The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Wednesday, Oct. 7, 3:46 p.m.

Handling of Benghazi crisis poor by president, media

The debates are over, the election is closing in and President Obama and Governor Romney are vociferously using the last few days to inundate the American people with messages about why they are best qualified to be president. But there’s one subject that’s conspicuously absent from the realm of debate: the deadly attacks on the consulate in Benghazi.

For two weeks, Obama and his administration officials went through a bumbling dance of poorly choreographed conflicting statements, tentatively unsure whether to allocate blame to an amateur YouTube video or to a coordinated terrorist attack.

But the administration’s inability to voice a consistent answer that matches the facts isn’t the only outrage. As time passes, the chaos surrounding the attacks has only grown. Apparently, the Obama administration knew 2 hours after the attack that al-Qaida was involved. Three times, the two Navy SEALS killed in the attack requested backup and three times were told to stand down by the CIA. Drones may have been in position to help, and Obama may have been watching the events unfold via satellite feed.

But as each day unearths more questions, they are met only with silence and postulating. Obama has so far blamed a “lack of real-time information” from the intelligence community for his administration’s chaotic response.

But is it really plausible that, on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, no one in the Obama administration was aware of what was going on in the Middle East? If this is indeed the truth, it implies a disturbing lack of coordination within the administration a lá Jimmy Carter’s disastrous handling of the Iranian Hostage Crisis.

The only other explanation is blatant dishonesty — the administration, desperate to hold onto the presidency as the election draws closer, is boldly lying to the American people.

Certainly, the president has responded to the death of four American citizens with callousness. The day after the attack, when the administration was supposedly still in the dark about the events surrounding the attack, Obama flew off to a campaign event in Las Vegas.

Is that really the action of a president concerned about the people he represents? No. And neither are the vague responses to media questions about the handling of the attacks, nor are the accusations that Republicans seeking to find out the truth are using the deaths for political reasons. Their snide chants of “No one died when Clinton lied,” regarding Bush’s response to the 9/11 attacks, are conveniently forgotten.

Either way, the president should be ashamed of himself. He’s allowed politics and the election cycle to take precedence over a deadly attack on American soil.

But as appalling as the president’s behavior has been, the media’s is almost worse. As far as most of the mainstream media are concerned, the Benghazi debacle is nonexistent.

Between NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN websites, only one story about Libya appears. So far, a local NBC affiliate, 9 News, is the only one to question Obama about the denied requests for help in Libya.

This pathetic response comes from the same media who wear their ‘watchdog’ role as a badge of honor. Some watchdog they make. Yes, the election is important — as are the storm fronts threatening the East Coast. But four people died in Benghazi, and the American people have yet to be given a definitive answer as to why.

While it may not be politically expedient for Obama to answer questions right now, the point of the campaign he’s attempting to win is for the American people to decide who is best qualified to lead the nation, especially in times of crisis. And right now, President Obama has an opportunity — one that’s more potent than any speech he could give on the campaign trail. It would be nice if he and the media would rise to the occasion.