"President Obama enlisted our allies, built the coalition, shared the burden, so that today, without a single American casualty, Moammar Gadhafi is gone, and the people of Libya are free," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in his primetime speech at the Democratic Convention in 2012.
"From Burma to Libya to South Sudan," Obama said the next day as he accepted the nomination, "we have advanced the rights and dignity of all human beings."
Previewing Obama's foreign-policy debate against Romney, the AP reported on Sept. 10, "The president will offer a spirited defense of his aggressive record in pursuing al-Qaida, the killing of Osama bin Laden and the collapse of Moammar Gadhafi's government in Libya."
Just before the convention, Obama proxy and Clinton-administration alumnus Bill Richardson went on the road for Obama, citing Libya as a frequent talking point. "We have got a president that brilliantly dealt with the situation in Libya, with the Arab Spring."
When he spoke on Sept. 1, between the two conventions, Obama crowed, "We're leading on behalf of freedom, including standing with the people of Libya that are finally free from Moammar Gadhafi."
Vanity Fair at the same time published its glowing cover story on President Obama's superb prudence, wisdom and decision-making. The story centered on the 2011 decision to invade Libya and depose Gadhafi.
And Secretary Hillary Clinton, we've recently learned, was even planning a victory lap in Libya for the days before the 2012 election — until an insurgent raid killed four Americans in Benghazi.
"Emails indicate senior State Department officials, including Mills, Sullivan, and Huma Abedin," the latest Benghazi committee report explains, "were preparing for a trip by the Secretary to Libya in October 2012." Hillary had held up the Libya regime change as "smart power at its best."
In those early days of the 2012 general election — just after Labor Day and in the wake of the conventions — Libya was becoming a key part of the Obama reelection plan. The narrative wasn't simply that Obama had deposed a dictator, but that he had done so cleanly — with no U.S. casualties and no boots on the ground. And supposedly, they were leaving behind peace and "rights and dignity."
Of course, Obama and Clinton left nothing of the sort behind. Today Libya is a terrorist breeding ground, an Islamic State safehaven, and a chaotic murderous hellhole, thanks to "Hillary's War," as the Clinton-friendly press described it.
The Obama-Clinton war in Libya was disastrous because it tried to be half a war — a drive-by war. The "smart power" supposedly would allow us to depose Gadhafi with no troop commitment and no nation-building commitment. Obama was going to break Libya and leave the store without paying a dime.
Democrats on the Benghazi committee admitted in their report that "security measures in Benghazi were woefully inadequate." This was likely a fruit of the Obama-Clinton aversion to nation-building and refusal to deploy peace-keeping forces.
As Republicans put it in announcing the report, "The Administration's policy of no boots on the ground once again shaped the type of military assistance that would be provided, with the Defense Department and the State Department going to great lengths to ensure the administration's policy was not violated."
"[T]hey wanted to minimize the signature that looked like a big military invasion, a big military arrival there," one witness testified.
Top State Department appointees told the committee, "for the United States, Libya must not become a state-building exercise."
So in Benghazi on September 12, 2012, why couldn't U.S. forces save the people under attack by the insurgents? Some Republicans have argued that we could have saved them but didn't. There's a less demonic interpretation, however, that has more evidence: In order to declare "Mission Accomplished" in Libya, Obama and Clinton couldn't have a major security apparatus there, because a light U.S. military presence was crucial to Obama's "Mission."
So making Libya look like a victory for smart power and a good, clean, smart war, the administration left a handful of Americans vulnerable in a clearly deteriorating situation. Now they're dead.
Clinton and Obama have mostly gotten away with this because of two Republican pathologies. First, many Republicans searched for something more sinister at play — something truly awful that Hillary did. This was a distraction.
More importantly, Republicans couldn't attack Obama and Hillary's war because that narrative — Democrats were too bellicose — cut against the standard GOP narrative: that Democrats aren't willing to fight the bad guys. Mitt Romney actually attacked Obama for not invading Libya sooner.
Obama and Hillary fought an illegal, immoral, unwise war in Libya — and tried to run for reelection on it. Because of Republican folly, they'll get off scot-free, politically. As the Islamic State gains strength and insurgents pour across Libya's border, the rest of the world is paying the price.
Timothy P. Carney, the Washington Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears Tuesday and Thursday nights on washingtonexaminer.com.