Bret Stephens, in today’s Wall Street Journal, notes that the famous 3 a.m. telephone call scenario that appeared in the most famous ad of the 2008 presidential campaign actually recently occurred.
The hour is 5 p.m., Sept. 11, Washington time, and the scene is an Oval Office meeting among President Obama, the secretary of defense, the national security adviser and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi has been under assault for roughly 90 minutes. Some 30 U.S. citizens are at mortal risk. The whereabouts of Ambassador Stevens are unknown.
What is uppermost on the minds of the president and his advisers? The safety of Americans, no doubt. So what are they prepared to do about it? Here is The Wall Street Journal’s account of the meeting:
“There was no serious consideration at that hour of intervention with military force, officials said. Doing so without Libya’s permission could represent a violation of sovereignty and inflame the situation, they said. Instead, the State Department reached out to the Libyan government to get reinforcements to the scene.”
So it did. Yet the attack was far from over. After leaving the principal U.S. compound, the Americans retreated to a second, supposedly secret facility, which soon came under deadly mortar fire. Time to call in the troops?
“Some officials said the U.S. could also have sent aircraft to the scene as a ‘show of force’ to scare off the attackers,” the Journal reported, noting that there’s a U.S. air base just 450 miles away in Sicily. “State Department officials dismissed the suggestions as unrealistic. ‘They would not have gotten there in two hours, four hours or six hours.'”
The U.S. security detail only left Washington at 8 a.m. on Sept. 12, more than 10 hours after the attacks began. A commercial jet liner can fly from D.C. to Benghazi in about the same time. …
The U.S. ignores warnings of a parlous security situation in Benghazi. Nothing happens because nobody is really paying attention, especially in an election year, and because Libya is supposed to be a foreign-policy success. When something does happen, the administration’s concerns for the safety of Americans are subordinated to considerations of Libyan “sovereignty” and the need for “permission.” After the attack the administration blames a video, perhaps because it would be politically inconvenient to note that al Qaeda is far from defeated, and that we are no more popular under Mr. Obama than we were under George W. Bush. Denouncing the video also appeals to the administration’s reflexive habits of blaming America first. Once that story falls apart, it’s time to blame the intel munchkins and move on.
It was five in the afternoon when Mr. Obama took his 3 a.m. call. He still flubbed it.
Back at the end of October in 2008, Peggy Noonan hurriedly jumped on the express train to the Finland Station, endorsing Barack Obama in quite warm terms, and dismissing regrets or apologies by pointing to the mandate of heaven.
[L]et’s be frank. Something new is happening in America. It is the imminent arrival of a new liberal moment. History happens, it makes its turns, you hold on for dear life. Life moves.
Peggy is still holding on to history’s roller-coaster car for dear life but, happily, the turns of the track have brought Peggy (along with David Brooks and the rest of the establishment commentariat) back to the right side. This week, Peggy Noonan, rather than praising Barack Obama, was delivering the ultimate editorial coup de grace.
On Wednesday, President Obama gave a news conference to share his thoughts. Viewers would have found it disappointing if there had been any viewers. The president is speaking, in effect, to an empty room. From my notes five minutes in: “This wet blanket, this occupier of the least interesting corner of the faculty lounge, this joy-free zone, this inert gas.” By the end I was certain he will never produce a successful stimulus because he is a human depression.
Actually I thought the worst thing you can say about a president: He won’t even make a good former president.
His detachment is so great, it is even from himself. As he spoke, he seemed to be narrating from a remove. It was like hearing the audiobook of Volume I of his presidential memoirs. “Obama was frustrated. He honestly didn’t understand what the country was doing. It was as if they had compulsive hand-washing disorder. In ’08 they washed off Bush. Now they’re washing off Obama. There he is, swirling down the drain! It’s all too dramatic, too polar. The morning after the election it occurred to him: maybe he should take strong action. Maybe he should fire America! They did well in 2008, but since then they’ve been slipping. They weren’t giving him the followership he needed. But that wouldn’t work, they’d only complain. He had to keep his cool. His aides kept telling him, ‘Show humility.’ But they never told him what humility looked like. What was he supposed to do, burst into tears and say hit me? Not knowing how to feel humility or therefore show humility he decided to announce humility: He found the election ‘humbling,’ he said.”
