David Axelrod was asked this morning on Fox News Sunday about the decision not to deploy military forces to Benghazi the evening of September 11. His response: “The president convened the top military officials that evening and told them to do whatever was necessary and they took the steps that they thought, they took every step they could take.”
Did the president in fact “convene the top military officials that evening?” I know of no evidence that he did. The president had a previously scheduled 5:00 p.m. meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey, where they discussed what was happening in Benghazi, among other topics. But after this previously scheduled meeting, so far as we know, the president never “convened the top military officials” at any time that evening. Panetta's own account of his discussions at the Pentagon that evening with Gens. Dempsey and Ham offers no hint of presidential involvement.
It's of course possible there were presidentially convened meetings or videoconferences that we don't know about. If there were, the White House should let us know. But based on what we do know, it seems the president depended that evening on occasional updates from his own national security staffers--and it seems the president did not “convene the top military officials that evening” during the seven-hour crisis, David Axelrod to the contrary notwithstanding.