The test of a president is how he or she responds when an aide shakes him or her awake at 3 a.m. with news of a crisis, Hillary Clinton said during the 2008 Democratic primaries.
President Barack Obama got his "3 a.m. phone call" a little after 5 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2012, when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told him the consulate in Benghazi was under attack. The attack had begun about 90 minutes earlier. Fighting would continue for nearly six hours more.
Mr. Obama left it "up to them" to decide whether to respond, Mr. Panetta told the Senate Intelligence Committee Feb 7. After that pre-scheduled meeting in the Oval Office, they had no further contact with the president that night, Mr. Panetta said.
The defense secretary's testimony contradicted the claim Mr. Obama made in October that he had issued "three very clear directives" as soon as he learned "what was going on" in Benghazi. The president made no phone calls to the Pentagon, the CIA or the State Department requesting updates or giving orders, the White House confirmed in a letter to Congress.
The Counterterrorism Security Group, "one group that's supposed to know what resources every agency has," was not convened, CBS News reported.
Their claim the president called the Libyan government the night of Sept. 11 also was false, the White House acknowledged.
This would explain why the White House refused requests from the news media for photos of Mr. Obama meeting with senior officials in the Situation Room. No such meeting took place.
During the time the president wasn't communicating with the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA, Ambassador Chris Stevens was reported missing. Where was Mr. Obama? What was he doing? The White House won't say.
Former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty repeatedly requested military assistance, reported Fox News. But no rescue effort was attempted, because the closest Marine FAST (Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security) team was in Rota, Spain, too far away, the defense secretary told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
A 747 can fly from Rota to Benghazi in about three hours. The firefight lasted for nearly eight. Why had no provision been made for a faster response to a crisis in Libya, where there had been so many terror threats? Military aid could have been provided, said retired Adm. James "Ace" Lyons, former commander of the Pacific Fleet, and retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, an original member of Delta Force, the Army's elite anti-terror unit.
The FAST team would have had to fly first to the naval base at Sigonella, Sicily, Mr. Panetta said, but didn't explain why. A Marine Force Reconnaissance company is stationed there, just 469 miles from Benghazi. Why couldn't it have been sent? Mr. Panetta didn't say.
These join a host of other unanswered questions. Why was security so lax? Why were Ambassador Stevens' pleas ignored? What was going on at the consulate?
Where the administration hasn't stonewalled, it's attempted to deceive. They knew at the time of their Oval Office meeting this was a terrorist attack, Secretary Panetta and Gen. Dempsey testified. Presumably, they told the president this. So why did he and senior aides claim for a week afterwards it was a "spontaneous" protest of a Youtube video lampooning the Prophet Muhammad?
On NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, host David Gregory professed to be puzzled by what Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., meant when he spoke of a "massive coverup."
"Shouldn't people be held accountable for the fact that four Americans died?" Sen. McCain exploded.
Apparently not, if the president is Barack Obama. The main stream media devoted more attention to the swig of water Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, took during his response to the State of the Union address than to the revelations of Mr. Panetta and Gen. Dempsey. You rarely get answers to questions you don't ask.
"In a crisis, the president went AWOL," summed up former GOP White House aides Bill Kristol and Peter Wehner. Had any of his predecessors behaved as he did on 9/11/2012, most Americans would have been outraged. But for the MSM, Barack Obama is Chauncey Gardiner. They give him credit just for "being there" -- even when he isn't.
Jack Kelly is a columnist for The Press and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. firstname.lastname@example.org, 412 263-1476. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/