Willem-Adolphe Bouguereau, Liberal Democrat Pursued By the Furies, 1862, Chrysler Museum of Art
Rich Lowery explains how the democrat minority lucked into control of both electoral branches of government and then proceeded to self destruct.
The frustrations of minority status can drive a political party batty.
The temptation is to substitute belligerence for thought, insist on a self-destructive purity, lash out at the American public and question the wisdom and viability of the country’s institutions. Indulging in these tendencies almost always makes a party’s position worse rather than better.
The Obama Democrats may be the first party to engage in this self-defeating behavior — borne of a frustrated desperation — while holding the presidency and both houses of Congress by substantial margins.
Through an accident of timing (a national election coinciding with a financial crisis) and the exhaustion of the Bush-DeLay Republicans (who lost power almost by default), liberals took the commanding heights of the federal government while remaining a minority disposition in our national life. In short, they became a rump majority.
Through President Obama’s alchemy, these temporarily enlarged congressional numbers were supposed to be transformed into a permanent realignment. It hasn’t worked out, obviously.
In the last 20 months, Democrats have had the power to do almost everything they want, except command the allegiance of the public. That has made them and their allies feel embattled, isolated and perpetually aggrieved. They act like a forlorn minority at the same time they control every lever of elective power in Washington.
The ultimate source of the Democrats’ discontent is quite simple: They’ve lost independents. In 1994, in taking Congress, Republicans won independents by 14 percentage points. In 2006, in taking it back, Democrats won independents by 18 points. In the latest Gallup survey, Republicans lead among independents by 11 points. …
The pollster.com average of Obama’s approval rating among independents is a dismal 37.9 percent. This meltdown should have launched a thousand agonized liberal op-eds, conferences and strategy papers on how to win back the center. If, that is, liberalism had any realistic sense of its limits.
In the midst of a catastrophic loss of the middle, Obama’s supporters exhort him to get more angry, insistent and ambitiously liberal. Having already pushed for a bridge too far, they want to go farther still. When they can’t, they conclude it’s a damning indictment of Obama’s failure of nerve and the nation’s ungovernablility.
There’s little acknowledgment that the country is in a different place than they are. To the extent there is, so much worse for the country, which is condemned for its backwardness and intolerance. The majority is not just wrong on immigration enforcement and the Ground Zero mosque, it’s contemptible. Who knew that the American public would get accused of bigotry more often after electing an African-American president than before?
As former Bush speechwriter Peter Wehner writes, liberals “are expressing deepening alienation from our nation and turning on the American people with a vengeance.” They thought they had a mandate from heaven in 2008 and can’t bear the thought that they deluded themselves. They’ve gone from triumphalism to a petulant and uncomprehending tantrum in less than two years. The rump majority looks more exhausted by the day.
[I]ndependent voters… in 2008 voted like Democrats and in 2010 voted like Republicans.
Is it a backlash? It seems cooler than that, a considered and considerable rejection that appears to be signaling a conservative resurgence based on issues and policies, most obviously opposition to increased government spending, fear of higher taxes, and rejection of the idea that expansion of government can or will solve our economic challenges.
The Financial Times looks at the Obama Presidency and concludes: There will probably be no health care bill. Obama has nothing to talk about in the State of the Union speech he recently postponed. This will not be a transformational presidency, and the White House needs to change direction and heads need to roll, or he’ll be in worse trouble next month.
Martha Coakley losing in Massachusetts Senate race. Democrats blame George W. Bush.
Aurochs images from Chauvet cave.
Italians scientists propose breeding living cattle backwards to a genetic match with the extinct aurochs. Heck cattle descended from Herman Goering’s similar program are available, but they are intending to use Highland cattle and the Italian Maremma.
Frank Fleming, at PJM, reveals more Game Changing moments from 2008:
Barack Obamaâ€™s rumored drug use was a lot more recent than most people think, but he vowed to never do it again after he woke up one morning with Joe Biden as a running mate.