-in-chief declined to give the order. So Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods fought all night against overwhelming odds, and died on a rooftop in a benighted jihadist hellhole while Obama retired early to rest up before his big Vegas campaign stop. “Within minutes of the first bullet being fired the White House knew these heroes would be slaughtered if immediate air support was denied,” said Ty Woods’s father, Charles. “In less than an hour, the perimeters could have been secured and American lives could have been saved. After seven hours fighting numerically superior forces, my son’s life was sacrificed because of the White House’s decision.”

Why would Obama and Biden do such a thing? Because to launch a military operation against an al-Qaeda affiliate on the anniversary of 9/11 would have exposed the hollowness of their boast through convention week and the days thereafter — that Osama was dead and al-Qaeda was finished. And so Ty Woods, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, and Chris Stevens were left to die, and a decision taken to blame an entirely irrelevant video and, as Secretary Clinton threatened, “have that person arrested.” And, in the weeks that followed, the government of the United States lied to its own citizens as thoroughly and energetically as any totalitarian state, complete with the midnight knock on the door from not-so-secret policemen sent to haul the designated fall-guy into custody.

This goes far beyond the instinctive secretiveness to which even democratic governments are prone. The Obama administration created a wholly fictional story line, and devoted its full resources to maintaining it. I understand why Mitt Romney chose not to pursue this line of argument in the final debate. The voters who will determine this election are those who voted for Obama four years ago and this time round either switch to the other fellow or sit on their hands. In electoral terms, it’s probably prudent of Mitt not to rub their faces in their 2008 votes. Nevertheless, when the president and other prominent officials stand by as four Americans die and then abuse their sacrifice as contemptuously as this administration did, decency requires that they be voted out of office as an act of urgent political hygiene.

Read the full column

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