The tragedy in Libya on September 11, 2012 with the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens has the makings of a political firestorm this fall. The event has resulted in a spirited House Oversight hearing (while the rest of Congress is out campaigning), generated accusations of a cover-up, exposed questionable "intelligence," and spawned a myriad of unanswered questions regarding embassy/consulate security, and the State Department's prioritization of funding (the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, Austria received funding to "go green" while the consulate in Benghazi was denied requests for additional security personnel).
From the beginning, the administration's response was muddled - first blaming a poorly made YouTube video negatively depicting the prophet Muhammad for inciting riots, before eventually admitting it was an act of terrorism.
Now, in an effort to deflect blame from President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CNN that she takes responsibility for what happened in Benghazi.
Perhaps that's honorable; but what about Truman's famous motto: "The Buck Stops Here"?
In Truman's farewell address, he stated poignantly, "The President--whoever he is--has to decide. He can't pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That's his job."
Others will probably remember Bush's less eloquent way of putting it, "I'm the decider..."
The President has to be held accountable for the decisions and actions of his subordinates, particularly when he was citing bad intelligence about the YouTube video inciting anti-American violence at the United Nations. It's bad enough the nation's chief diplomat, Susan Rice (U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.) took to the Sunday talk shows blaming the YouTube video nearly a week after the tragedy, but when the President does it? That's on a whole new scale.
National-security correspondent Eli Lake wrote on September 21 - ten days after the attack - that the official story was falling apart. By the 26th, he published a story citing anonymous intelligence officials who told him evidence showed within 24-hours that these were terrorist attacks organized by an al-Qaeda affiliated organization. Last Monday he wrote about a cable sent from Chris Stevens on the day he died. Most notably, it did not contain any mention of the YouTube video, or any planned protests at the consulate -- as Lake points out, two key points of the official story.
At some point, the Obama Administration must be held accountable for what happened in Libya, come clean, and tell the American people the truth.
In the end, President Obama must take responsibility for the actions of his administration. The buck stops at his desk.
UPDATE: This afternoon, Obama's campaign spokeswoman told Fox News that President Obama "takes responsibility for the safety and security of all diplomats serving overseas.” It's one thing to have your campaign staff take responsibility for you... I'd still prefer to hear it from the President himself.
Interestingly enough, the President had that opportunity this morning, but walked away from reporters in silence.
Tags: Obama, Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton, Libya, Eli Lake, State Department, National Security