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Obama's 3 a.m. Call

9:44 AM, Oct 2, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Bret Stephens, writing in the Wall Street Journal

Why won't the Libya story go away? Why can't the memory of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and his staff be consigned to the same sad-and-sealed file of Americans killed abroad in dangerous line of duty? How has an episode that seemed at first to have been mishandled by the Romney camp become an emblem of a feckless and deluded foreign policy?

The story-switching and stonewalling haven't helped. But let's start a little earlier.

The hour is 5 p.m., Sept. 11, Washington time, and the scene is an Oval Office meeting among President Obama, the secretary of defense, the national security adviser and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi has been under assault for roughly 90 minutes. Some 30 U.S. citizens are at mortal risk. The whereabouts of Ambassador Stevens are unknown. ...

The U.S. ignores warnings of a parlous security situation in Benghazi. Nothing happens because nobody is really paying attention, especially in an election year, and because Libya is supposed to be a foreign-policy success. When something does happen, the administration's concerns for the safety of Americans are subordinated to considerations of Libyan "sovereignty" and the need for "permission." After the attack the administration blames a video, perhaps because it would be politically inconvenient to note that al Qaeda is far from defeated, and that we are no more popular under Mr. Obama than we were under George W. Bush. Denouncing the video also appeals to the administration's reflexive habits of blaming America first. Once that story falls apart, it's time to blame the intel munchkins and move on.

It was five in the afternoon when Mr. Obama took his 3 a.m. call. He still flubbed it.

Whole thing here.

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