Our take: Recently, there has been discussion about the way the White House reacted to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in Benghazi — including in the presidential debate last night. Some of these commentaries add little substance to the discussion. However, in his column for the New York Times, Ross Douthat moves beyond trite comments and adds some real rigor to the Libya discussion.
Twenty-four hours after the American compound in Benghazi was attacked and our ambassador murdered, the tragedy seemed more likely to help President Obama’s re-election campaign than to damage it.
The White House already enjoyed more public credibility on foreign policy than on almost any other issue. When Mitt Romney reacted to the attack with a partisan broadside, portraying a news release sent out by the Cairo embassy before any violence began as a White House apology to the attackers, the president’s path forward seemed clear. He would be disciplined and careful, show anger and steel but also coolness under pressure, and let the rally-round-the-flag effect do its natural work.
What happened instead was very strange. Having first repudiated the embassy’s apology to Muslims offended by a movie impugning their prophet, the Obama administration decided to embrace that apology’s premise, and insist that the movie was the crucial ingredient in the Sept. 11 anniversary violence.
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