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October 17, 2014 • 02:40 pm

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Silence of the Media Lambs Print
By Quin Hillyer
Thursday, November 15 2012
In all, the same press corps the president has evaded for so long acted with the meekness of herded lambs.

Provided the opportunity on Wednesday to assert supposed powers as the “Fourth Estate,” the White House press corps instead acted like a football team on Fourth-and-Eight: It punted.

Faced with the first chance, after more than two months, to grill Barack Obama about the tragedy in Benghazi, Libya, and related setbacks throughout North Africa and the Middle East, the assembled journalist wannabes barely scratched the surface of what should be treated as a major scandal.

Oh, sure, the first question touched on the outer orbit of the Libyan travesty, namely the sex scandal involving newly resigned CIA Director David Petraeus. Yet the words “Libya” and “Benghazi” weren’t even mentioned; instead, the question merely dealt with the possibility of security breaches related to Petraeus’ illicit affair.

Not until the seventh question, from Jonathan Karl of ABC, did Libya itself come up. Even then the question related not to the administration’s actual handling of issues related to the Benghazi consulate before, during and after the deadly assault, but instead to how Obama assessed the political challenges, issued by Republican senators, related to the attack. The follow-up question by Fox News’ Ed Henry did meander to a query about whether Obama “issue[d] any orders to try to protect [the lives of Americans at the consulate].” But after a vague assertion by Obama that he had generally ordered his “national security team [to] do whatever we need to do to make sure they’re safe,” nobody asked a word about specifics. Nada.

This “let him off easy” approach contrasts starkly with the repeated and specific questions the media asked President G.W. Bush, at every opportunity, about supposed “torture” of terrorist detainees.

Herewith, then, the basic and obvious questions that should have been asked, but weren’t:

  • Mr. President, you said generically that you ordered your team to keep the Americans safe. But did you A) entertain any specific proposals to send in a rescue mission; B) remain in direct operational contact during the conflagration with your national security team in order to assess rescue possibilities; C) have any knowledge during those seven hours about any orders for American military or intelligence officers to “stand down”?

  • Mr. President, let’s go back long before September 11 of this year. The Benghazi consulate came under two earlier attacks, and both the Ambassador and other personnel repeatedly asked for more security and/or objected to security being removed. Were you aware of any of those requests and the denials thereto, and, if not, have you yet held anybody accountable either for denying those requests or for failing to send the requests up the chain of command?

  • American news outlets were reporting within two days that the attack in Libya was organized, planned and appeared to have the indices of deliberate terrorism – and in the debate, you claimed on the very next day to have called the attacks an “act of terror.” Considering those facts, why did you or anybody in the administration put forward Ambassador Rice so many days later to tell a completely different story on five Sunday news shows? And did you personally discuss your information with Rice before sending her forward? If not, who briefed her? And if Rice herself was transmitting the “best information” she had, why haven’t those who briefed her been held accountable for sending Rice out to mislead the American public, since by your account you already knew it was an “act of terror”?

  • Once Ambassador Rice spread the mistaken story that Sunday, why did you not direct everybody in your administration to correct the record the very next day?

  • Mr. President, if your overall policy in North Africa and the Middle East is as effective as you say, why were there major demonstrations against the United States not just in Egypt and Libya, but in 20 different countries?

  • Mr. President, have you reviewed records of all of your national intelligence briefings, both those you actually attended in person and those you skipped in person but read reports of, to find out if there were indications that security at Benghazi was less than optimal – and, in light of the news that, as it turns out, there had been repeated requests from Libya for more security, then if those concerns did not reach the level of your daily briefings, have you in two months yet found out why not?

Aside from White House correspondents’ failures to ask searchingly enough regarding Libya, they also failed to ask Obama about the current skirmishes on the Israeli border, among other foreign policy imbroglios. Likewise, most of the questions on domestic issues were similarly perfunctory.

In all, the same press corps the president has evaded for so long acted with the meekness of herded lambs. Whatever happened to the “adversary press”?

Question of the Week   
Which of the following Cold War events led to the establishment of the “Hotline,” a direct telephone link between the White House and the Kremlin?
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Quote of the Day   
 
"Much public skepticism about the government’s response to Ebola stems from the dogmatic pronouncements of Obama administration officials. In a video message early last month on stopping the virus, for example, President Obama asserted that 'we know how to do it.' He was wrong. ... To fix his messaging problem, President Obama has appointed political fixer Ron Klain as its new Ebola response '…[more]
 
 
—Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Former FDA Deputy Commissioner and Tevi Troy, Former HHS Deputy Secretary
— Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Former FDA Deputy Commissioner and Tevi Troy, Former HHS Deputy Secretary
 
Liberty Poll   

In dealing with deadly and difficult-to-curtail infectious diseases such as Ebola, should government-imposed travel bans and quarantines supersede civil liberty and other concerns?