Will the Libya Debacle Cost Obama His Job?

Not if his “pals” in the respectable media can help it. Morning Joe doesn’t care, and apparently neither do mainstream media stalwarts like Nina Totenberg. The perennial Mark Shields and Evan Thomas* were also on the panel:

da man

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I just want to respond to my liberal pals over here. I can’t believe you guys are covering for the administration on the Susan Rice thing when they themselves said five days later it was obviously a terror attack. Obviously, everybody could see it. So why for a week did the administration pretend that it was a demonstration?

NINA TOTENBERG, NPR: Well, it wouldn’t be a very good plan if they were pretending and then saying something different later.

KRAUTHAMMER: It’s a good plan because the longer you draw it out, the less that the media and the country will care about it. It’s an issue, you seize of the issue right away, and it’s worked. Who talks about it other than…

GORDON PETERSON, HOST: Well, we’re talking about it.

KRAUTHAMMER: The third PBS segment of the show. Come on, give me a break.

PETERSON: Now you’re insulting your audience, the people who are still with us.

KRAUTHAMMER: No, these are the nine people in America who really care about stuff. What about all the others?

The same nine people who read blogs like this one, I reckon. Perhaps there’ll be a few more of them by November 6. And a nice trick there by moderator† Gordon Peterson, accusing Krauthammer of “insulting” their audience. Actually, Krauthammer was insulting a show that bumped what should be an election game-changer to the third segment. A biased host, 3 leftward gentlepersons, and a righty. American public television.

[HT: Newsbusters. See also the estimable Walter Russell Mead, on the Washington Post’s latest coverage. The count of people who really care about stuff is now up to at least eleven. Perhaps even twelve, O gentle reader.]

*July 7, 2004: “The media, I think, wants Kerry to win and I think they’re going to portray Kerry and Edwards I’m talking about the establishment media, not Fox. They’re going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic and there’s going to be this glow about them, collective glow, the two of them, that’s going to be worth maybe 15 points.” [Thomas later revised downward to 5 points.]

July 20, 2012: “Gordo, you’re killing me. This is a week when Obama makes the gaffe of the year, and you lead with the [Romney] taxes. I’ll be a good soldier. I’ll play along. This is an arm of the DNC, I know, but I’ll play along.”

Tom Van Dyke

Tom Van Dyke, businessman, musician, bon vivant and game-show champ (The Joker's Wild, and Win Ben Stein's Money), knows lots of stuff, although not quite everything yet. A past contributor to The American Spectator Online, the late great Reform Club blog, and currently on religion and the American Founding at American Creation, TVD continues to write on matters of both great and small importance from his ranch type style tract house high on a hill above Los Angeles.


      • gallup polling data is biased and telepromter quip…..that is your link…..BRILLIANT

        • No, Gwen Ifill minimizing an Obama debate loss in advance, Greg. You have to play fair down here on the sub-blog.

          • I read the Ifill piece and I’m not quite sure how you get from there to her minimizing an possible Obama loss in a debate that has yet to occur, but whatever. Mostly, she explains that candidates don’t get the questions beforehand and other things that relate to her own experience as a moderator but, for the other claims she makes, that they don’t generally affect election outcomes or that zingers don’t usually matter, she does provide some actual evidence to back them up. There a more detailed piece up over at Outside the Beltway today about the impact of debates.

            The media, with it’s horse race coverage of elections, certainly wants us to think that they do and I’m sure the days following each one will be filled with lots of “analysis.” Yet, outside a giant screw up on one side or the other, I doubt they’ll make or break either Obama or Romney.

          • The Debates Don’t Matter Debate has gone viral, esp in the leftosphere, Google tells us.

            “Only” 2-3 percentage points is the difference between winning 51-49 and losing. I’m not following the logic here.

          • Well, debates couldn’t help McCain, even if he could have won them. But if this one’s a squeaker, 2-3 points could swing it, sure.

            The interesting part is how the leftosphere has picked up the meme and run with it, surely in anticipation of an Obama loss.

            And I’d at least say that if Romney flops, he doesn’t have a prayer, whereas if Obama stinks up the joint, he can survive it.

