President Obama likes to do local television interviews in swing states. It's a good way to get favorable coverage, but it also has its drawbacks. Where the national political press has largely contented itself with ignoring big stories in favor of vapid horse-race coverage, Denver News 9 reporter Kyle Clark saw an opportunity to ask Obama a few tough questions.
Right out of the gate, Clark asked Obama about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. "Were the Americans under attack at the consulate in Benghazi, Libya denied requests for help during that attack, and is it fair to tell Americans that what happened is under investigation and we'll all find out after the election?"
Obama avoided answering, then avoided answering again when Clark followed up. The first words out of his mouth: "The election has nothing to do with four brave Americans getting killed and us wanting to find out exactly what happened."
He could not have been more wrong.
When Americans choose their presidents, one of their considerations is that they want a commander in chief who can make tough calls when the pressure is on. Obama deserves credit for making the right call when Osama bin Laden became a target of opportunity. But when U.S. diplomats came under a terrorist attack in Libya, someone in the chain of command failed to make the "gutsy call" that might have saved them.
Nearly seven weeks have passed since the attacks, and Americans are still forced to rely on document leaks and reporters with good sources for answers as to who owns the failure in Libya. Why isn't Obama's administration producing the answers?
After the consulate attack, Obama and his top aides spent two weeks spreading the absurd and implausible story that the attack was caused by a campy YouTube video. More recently, news reports and leaked emails have shown that the White House was aware of terrorist involvement very early on. And last week, Fox News reported exclusively that CIA forces on the ground had requested help as the attack raged, and even had a laser pointed at the terrorists who were firing mortars. The CIA men asked for help and were denied three times.
At this point, Obama's repeated assurance that "we're going to investigate exactly what happened" is looking more and more like a dilatory tactic to hide the truth and keep this story under the surface until Election Day. He has been promising an investigation for seven weeks now -- so has it even begun? For context, it only took four weeks after the original 9/11 attacks for U.S. forces to take the dramatic step of invading Afghanistan, and only nine weeks to take control of Kabul and displace the Taliban government that had been offering shelter to bin Laden.
Charles Woods, whose son Tyrone was killed in the attack last month, felt pain and disappointment after his meeting with Obama, whose apology he called "insincere." "It just didn't feel right," Woods told radio host Lars Larson. "And now that it's coming out that apparently the White House situation room was watching our people die in real time, as this was happening ... Apparently even the State Department had a live stream and was aware of their calls for help."
Immediately after Sept. 11, when Mitt Romney weighed in prematurely on the simultaneous Egyptian embassy riots, the nation's political reporters managed to turn it into a seven-day "gaffe" story. Maybe those same newshounds could pursue a real story now -- why, after seven weeks, is the most transparent president in American history still dodging questions about what happened in Benghazi?