Obama and the Fourth Estate
This column by ACRU Senior Legal Analyst Jan LaRue was published November 18, 2012 on Townhall.com.
Where is Wilford Brimley when America needs him? The national security failure exposed by the Benghazi bungle has all of the intrigue and more of the movie, Absence of Malice, starring Paul Newman and Sally Field.
Brimley steals the closing scene as the righteously riled deputy attorney general come to clean house in the aftermath of unbridled political ambition, corruption, cover-up, and press malpractice, resulting in the libelous ruin of an innocent man and the death of his vulnerable best friend who tried to save him.
Brimley’s character sternly advises the assembled and anxious scoundrels:
“We’ll go downstairs and talk in front of the grand jury. Now we’ll talk all day if you want to. But come sundown, there’s gonna be two things true that ain’t true now. One is that the U.S Department of Justice is going to know what in the good Christ … is going on around here. And the other’s, I’m gonna have somebody’s a** in my briefcase.”
Let’s hope that Brimley’s real life counterpart is on the way. Military, Intelligence, FBI, DOJ, anyone?
What we have is a cast of hundreds, including hamstrung, handwringing politicians telling us ad nauseum that there are questions that need answering and a White House press corps that doesn’t know the questions.
After eight months, the White House announced that President Obama would hold a press conference on Nov. 14. You would think that the so-called crème de la crème reporters would be prepared with relevant, clear and concise questions.
Besides Benghazi, there are the rockets’ red glare between Hamas and Israel, the CIA scandal, debt crisis, budget battle, taxes, unemployment, military readiness, and declining stock market for starters.
Instead of answers, we were left mulling the sorry state of the “Fourth Estate” as the petulant, evasive and defensive Obama played the room.
The following question to Obama by Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry has been hyped as the “tough” question. It wins my “Rambling to Relevance” award:
“Q: I want to take Chuck’s lead and just ask a very small follow-up, which is whether you feel you have a mandate, not just on taxes, but on a range of issues, because of your decisive victory. But I want to stay on Benghazi, based on what John (sp) asked, because you said, if they want to come after me, come after me. I wanted to ask about the families of these four Americans who were killed. Sean Smith’s father, Ray, said he believes his son basically called 911 for help, and they didn’t get it. And I know you’ve said you grieve for these four Americans, that it’s being investigated. But the families have been waiting for more than two months.
So I would like to — for you to address the families, if you can: On 9/11, as commander in chief, did you issue any orders to try to protect their lives?”
The last 17 words are the only relevant ones out of 155. What was the point of limiting the question to the families of the 9/11 victims and referring to Obama’s “mandate” and “decisive victory”? Henry opened the door for the opaque President to add another layer of fog to the elusive ongoing investigation:
“Ed, I’ll address the families not through the press. I’ll address the families directly, as I already have. And we will provide all the information that is available about what happened on that day. That’s what the investigation is for.
But as I’ve said repeatedly, if people don’t think that we did everything we can to make sure that we saved the lives of folks who I sent there and who were carrying out missions on behalf of the United States, then you don’t know how our Defense Department thinks or our State Department thinks or our CIA thinks. Their number-one priority is obviously to protect American lives. That’s what our job is. Now —
Ed, I will put forward every bit of information that we have. I can tell you that immediately upon finding out that our folks were in danger, that my orders to my national security team were do whatever we need to do to make sure they’re safe. And that’s the same order that I would give any time that I see Americans are in danger, whether they’re civilian or military, because that’s our number-one priority.”
If Henry had cut to the chase, he could have added follow up questions not dependent on a completed “investigation”:
- What precisely was your order?
- To whom was it given?
- Since it wasn’t obeyed, why hasn’t anybody been fired?
- Can we have a copy of the order?
The winner of the “Potential Investigation and Judgment of Elusive Eloquence” award is Chuck Todd of NBC News, who asked:
“Are you withholding judgment on whether you should have known sooner that there was a potential — that there was an investigation into whether your CIA director — potentially there was a national security breach with your CIA director? Do you believe you should have known sooner, or are you withholding judgment until the investigation is complete on that front?”
The “I’ve Fallen for You and I Can’t Get Up” award goes to Christi Parsons of the Tribune Company who began her giggle session by congratulating Obama, who acknowledged that they “go back a ways” to his days in the state senate. She’s never seen him lose, except when she “wasn’t looking that one time.”
I wish I hadn’t been looking that one time.
The “Who Gives a Flying Fig” award goes to Mark Landler of The New York Times for pandering climate change claptrap while the nation is falling apart and the Middle East is blowing up.
The “Helping You Blame Bush” award goes to Jessica Yellin of CNN for linking a continuation of the “Bush tax cuts” to the “fiscal cliff.”
Edmund Burke, a British politician, is quoted in Thomas Carlyle’s book, On Heroes, Hero Worship, and the Heroic in History, referring to the three Estates in Parliament. But of the press, Burke supposedly said, “Yonder sits the Fourth Estate, and they are more important than them all.”
I think he’d pick Wilford Brimley.