          • Note: The threading in this combox appears to have gone to heck.

          • And I’d at least say that if Romney flops, he doesn’t have a prayer, whereas if Obama stinks up the joint, he can survive it.

            I doubt either one of them is going to make a major error. They’re both going to give their Calm Patrician Demeanor performance and chuckle and shake their head disbelievingly at the other guys’ good points, and say the same things they say on stump, and the moderators will do what they normally do, which is let the participants talk without addressing the question at hand.

            Neither one of these guys relies on schtick.

            Now, the Biden Ryan debate ought to be entertaining to watch.

          • Biden-Ryan should be almost as amusing as Biden-Palin. I’m breaking out the bourbon for that one and hoping that Ryan has practiced up on the Palin Wink.

          • This is my sense as well; any debate with Newt or Cain or Bachmann, well, you are guaranteed your money’s worth in entertainment.
            But both Obama and Romney have perfected the Presidential mannerisms- heck, its what got Romney this far in the first place.

            But at the same time, the Village and the blogs need to be fed; so there will be something that makes the headlines the next day, no matter what. If I were a Rovian advisor I would advise them to toss out a harmless gaffe to distract and consume the media oxygen.

          • I wouldn’t call OTB the left-o-sphere, but I guess since most of its commenters skew liberal, you can make the argument. I guess I’ll watch some MSNBC tonight to see if that’s what the resident lefties are talking about. (-;

          • 1) Most presidential elections are close; a 4 point swing (i.e. 51-49 from one way to the other) is actually a pretty significant swing.

            2) If at anypoint Romney was leading Obama in a poll of polls, the debates could possibly decisive. As Romney has always been anywhere from just slightly behind to more significantly behind, it’s unlikely (but not impossible) for the debates to give him enough mojo to finally break through his own glass ceiling.

          • Oh, and 3) Electoral College. Romney’s been losing ground in all the swing states. Even if national polling is within a couple of points and may (probably will) tighten up, he’s still getting decisively beat in the only votes that matter.

          • That’s what all the papers say. Me, I think the heavy artillery has barely been fired yet. With a willing and abetting press turning every serious argument against the Obama presidency into a non-story or a third-segment or page Z62 afterthought—as we see in the OP!—there’s no percentage in showing those cards at this time.

            Univision is preparing a big Fast & Furious story—something the left-establishment media hasn’t done.


            At some point the dam should break. All CharlieK and me can do is pooh-pooh the pooh-poohing. This stuff matters.

          • I’m not actually a big fan of using state polls. I think there are a lot more unknowns and nooks and krannies in them. Though obviously that’s how elections are determined, they also usually coincide with the popular vote.

            That’s my take, anyway.

        • If the media did for Romney what it does for Obama, I probably wouldn’t have written this post, eh?

          I’ve been laying off this Libya thing, but I think it’s a very legitimate issue and consistent with what I see as a general indifference and dereliction, the competence issue. If you read the entire OP, the WaPo is at least looking at it. This could indeed be the game-changer.

          I got the Swift Boats right as early as May 2004. I got the South Carolina primary right in 2008, when the pendulum swung from Hilary to BHO. Stayed home and watched the election turn in 6 hours as Clyburn race-dogged Bill Clinton all day on CNN, with Obama’s clear tacit approval.

          And of course with CNN’s willing co-operation. As for the Libya issue, I think when set against the greater pattern of amateurism and incompetence, coupled with the administration’s incompetent cover-up via Susan Rice, I think it should be enough to swing the election on its merits. If the WaPo has stuck a toe in the water, the media might be further embarrassed enough at its own dereliction of duty—hence the importance of Krauthammer calling out his colleagues and the entire media establishment here.

          I also suspect if the media doesn’t think they’ll have to answer to an Obama Administration second term, when the levee breaks, it’ll be a deluge.


          • Oh, I was responding less to the OP and more to the comment regarding the WaPo article on Obama and the debate. I thought the Romney campaign’s tact here is an interesting one, is all.

          • Fair. Look, Obama admitted on 60 Minutes some campaign ads lie.


