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On Benghazi, Not Very Definitive

Far from undermining this indictment of Obama, the authors actually support it, conceding that the president is "aloof and rather ineffective." Their attempt to absolve Obama of culpability, their effort to help him evade accountability in a book that pretends to demand accountability, is embarrassingly lame. "The reality of the modern state," they burble, is "bureaucratic machinery" that is "extensive and sprawling," too cumbersome for any president to steer. "[T]here is no way for American power to be projected effectively if every bureaucrat is waiting for the President to bless his actions."

How ridiculous. What we now know, no thanks to this "definitive" account, is that the president did nothing but tell his defense secretary and counterterrorism adviser to deal with the siege. He did not give them orders to move available military assets into the theater, he did not demand to be updated while Americans were under attack, he did not even pick up the telephone to call his secretary of state (whose subordinates were being mauled) or to call the Libyan authorities -- who would not be in power without his help against Qaddafi -- to demand that they provide all necessary assistance and clearance to the few American reinforcements who were trying to respond. That last abdication is crucial. As the authors relate, the team of JSOC and CIA operatives led by Doherty in Tripoli was significantly delayed and had to bribe Libyan pilots ($30,000) to take them to Benghazi; there, the authors report, "the US team was initially held up at the airport for a few hours. It's unclear whether this was intentional or not, but the Americans eventually forced their way through" the Libyan obstructionists.

So oddly intent on absolving the president are the authors, they don't seem to notice that their conclusion that "it appears as if every informed agency and organization [in our government] tried its best to give whatever help it could during the attack" comes exactly two sentences before they recount how the CIA chief in Benghazi refused to authorize Ty Woods' proposal to attempt to rescue Amb. Stevens. Woods had to browbeat his superior -- and the authors admit that Woods' heroic rescue mission may well have been against orders. That's the CIA trying its best?

Remember, Obama is the president who, we've been told, personally pores over enemy combatant files to determine who should be killed -- the president who, supposedly, was deeply engaged in famously successful Navy SEAL operations to kill Osama bin Laden and rescue hostages from Somali pirates. Yet somehow, Murphy and Webb tell us, "the 9/11 Benghazi attack really doesn't involve the President all that much one way or the other." Well, Obama certainly did choose not to involve himself. How odd that two special forces veterans would think the commander-in-chief gets to make such a choice.