In today’s hearing on Benghazi at the Senate Armed Forces Committee, New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte asked about the president’s personal involvement, finding out that the president only had one conversation with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta or General Martin Dempsey on 9/11, the day of the Benghazi attack. In that conversation, according to Panetta, President Obama told them to “do whatever you need to do to be able to protect our people”. The president didn’t, according to Panetta, ask for any specifics on what kind of response was possible. And, as Ayotte found out, the president never called to follow up. “The biggest problem that night… was that nobody knew really what was going on,” Panetta said. Dempsey noted that follow up came from White House staff, “the way it would normally work.”
After a line of questioning about cyber security and some sort of cyber ROTC idea from New York Democrat Kirsten Gillebrand, Lindsey Graham picked up where Ayotte left off, confirming the president only had one conversation with Panetta and Dempsey on 9/11 about the unfolding attack in Benghazi. Further, he found out no defense assets were launched to respond to the attack in real time. Visibly upset, Graham asked Dempsey: “is there a saying in the military, when you go in harm’s way, we’ve got your back? …Don’t you think that saying’s been undermined here?”
Graham question Panetta’s assertion that “the president of the United States was concerned about American lives,” saying he didn’t consider it a “credible statement” if the president never called to ask if the Americans on the ground in Benghazi were being helped or what was happening to them. Nevertheless, Graham trusts the same president and government to judiciously kill American citizens.
Watch the hearing live here.