            I don’t make a big deal out of campaign BS because Romney’s campaign pulled a couple that made me wince as well. Indefensible. When the BS is fairly equal on both sides, you just x it out of both sides of the equation.

            To return to the OP and my reply, if you find some PBS types besides Krauthammer carrying any Romney water, let me know. I find Gwen Ifill’s piece just a little too conveniently timed.

          • What do you mean by “PBS types”? I don’t watch a lot of news so if that is an industry term, I’m unfamiliar with it.

          • “PBS types” meant Gwen Ifill in this case–who is not a commentor like Krauthammer but a host and journalist.

            GWEN IFILL is moderator and managing editor of “Washington Week” and senior correspondent for the “PBS NewsHour.”


            Presumably “neutral.” Moderated a debate and everything. I’m sorry, Kazzy, I know you’re trying to keep things upright between us but after all the crap of late I still feel your questions are designed to find something you can use to hurt me and little else. I feel I can speak freely down here on the Dutch Courage sub-blog. I feel unsafe in replying to you even here, not a conversation between friends, not a discussion between people of good will as in Plato’s dialogues, but a police interrogation with the light bulb over my head.

            The OP is very partisan, I admit. That’s why I brought it down to the sub-blog whose patron saint is Ronald Reagan. With a beer in his hand and a smile on his face, mind you. And his nickname was “Dutch.”

            Someday you’ll get me. Maybe we can rebuild a trust relationship someday. I hope so. In the meantime, let’s go slow. The reason for this blog is to get away from the fog of war, not bring it here with us.

          • My question was wholly genuine and sincere. When I was recently staying with a friend, I actually caught a few minutes of the PBS show in question (not this particular episode). It was the first time I watched PBS since I regularly consumed “Sesame Street” and I thought the show looked like it was on tape delay from the ’80s (in terms of the production value). Beyond that, the extent of the “news” I watch is “60 Minutes” here and there, a special report on something interesting, or talking heads if there is a particularly newsworthy event going on (convention, debate, election).

            When you asked me to point out “PBS types” carrying water for Romney, I thought it best to first clarify what the term meant. It seemed fruitless for me to offer up what I think might be a “PBS type” only to find it failing to meet your criteria and the whole exercise futile.

            But, your sub-blog, your rules. Or, shall I say more accurately, you are free to carry on as you like. If you would rather not further pursue this line of discussion, I’m happy to disengage amicably. Cheers.

  1. Um (snicker) — Betteridge’s Law comes into its own when such questions are asked.

    When it comes to thin-lipped Kraut Hammers, I hark back to those exciting days when he was saying how great the Iraq War would be:

    Sept. 11 forever abolished the notion of benignity. It revealed an Arab world that had resisted modernization and democracy–and become home to the most virulent anti-Americanism on the planet. And that hatred threatens the most catastrophic consequences. Maybe not from Saddam, maybe not even from al-Qaeda. Maybe only from their emulators and successors. The players may change, but the blow will come.

    Hence the awful realization: preventing the next Sept. 11 will require America to engage the Arab world the way it engaged Europe and Asia a half-century ago. Totally. We have long recoiled from such an undertaking. For decades, we tried a far more modest approach to the Arab world. It had three parts:

    –Pacification: buying off and subsidizing corrupt governments.

    –Policing: dealing with terrorism as a form of crime, not war.

    –Patrolling: maintaining a balance of power in the region principally through an offshore naval presence.

    After Sept. 11, the old offshore, hands-off, see-no-evil policy will not suffice. We now understand the cost of that abdication. It leaves a critical part of the world insulated and isolated–and incubating terrible enemies and terrible weapons.

    Hence Iraq. This is about more than the terrible weapons. It is about reconstituting a terrorized society. A de-Saddamized Iraq with a decent government could revolutionize the region. It would provide friendly basing not just for the outward projection of American power but also for the outward projection of democratic and modernizing ideas, which is why the Administration plans an 18-month occupation for a civil and political reconstruction unlike any since postwar Germany and Japan. If we succeed, the effect on the region would be enormous, encouraging democrats and modernizers–and threatening despots and troglodytes–in neighboring Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and beyond. To do this, however, America must give up patrolling from over the horizon. It must come ashore.

