This week, three high-ranking career professionals, Gregory Hicks, Eric Nordstrom, and Mark Thompson, testified that a series of mistakes and poor communication led to the United States' Tripoli embassy and Benghazi consulate being left at serious risk of attack. Hicks and Nordstrom testified that the buildings did not meet the security requirements set forth by the State Department and that their repeated requests to have that issue resolved were largely ignored, contributing to the attack that left four Americans dead.
Hicks and Thompson suggested that military assets were available to be deployed to support those under attack but those assets did not receive proper authorization to be released. Hicks also testified that he was shocked when he heard Ambassador Susan Rice recount that a video was at the root of the incident that sparked the attack on Benghazi.
The testimony points to a troubling characteristic of the Obama administration. Rather than get out in front and lead on these issues, Obama is allowing Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calf.) and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to define how he responds to the death of Americans resulting from the mismanagement of information in his administration.
President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both taken responsibility for the events in Benghazi, but not to the extent required to satisfy the American people that the buck stops with the White House. To do that President Obama needs to make a strong statement and step from behind the cloak of plausible deniability. He needs to say emphatically that he stands behind the decision to stand down and the decision to push the video storyline.
If he were to do that, it would largely quiet those looking for the president and commander-in-chief of the United States to act like a leader and defend his people. The chain of command in the military needs to hear Obama say, “I support the decision of my military and defense advisers to stand down, and if anyone wants to know who gave the order, they can look here first. I am the commander-in-chief and I get paid to make the tough decisions.”
Similarly he should say, “I support the work of the intelligence community and the State Department that led to our initial assessment that a video sparked the incident in Benghazi. It was the decision I supported then and that is my job as president to make decisions.”
Obama’s unwillingness or inability to take public, decisive stances like this began with the death of a border patrol agent. Fast and Furious was an unauthorized operation to track illegal arms into Mexico. The investigation of the operation revealed a series of management mistakes that included a lack of oversight, poor accountability, and poor communication.
It continues now as we are eight months into an investigation that shows once again that poor communication, among other management mistakes, played a role in the death of four Americans.
Obama need not hide behind buffers to maintain distance from poor decisions resulting in the death of Americans. He is the commander-in-chief and it is his job to send people to their death. However, when he does so it is also his job to defend that decision.