Obama aide: Benghazi was ‘tragedy,’ 'irrelevant’ where president was during raid

Obama aide: Benghazi was ‘tragedy,’ 'irrelevant’ where president was during raid
Dan Pfeiffer
Dan Pfeiffer

A new meme is subtly snaking its way into the administration’s feeble attempts to promote the notion that the deaths of four members of the U.S. diplomatic corps in Benghazi last Sept. 11 were unavoidable — that the president was intimately involved during the storming of the U.S. consulate and that the White House response after the fact was wholly appropriate and apolitical.

The meme was floated several days ago by Sen. Barbara Boxer. It came up again this morning in an exchange between “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace and White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer.

When pressed about the president’s whereabouts during the eight-hour siege, Pfeiffer bristled at the intimation that Obama (who was headed to Las Vegas for a fundraiser) was MIA. “The president,” he replied, “was kept up to date throughout the entire night, from the moment it started till the end. This is a horrible tragedy.”

Did you pick up on it? The terrorist assault on Benghazi, the administration and Democrats in Congress would have us believe, was a “horrible tragedy.” A horrible tragedy? The tornado that swept through Texas on May 15, killing six, was a horrible tragedy. The deadly terrorist assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya was an outrage — not a tragedy. Calling it a tragedy is as ludicrous as calling the events of the “original” Sept. 11 terrorist attack or the raid on Pearl Harbor a “tragedy.”

But Pfeiffer wasn’t done. In the video of the exchange (transcript follows), he also calls the current hue and cry for answers about Benghazi rising up from all quarters of the media a series of conspiracy theories the Republicans are spinning.” Pfeiffer needs to check his press scorecard. While it is true that some diehard liberal commentators plan to fight for the administration’s integrity until the bloody end, plenty of mainstream journalists are now asking the same questions Republicans raised in the aftermath of the attack. It was ABC’s Jonathan Karl, no less than that network news division’s Chief White House Correspondent, who broke the story that the Benghazi talking points underwent twelve revisions, putting the lie to Jay Carney’s claim that the White House made only minor “stylistic” changes to the document.

In spite of Pfeiffer’s insistence, moreover, that there have been countless hearings and that everyone is satisfied, the fact remains there is still no single unified account of who knew what and when and who did what in the wake of the attack.

If there is a special counsel appointed to investigate the Benghazi, the White House might want to think twice about sending Dan Pfeiffer as a spokesman. If the arguments he advanced today are an indication of testimony he would provide under oath, he might want to hire himself a good attorney now. Perjuring oneself at the federal level carries serious consequences.

WALLACE: Let’s turn to Benghazi. He had a meeting with Panetta in the afternoon, heard about this on an unrelated subject, wanted them to deploy forces as soon as possible. The next time he shows up, Hillary Clinton says she spoke to him at around 10:00 that night after the attack at the consulate, not the annex, but the attack at the consulate had ended. Question: what did the president do the rest of that night to pursue Benghazi?

PFEIFFER: The president was kept up to date throughout the entire night, from the moment it started till the end. This is a horrible tragedy. People that he sent abroad whose lives are in risk, people who work for him. I recognize that there’s a series of conspiracy theories the Republicans are spinning about this since the night it happened, but there’s been an independent review of this, Congress has held hearings, we provided 250,000 pages of — 250,000 pages of documents up there. there’s been 11 hearings, 20 staff briefings. everyone has found the same thing. This is a tragedy. The question is not what happened that night. The question is what are we going to do to move forward and ensure it doesn’t happen again? Congress should act on what the president called for earlier this week, to pass legislation to actually allow us to implement the recommendations of the accountability review board. When we send diplomats off into far-flung places, there’s inherent risk. we need to mitigate that risk. [Emphasis added]

WALLACE: With all due respect, you didn’t answer my question. what did the president do that night?

PFEIFFER: Kept up to date with the events as they were happening.

WALLACE: He didn’t talk to the Secretary Of State except for the one time when the first attack was over. He didn’t talk to the Secretary Of Defense, he didn’t talk to chiefs. the Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs. Who was he talking to?

PFEIFFER: His national security staff, his National Security Council.

WALLACE: Was he in the situation room?

PFEIFFER: He was kept up to date throughout the day.

WALLACE: Do you know whether he was in the situation room?

PFEIFFER: I don’t know what room he was in that night. that’s a largely irrelevant fact.

WALLACE: Well —

PFEIFFER: The premise of your question, somehow there was something that could have been done differently, okay, that would have changed the outcome here. the accountability roof board has looked at this, people have looked at this. it’s a horrible tragedy, and we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

WALLCE: Here’s the point, though. The ambassador goes missing, the first ambassador in more than 30 years is killed. Four Americans, including the ambassador, are killed. dozens of Americans are in jeopardy. The president at 4:00 in the afternoon says to the Chairman of The Joint Chiefs to deploy forces. No forces are deployed. Where is he while all this is going on?

PFEIFFER: This has been attested to by —

WALLACE: Well, no. no one knows where he is, who was involved, the —

PFEIFFER: The suggestion of your question that somehow the president —

WALLACE: I just want to know the answer.

PFEIFFER: The assertions from Republicans that the president didn’t take action is offensive. there’s no evidence to support it.

WALLACE: I’m simply asking a question. Where was he? What did he do? How did he respond? Who told him you can’t deploy forces and what was his answer?

PFEIFFER: The president was in the White House that day, kept up to date by his national security team, spoke to The Joint Chiefs Of Staff earlier, Ssecretary of State, and as events unfolded he was kept up to date.

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Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.

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