    Americans don’t like that. They do not hunger for exotic lands. America is perhaps the only hegemonic power in history in constant search of “exit strategies.” But Sept. 11 taught that what the U.S. needs in the Arab world is not an exit strategy but an entry strategy. Iraq is the beckoning door.

    Charles Kraut Hammer should be force-fed his words, or have them shoved into another orifice. The very idea, that Chuckie would open his piehole to tell us about Debacles. Eet eez all quat amusang.

    • The Betteridge’s Law retort was apt. 😉

      The rest, the delegitimizing game, not so much. Hell, if being wrong is a crime, instead of being on the ticket, Joe Biden should be in jail.

      “The Vice President has been over the last 30 years holds the American record for wrong on the most issues in foreign affairs ever. And the list starts with the nuclear freeze in the early ’80s against Thatcher and Reagan and Cole which is one of the follies of the era. He supported it. He was against aid to the Nicaraguan Contras which in the end brought democracy and ended the Sandinista rule at the time. He was against Reagan’s expansion of the defense budget which bankrupted the Soviet Union and led to the end of the Soviet Empire. He was against Reagan on Strategic Defenses, which is the big advantage that we have now in the missile age.

      And look at where he was on Iraq. He opposed the first Iraq War, the Gulf War that liberated Kuwait that everybody agrees was a good thing. He supported the Iraq War which he, not I, which he says was a terrible mistake. And then when the surge happened, he opposed the surge in Iraq which rescued a losing war and ended with our leaving with our heads held high and some promise in the future.

      Ethnicity to three parts. He is the Herbert Hoover of American foreign policy, and for him to be the spokesman for the administration on these affairs I think is rather ironic.”

      Krauthammer, of course. Heh heh.

      • The Kraut Hammer’s quotidian farts of outrage are a fine guide to foreign policy: if the Kraut Hammer is for it, sane people are against it. I was around for the Contras and Guatemala’s death squads.

        • Marx’s analysis is good, his prescriptions and predictions not so much. That doesn’t mean we cannot learn from him. So too, Krauthammer calling out the left-media for burying Obama’s cock-up has nothing to do with the Contras, and shouting him down ad hom is a waste of cyberink, but that’s our 21st century epistemology, one big genetic fallacy.

  2. If the Iraq debacle didn’t cause Bush his job, I can’t see how the Libya debacle will cost Obama his.

    The actual Libya debacle that should cost Obama his job is going to war without any Congressional authorization.

    “Benghazigate?” Really?

    Though I will say if the Ambassador and any staff were captured by AQ or affiliated forces alive, that would have been very bad news for Obama.

    • Iraq almost cost Bush his job, and cost him Congress 2 years later.

      “Benghazigate?” Really?.

      Yes, really. The OP already covered the minimizing of it by the top pros [there is no defense of it]. We shall see if they succeed.

      • We’ve forgotten about Fast & Furious, despite the guns and bodies continuing to pile up; Libya will be forgotten too.

        If people liked Romney better, these things might matter in the election’s outcome; but it seems to me that he’s about as liked as John Kerry was.

          • Yeah, I didn’t look at any numbers. It just has a similar ‘feel’.

            I remember thinking in ’04 that Bush was unpopular, and yet the Dems managed to run a guy that could lose to him anyway.

            Obama seems nowhere near as unpopular as Bush was (my sense, from what I see and hear), but Romney seems like the guy to lose to him. Like Kerry, he’s sort of a charisma vacuum.

  3. The Middle East has been a giant clusterf**k ever since I can remember. It’s a land of deep divisions and fierce ethnic and religious rivalries and it’s been an American folly to overestimate our impact there. Obama’s not the first president to run into problems there. Your blog’s own hero had his own issues. Iran-Contra springs to mind, as does the terrorist massacre of 241 marines in Beruit. Even Reagan’s own Secretary of State took issue with Reagan’s decision to send the Marines there, where they were in essence, sitting ducks.

