In the “Not My President” derby, horse number 8 of 50 is called “Not Ready For That 3 AM Call.”
President of the United States is a tough job. Nobody questions that. It demands the utmost even of a tough, capable, intelligent, and experienced individual. Having a lesser, unprepared person in that seat is a disaster for America. That is one reason the job interview process is *usually* so thorough, the vetting process *usually* so rigorous. It is required during a sudden national emergency that the president act swiftly and effectively to secure the nation, minimize further damage, and put the nation on a footing to recover or respond.
In the immediate aftermath of terrorist attack on the American consulate and our ambassador in Libya on 9-11-2012, none of these things happened.
Hillary Clinton, during the Democrat primary race in 2008, questioned whether Obama would be able to lead during a national crisis, in which the president was awakened by a “3 AM call.” Obama’s early actions illustrate that Hillary was right to bring that up.
The entire topic of the embassy and consulate attacks is loaded with multiple story lines and subplots touching on many things before, during, and after the events. NMP 8 concerns itself with one thing: once the crisis began, what were the actions of Obama and his inner circle, and how did those actions stack up with reasonable expectations that America would have of its leaders in a crisis?
Briefly, a timeline – not an all-inclusive one, just one with the required basics and what we know of Obama’s acts and statements. All times are ET. In bold are the times, and in blue are actions and statements by Obama and his inner circle.
- 9-11 1200 : Cairo embassy condemns a little-known and long-released anti-Mohammed video, in the face of what appear to be active protests going on.
- 9-11 1600 : main consulate at Benghazi begins taking fire. 25-30 employees on site and at annex. Soon the main consulate is in flames.
- 9-11 1630 : Cairo embassy is breached, and an Al Qaeda flag is raised in place of the US Flag.
- 9-11 1720 : US & Libyan forces retake Benghazi consulate compound. The whereabouts of Ambassador Stevens are unknown.
- 9-12 1800 : annex comes under heavy fire again for 2 hours. Two more killed.
- 9-11 2020 : Politico says Obama admin is disavowing Cairo embassy statements.
- 9-11 2225 : Romney campaign emails statements to media – outrage at the attacks and the murders, and Obama admin’s response is disgraceful.
- 9-11 2244 : Hillary condemns Libya attack.
- 9-11 2304 : White House statment to ABC says nobody approved the Cairo embassy statements.
- 9-12 0000 : US officials are told that Stevens is dead (at dawn local time). Body is returned to US personnel at Benghazi airport.
- 9-12 0606 : wire services report Ambassador Stevens killed in mob attack, along with 3 others.
- 9-12 0618 : AP reports Libya confirms death of US Ambassador Stevens
- 9-12 0722 : WH emails statement from Obama , that includes: “While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.”
- somewhere in this time frame, possibly earlier, the administration orders tighter security at American embassies worldwide.
- 9-12 1020 : Romney televised, stands by his criticisms of WH, noting that US Embassies are part of the administration.
- 9-12 1044 : Obama in Rose Garden, with Hillary alongside, condemns Libya attacks, pledges to increase security for embassy personnel and to seek justice for the killers. No justification for this senseless violence.
9-12 1415 : Obama and campaign depart for Las Vegas and scheduled campaign events.
- 9-12 evening : In a speech to campaign volunteers, Obama compares them to fallen embassy personnel.
In the next couple of days
In a 9-12 evening interview with Telemundo, Obama :
I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy. They’re a new government that is trying to find its way. They were democratically elected. I think that we are going to have to see how they respond to this incident.
On 9-13, a “clarification” from WH spokesman Tommy Vietor in Obama’s “Egypt Frenemies” gaffe:
I think folks are reading way too much into this. ‘Ally’ is a legal term of art. We don’t have a mutual defense treaty with Egypt like we do with our NATO allies. But as the president has said, Egypt is longstanding and close partner of the United States, and we have built on that foundation by supporting Egypt’s transition to democracy and working with the new government.
In subsequent days, Obama and his spokesmen make numerous statements claiming justice will be done, and efforts will be underway to find the killers, and so on. As of today’s date, 9-28, the FBI is still not on the scene.
9-13 : large protests are conducted outside US Embassies in Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, Palestine, and elsewhere. In Yemen, the outer wall is breached and an Al Qaeda flag is raised.
