What was President Obama doing Tuesday evening, September 11, while Americans were under assault in Benghazi? Which of his national security team did he meet with, whom did he speak with, what directives did he issue? So far, the White House won't say.
But we do know one thing the president found time to do that evening: He placed a call to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in order to defuse a controversy about President Obama's refusal to meet with Netanyahu two weeks later at the U.N. General Assembly, and, according to the White House announcement that evening, spent an hour on the phone with him:
By Lynn Sweet on September 11, 2012 8:18 PM |
President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed Iran and other issues in a hour-long phone call on Tuesday night, the White House announced--along with a statement that Netanyahu, contrary to news reports, never asked for a meeting with the president.
The White House briefed on the call between the two leaders as tensions with Iran are growing--talk of an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran nuclear facilities is escalating--and stories about Obama snubbing Netanyahu--now denied--present a political problem to a president who is wooing the Jewish vote. In a statement issued Tuesday evening, the White House said, "President Obama spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu for an hour tonight as a part of their ongoing consultations. The two leaders discussed the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program, and our close cooperation on Iran and other security issues...
While Americans were under assault in Benghazi, the president found time for a non-urgent, politically useful, hour-long call to Prime Minister Netanyahu. And his senior national security staff had to find time to arrange the call, brief the president for the call, monitor it, and provide an immediate read-out to the media. I suspect Prime Minister Netanyahu, of all people, would have understood the need to postpone or shorten the phone call if he were told that Americans were under attack as the president chatted. But for President Obama, a politically useful telephone call—and the ability to have his aides rush out and tell the media about that phone call—came first.
So here are a few more questions for the White House: While President Obama was on the phone for an hour, did his national security advisor Tom Donilon or any other aide interrupt the call or slip him a piece of paper to inform him about what was happening in Benghazi? Or was President Obama out of the loop for at least an hour as events unfolded and decisions were made? On the other hand, national security staff were obviously with the president during and immediately after the phone call—otherwise how could they have put out their statement right away? Surely his aides told the president about what was happening in Benghazi. Was there then no discussion of what was or what wasn't being done to help, pursuant to the president's first directive that everything possible be done?