    Weinberger: Well, that’s one of my saddest memories. I was not persuasive enough to persuade the President that the Marines were there on an impossible mission. They were very lightly armed. They were not permitted to take the high ground in front of them or the flanks on either side. They had no mission except to sit at the airport, which is just like sitting in a bull’s eye. Theoretically, their presence was supposed to support the idea of disengagement and ultimate peace. I said, “They’re in a position of extraordinary danger. They have no mission. They have no capability of carrying out a mission, and they’re terribly vulnerable.” It didn’t take any gift of prophecy or anything to see how vulnerable they were.

    When that horrible tragedy came, why, as I say, I took it very personally and still feel responsible in not having been persuasive enough to overcome the arguments that “Marines don’t cut and run,” and “We can’t leave because we’re there,” and all of that. I begged the President at least to pull them back and put them back on their transports as a more defensible position. That ultimately, of course, was done after the tragedy.


    The Obama administration’s big sin: waffling for a couple of weeks before acknowledging that the attack in Libya was a terrorist attack and not a reaction to an anti-Muslim film. I have no idea why the administration chose to take this course, nor do you but, as far as alleged cover-ups go, it’s pretty minor.

    • A bad call isn’t as bad as negligence. Everybody makes mistakes, everybody rolls snake-eyes sometime*. I’m not a consequentialist, and there is no president who doesn’t have a major blunder on his watch.

      I think the Obama presidency—as an administration not an ideology—has been desultory, and along with the Susan Rice angle, there’s a legitimate issue of competence here.


      * I thought Bill Clinton got lucky in the Balkans. I have also been concerned that Obama’s Arab Spring may become more like Carter’s Iran than Clinton’s Kosovo.

      • It strikes me that Reagan putting the Marines in harm’s way despite the advice of his advisors was negligent, but nowhere near the level of malfeasance as the whole Iran-Contra arms for hostages thing. But Reagan survived just fine.

        As for incompetence, I’ll pit Obama against W any day. We’ll be cleaning up the mess W left behind for years to come.

  4. If anything about Libya should cost him his job, it’s what Friedberger says: what Obama did when the WPA window expired about a year ago (i.e. just keep going while denying our forces were engaged in hostilities).

    I’m really struggling to see how a week’s dissembling on these late events by the administration would ever (and I honestly don’t even know how to process a claim about what “should,” beyond missing something on the order of a 9/11 or at least OKC) constitute a gamechanger in an election in which voters are consumed by economic concerns.

    I would listen to an argument that the security decisions leading up to the vulnerability in that place on that day ought to cause Hillary Clinton her job. (There needs to be some re-establishment of the notion of primary responsibility in addition to ultimate responsibility IMHO. If the buck only ever stops at the top, what’s the point in having other responsible officials? You could argue not making that change or one equally significant ought to being Obama some political cost. I don’t see how it would be, or certainly should be a game changer, though, in this political environment. This is the kind of thing we expect presidents to deal with and move on, not get fired over.)

    • Michael, as of 2 weeks ago, I’d written I didn’t have a serious problem with President Obama on foreign policy. I’ve had strong reservations about his stumbling into support for the Arab Spring, but there was no indication he didn’t know what he was doing in Egypt and Libya.

      But clearly, he was completely winging it in Libya, not a clue in the world. As for the debacle of our Egypt embassy’s condemnation of the anti-Islam film by a flunky, what the hell was our ambassador doing out of the country on the anniversary of 9-11 in the first place???

      Bloody clueless, just like his domestic policy: Ideology over competence.

      • This is stuff that Hillary Clinton is in charge of day-to-day. We wouldn’t want the president waking up and thinking about whether the Egyptian ambassador is in the right place from a security perspective on some given day (9/11 or otherwise). Honestly, we don’t. If it’s not being managed well at that level, then yes, the president is responsible for seeing that it is. But then the problem from the perspective of that officd is that he’s had the wrong person in as SoS for four years, or she’s had the wrong security people, or etc.

        But, by “the country,” I take it you mean the US of A? So it’s your view that all the ambassadors in the Middle East should have been called back to Washington on eleventh anniversary of 9/11 because of possible attacks? Really?