By 9-14 reports are widespread that attack was a planned and coordinated act of terror, yet WH spokesman Jay Carney and UN Ambassador for days insist that the attacks were spontaneous mob actions fueled by anger over the video.
9-15: Sudan refuses U.S. request to send a team of US Marines to further secure embassy and personnel.
9-15: CNN personnel discover Ambassador Stevens’ personal diary, as they described it, “on the floor of the largely unsecured consulate compound.”
So what did Obama do with the wakeup call?
In summation, what were the acts by Obama and his team in the first 24 hours that they knew what had happened in Cairo and Benghazi?
- disclaimed statements made by the US Embassy in Egypt.
- had public cat fights with the Romney campaign in the press.
- waited 7 hours after it was known Ambassador Stevens was dead, before making any statements about it.
- refused to acknowledge or even consider that this was a terrorist attack.
- deflected blame from their administration by blaming the attacks on anger at a video by a private citizen.
- ordered tighter security at American embassies worldwide, yet a day later, the compound in Yemen was breached and again an Al Qaeda flag was raised in place of the American flag on sovereign US soil.
- failed to secure the crime scene in Benghazi.
- after making some perfunctory remarks to America, trundled off to Las Vegas for scheduled campaign events.
- compared his own campaign volunteers with the fallen embassy personnel.
- made a substantial gaffe regarding the US relationship with Egypt.
In addresses to America by Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the acts were condemned but tempered by blaming the video. They made tepid comments about bringing the killers to justice, as if this were merely a criminal matter and not an act of war. In no way possible can it be construed that they sent a message declaring that failure to secure the safety of US State Department interests carried any consequence for any government anywhere.
What they showed America was a shocking lack of pride and interest in defending America, her people abroad, her interests, or her reputation. It is the natural reaction of any real red-blooded American that when America is attacked, that we react, swelling with pride and love of country, and grab a stick and whack the crap out of whoever did it. It’s an act of war to conduct a coordinated attack resulting in the assassination of our ambassador. Ditto for breaching our embassy wall, burning the American flag and running an Al Qaeda flag up the pole on what is sovereign American soil. A man who can’t get worked up about that is no leader and no patriot, that is for sure.
But certainly a guy who did nothing of consequence in the first hours of a genuine national emergency is not my president.
But what about Bush and the 7 minutes on 9/11?
In the aftermath of the original 9-11 terrorist attack, much was made by hostile press and Democrats over the fact that after President George W Bush was informed of the attack while sitting in an elementary school classroom in Sarasota, Florida, he sat for 7 minutes with the children before excusing himself. Yes, not ready for the emergency call, and all that.
Really? Here’s a partial timeline for the first hour after Andy Card whispered in his ear. As you can see, Bush and his administration got busy in a hurry:
- 0902 : the second plane hits the WTC.
- 0905 : Andy Card whisper’s in the ear of Bush what has happened.
- 0912 : GWB excuses himself and leaves the classroom.
- 0923 : conference call with VP Cheney, NSA director Condi Rice, and FBI director Mueller.
- 0926 : FAA cancels all flight departures in the USA, and directs all inbound international flights to divert to Canada.
- 0930 : GWB makes very brief public statement in the auditorium of that school.
- 0932 : NYSE closes.
- 0935 : Bush motorcade leaves the school.
- 0937 : Third terrorist airplane hits the Pentagon
- 0940 : FAA orders all commercial aircraft in American skies to land ASAP.
- 0947 : US military worldwide ordered to threat level delta.
- 0955 : Air Force One departs the airport with Bush on board.
- 0955 : VP Cheney orders that USAF pilots may shoot down hijacked planes.
- 1000 : NRC orders all nuclear plants on full alert
- 1003 : fourth hijacked plane, headed for Washington DC, is driven into the ground thanks to an onboard revolt by passengers who had been made aware of the WTC attacks.
That night at 2200, Bush addresses the nation, and declares that there will be no safe harbor for the terrorists or their enablers. 24 days later, the first bombs fell on Afghanistan.
Forget the 7 minutes. That is a man who acted quickly and decisively under duress. As something of a side note, note that government agencies went into action in a hurry as well. Leadership also involves delegating responsibility to competent people.
Compare all that to our current White House occupant and try to picture him and his administration on 9-11-2001. Just try it.