Let’s try to understand why urgent pleas for help in Benghazi went unanswered, and who is responsible. The CIA says it didn’t turn down any pleas. And now, a National Security Council spokesman says that “neither the president nor anyone in the White House denied any requests for assistance in Benghazi.”
This leaves the Defense Department. And, indeed, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has stepped up with an explanation of why not assistance was provided, namely uncertainty about the situation on the ground. Thus, it appears that the military may well have been the decision-maker, in the first instance.
But, as Scott suggested this morning, Obama is not off the hook in this scenario. Consider:
Obama must have been fully apprised of the situation in Benghazi. If not, this was dereliction of duty. And if Obama was fully apprised, then he must have asked what action, if any, was being taken (or contemplated) to help our people. If he didn’t ask, then again, this was dereliction of duty.
If Obama asked what action, if any, we were taking to help our people, he would have been told that we weren’t going to deploy our military. Presumably, Obama then asked for an explanation of this decision. If he didn’t, this was dereliction of duty.
The explanation Obama received must have been satisfactory to him; otherwise he would have overruled it or, at a minimum, ordered that it be revisited. If Obama wasn’t satisfied with the explanation, but allowed the decision to stand, this was dereliction of duty.
Notice that in this scenario, Obama never “denies a request for assistance in Benghazi.” He receives no request from the ground because that request is made to others. He receives no request from the military because it does not want to intervene. Yet, Obama still effectively makes the decision not to provide assistance because he ratifies the military’s decision.
In short, either (1) Obama made (through ratificiation, at a minimum) the final decision not to provide military assistance in Benghzai or (2) Obama is guilty of gross dereliction of his duty as president.