        The problem was the decision to change the regime in Libya, then to try to do barely-staffed nation building, which led to the decision to have that ambassador forward in Benghazi on that day. And that was largely his decision, though his security concerns certainly ought to have been attended to by the Department. In any case, it goes back to the decision to intervene (which by most accounts goes back largely to Hillary & Dr. Rice if we’re honest, thought obviously the buck on that most definitely does stop with Barack.)

        There are definitely things to swing at here, Tom, but you’re missing them.

        • No, you misunderstand, Michael. The ambassador to Egypt should have been in Cairo on 9-11. And ambassador to Libya Stevens should have been safe—and wrote before his death he felt he wasn’t.

          What I’m also saying is that even as a political opponent, I gave the president the benefit of the doubt on foreign policy. Now I think he’s just been faking it all along.

          As for Hillary even being appointed as Secretary of State in the first place, I thought that was, again, sacrificing competence for politics. But I gave her the benefit of the doubt as well. Now, not really. Still better than that disastrous fool Madeleine Albright and don’t even get me started on John Kerry, mentioned as a possible replacement.

          The Obama ship of state has had calm seas and a lot of luck but now the cracks are leaking.

          • In Washington, I see. I’m not sure it’s clear in the abstract that she ought to have been in Cairo or not in Cairo on 9/11/12. I’m not even sure in hindsight it’s particularly clear. It seems to me that the statements released by the Cairo embassy were extremely peripheral to the most important events, which occurred in Benghazi. There’s plenty to criticize the administration for there, as I’ve said. I’m not sure an event of this magnitude is ever going to be a game-changer, though. If it changed your opinion of the administration’s foreign policy competence, though, that’s fair enough.

          • Yes, Michael, that would be my point, rather foggily made. That and that the media has ignored or minimized virtually every Obama cockup from the word go.

            Remember the “Reset button?”

            Note to self: When trying to improve ties with a former Cold War-era foe, check a dictionary. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton learned that lesson the hard way Friday when she presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a gift bearing an incorrect translation — one that implied hostility, rather than peacemaking.

            Clinton presented Lavrov with a gift-wrapped red button, which said “Reset” in English and “Peregruzka” in Russian. The problem was, “peregruzka” doesn’t mean reset. It means overcharged, or overloaded.

            And Lavrov called her out on it.

            Via Fox News, duh.

          • That was reported far and wide, Tom. It just didn’t take. The problem is not that the media won’t report Obama’s failings on foriegn policy. The problem is that there is no oppositio party with any credibility on the entire issue area, and further, such as there is won’t consider occupying the policy space where the incumbent is actually vulnerable in that realm – to his left. We would be in a very different political universe if the Republican Party would pursue both its own manifest political interest as well as advance the cause of civic debate, and disavow George W. Bush and all that he stood for, admit their mistakes and take their lumps for those disasters, and say that, however little credibility it is with which they now stand before the American public, they do no at least offer an alternative to the policy legacy of George W. Bush, as continued by Barack Obama. But they’re not going to do that.

          • The Obama Admin have been bloody amateurs from the first week, the “Reset” embarrassment with the Russians onward. That’s my point, that’ll be Romney’s point.

            I dunno if going foreign policy is the best strategy. Methinks they’re going to bring a new spitstorm down on one item of the Obama presidency’s incompetence every day, from Solyndra to unemployment to the deficit to Obamacare to Libya to Fast & Furious and The Beat Goes On, so many holes in the dike that Obama and his allies in the media can’t plug them all.

            At least that’s what I’d do, and that’s the point of the OP—the media minimizing Obama’s debacles—and I hope that’s what Romney is planning. The Obama record is indefensible. The man has not earned re-election.

        • I’m pretty sure they’ve been trying to bring the spit all summer, Tom. I’m not clear what’s novel about your prediction that they’re going to keep bringing up Obama’s perceived and actual failures.

          If Obama has gotten a media pass on FP, it’s because expectations were set by his predecessor. As for your more general mutterings about the media the media the media, Tom, I wish I knew how to help you.

  5. Remember a place called Iraq?, no WMD!, 5,000 dead! U.S. troops, cost about?, 800 billion to one trillion dollars. No one asked that President to leave office in fact he was reelected by more than 51%.

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