The Walls Around Benghazi, Starting To Crumble

Every day, new revelations come out about what happened at the American consulate in Benghazi on September 11.  Each revelation makes the incident more troubling and paints the Obama Administration is an increasingly disturbing light.

We now know that, in the months before the September 11 attack, there were multiple warnings and incidents, at the consulate itself and elsewhere in Benghazi, that made it clear that the area was dangerous and that consulate lacked sufficient security.  Why didn’t our government take steps to either significantly beef up security at the compound or remove our Ambassador and the consulate staff from the unsecure area?  Given the turmoil in Libya, protecting the security of Americans serving there should have been a high priority, but it obviously wasn’t.  The failure to act in response to repeated warnings and prior terrorist activity is astonishingly irresponsible.  Why hasn’t anyone in our government been held responsible for the failure to protect our people against a painfully obvious threat?

In addition, the information that has been dribbling out about the incident makes the initial “spontaneous mob” explanation offered by the Obama Administration especially inexplicable.  The people involved in the incident itself — from the State Department people who were following the incident in real time, to the people who received the frantic phone calls and messages from consulate personnel, to the military personnel and intelligence operatives who apparently tried to respond — understood that the incident was a planned and coordinated terrorist attack, not a reaction to a YouTube video about Mohammed.  Indeed, there was no apparent factual basis for believing the attack was an angry response to an obscure video.  So why did the YouTube video ever get blamed for the incident?  Who pushed the YouTube video story, instead of telling us the truth?

Today Kish and I watched Meet the Press, and we shook our heads when the Obama Administration spokesman tried to reassure us that the investigation of the incident is proceeding.  Really?  It’s been two months since four Americans were murdered, apparently needlessly.  Does it really take so long to figure out why warnings weren’t heeded, and who made the decision to ignore them?  And how can it possibly take two months to determine who came up with the phony YouTube video explanation for the carnage?  If our government can’t move more nimbly than this, what does it tell you about the capabilities of our government?

I hate to think that, with the election now only two days away, the Obama Administration is stonewalling and trying to run out the clock on a terrible failure that produced four dead Americans.  However, I’ve heard no other reasonable explanation for the fact that the Administration has not moved aggressively and quickly to figure out what happened, tell the American people the truth, and take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.  Is there another explanation?

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Is Mitt Romney Rising Or Falling In Ohio?

At yesterday’s Ohio State home game a Mitt Romney for President blimp circled Ohio Stadium and its vast tailgating areas and drew lots of comments from people favoring and opposing the Republican candidate.  It’s the first time I’ve seen a presidential campaign blimp at an OSU game.

The blimp is an apt metaphor for the overriding question about Battleground Ohio:  is Mitt Romney rising, or deflating?

As always seems to be the case in this unpredictable swing state, the signs are decidedly mixed.  Romney held a huge rally Friday night north of Cincinnati, attracting thousands of people who patiently stood outside listening to speeches on a cold evening.  On the other hand, the final Columbus Dispatch mail poll of Ohio voters, released just this morning, has President Obama up by two points, 50-48.  However, that lead is well within the poll’s 2.2 % margin of error and represents a huge comeback for Romney since the last Dispatch poll, taken before the debates, in which Romney trailed by nine points.  But, the poll shows that Obama has a huge lead among people who have already voted.  On the other hand, the poll is based upon the statements of those who returned it, who represent only 15% of the ballots that were sent out in the first place.

Get the picture?  It’s whisker-close here in the Buckeye State.

My unscientific sense is that the Hurricane Sandy episode helped President Obama stem the Romney momentum that had built since the first debate.  One hurricane, however, isn’t going to be decisive.  From talking to fans craning their necks at that Romney blimp, I think most people have made up their minds.  There may be undecideds ruminating on how to cast their ballot on Tuesday, but the vast majority of Ohioans are ready to be done with this election.  That means that the outcome will hinge on turnout, and the “ground games” we’ve heard so much about over the past few months.  Not coincidentally, both candidates and their proxies are here today and tomorrow, hoping to whip their supporters into a turnout frenzy.

The forecast for Tuesday, incidentally, is for clear skies and temperatures in the 40s — and no storms to discourage people from going to the polls.

Trying To Play The Spoiler

One compelling measure of how far into the abyss the Cleveland Browns franchise has fallen:  fans were encouraged by last week’s 7-6 win at home over a reeling San Diego Chargers team.  An occasional win on a cold, wet field doesn’t really mean much, of course, unless it leads to something.  When a team is down and out at midseason, it must take small steps.  The first step is to play spoiler, and knock off a team that is fighting to stay on the Road to the Super Bowl.  Another step is to put together back-to-back wins.  Today the Browns try to take both of those steps when they play the Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Stadium.

The Ravens have beaten the Browns like a drum for years.  In fact, the Browns haven’t beaten Baltimore during the entirety of the Obama presidency — and I’m not making a subtle pitch for Mitt Romney in mentioning that embarrassing statistic.  It’s just a sign of how one-sided this series has been.  And, true to form, the Ravens beat the Browns earlier this year, 23-16.

Today the Browns will be looking for a better performance from their offense, which has shown some glimmers of hope.  Although banged up, Trent Richardson ran very hard against San Diego; his 122 yards in miserable conditions were the difference-maker in the Browns win.  Rookie quarterback Brandon Weedon seems to be adjusting to the speed of the NFL game and is improving his decision-making; he’s also shown the big arm that caused the Browns to make him a first-round pick.  Neither Richardson nor Weedon played particularly well against the Ravens in the loss earlier this season, and if the Browns hope to win they simply have to make a difference this time around.

The Browns defense, on the other hand, has played better since getting sliced to ribbons by the Giants a month ago.  With tough starting defensive tackle Phil Taylor returning from injury, the Browns D is as close to healthy as they’ve been all season.  This game will provide a meaningful test of how good the Browns defense is when playing in good conditions against a quality NFL offense.

One final point:  if Pat Shurmur wants to keep his job, he’ll play this game to win.  If that means trying a fake punt, or going for it on 4th and 1 inside the Ravens’ 50-yard-line, now is the time to do it.  This teams needs to develop a winning attitude, and taking a few risks and showing confidence in your offensive line is part of that process.  It’s time for Pat Shurmur to let his inner riverboat gambler shine forth.

Winning, And Saluting Our Soldiers

Yesterday the Ohio State Buckeyes manhandled the Fighting Illini, 52-22, in a game that really wasn’t that close.  Ohio State ran the ball at will, completed long pass plays, and throttled the Illinois offense as they moved to 10-0.

It also was a good example of why attending a game is a different experience than watching it on TV.  Before the game, at halftime, and during all those timeouts when TV viewers are forced to watch commercials about cars and beer, Ohio Stadium was saluting our military.

When timeouts came, recorded greetings from Buckeyes serving abroad were played on the big scoreboard, and students in the ROTC were introduced down on the field.  Before the game military members unfurled a huge flag as The Best Damn Band In The Land played the National Anthem, and then two fighter jets screamed by overhead.  And at halftime, TBDBITL played a series of songs from military movies while the band members marched into patriotic shapes and Old Glory was displayed again, at the center of a star.

TBDBITL is always wonderful, and yesterday’s show and general salute to the members of our military, presented just a few days before Veterans’ Day, was well timed for another reason — at the end of a long and sometimes bitter presidential campaign, it was nice to see something that everyone in attendance, regardless of party affiliation, could cheer wholeheartedly.