Today, Claudia Rosett goes over the timeline following the Benghazi attacks and points to one of the enduring mysteries: Where was the President while the attack was happening?:
The White House schedule for that week shows nothing for the president after that 5 PM meeting on Sept. 11, at which time he reportedly got word of the attack. The next item for the president, as now recorded in the White House schedule, was his appearance at 10:35 the next morning, Sept. 12, when he delivered a statement in the Rose Garden, deploring the deaths of the four Americans, while implying that some sort of deliberate third-party offense (the video) had provoked the attack (“While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others…”).
Between 5 PM, when the president was informed of the attack, and 10:35 AM, when Obama delivered that public statement, there was an interval of more than 17 hours. When was he directly following the events in Benghazi, complete with the claim and appearance of the heavily armed terrorists of Ansar al-Sharia? When did he go to sleep? When was he informed of the death of the ambassador? During the first six-and-a-half of those hours, from 5 PM until about 11:30 PM Washington time, the American personnel on the ground in Benghazi were either under attack (intermittent, and at times intense, for hours, if you believe the State Department; or with a pause of about four hours — though with nothing definitively resolved, and the ambassador presumed dead but not yet back in American hands — if you believe the CIA). And during the first 11 of those hours, until 4 AM Washington time, there were still Americans, in peril, on the ground in Benghazi.
Well, here's one strong possibility for what the president was doing while the U.S. compound in Libya was under siege—he was watching television. Per Michael Lewis's recent Vanity Fair profile, here's how the president occupies himself every evening for three of those critical hours during the Benghazi attack:
From the time his wife goes to bed, around 10 at night, until he finally retires, at 1, Barack Obama enjoys the closest thing he experiences to privacy: no one but him really knows exactly where he is or what he’s up to. He can’t leave his house, of course, but he can watch ESPN, surf his iPad, read books, dial up foreign leaders in different time zones, and any number of other activities that feel almost normal.