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Skipping more than half of his security briefings and leading from behind

by George Landrith

On the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, two American embassies (or consulates) were attacked and breached – one in Libya and one in Egypt. Four American diplomats were assassinated by these coordinated attacks. We now know that security was almost non-existent in Libya and that at least some of the locally hired security detail actually helped the attackers locate and target our diplomats. And clearly the security at our Embassy in Cairo was insufficient as a mob breached the embassy’s walls and stormed the embassy, removing, destroying and burning the American flag and replacing it with al Qaeda’s flag and putting the Americans in the embassy at risk. And just today, in Yemen, hundreds of “protestors” stormed the American embassy chanting “death to America” and tore down the flag, burned it, and put American diplomats at risk. The extremists are now emboldened.

Why was this the case? Why didn’t the Obama administration think about the risk leading up to an anniversary like 9/11? Particularly in places were terrorists and radical Islamists have recently and violently risen to power? And why did the attackers feel so bold and confident?

These breakdowns in security are the result of many failures. But the failure starts at the top. While Obama likes to brag that he is an experienced and steady hand at foreign policy, he now eclipses Jimmy Carter as the most failed foreign policy president of the past 100 years.

From day one, Obama has projected weakness. And while the Navy Seals did successfully bring Osama bin Laden to justice on Obama’s watch, Obama actually delayed the decision and only relented when certain advisors backed him into a corner. To be perfectly blunt, even Jimmy Carter would have ordered the mission. Carter ordered the U.S. military to rescue 52 hostages being held in Iran which would have required US forces to invade Iran and storm the building where the hostages were being held and then carry them all to safety without the captors killing any of the hostages. That would have been no small feat. If Obama had refused to allow the Navy Seals to bring bin Laden to justice, the public would have learned of his refusal to act and it would have been politically devastating and deadly. So Obama had to support the Seal’s mission.

Four facts prove that Obama always understood the bin Laden mission was primarily a political boon and he did his utmost to take credit for himself and gave shockingly scant credit to others. First, he spent an inordinate amount of  time placing himself in the middle of the operation using “I” and “me” in his speech in an astonishing number of times when he announced that bin Laden was dead. Second, he ran a TV ad claiming that only he was brave enough to approve the mission, explicitly arguing that Romney would have lacked the courage to approve the mission – an ad that even liberal Arianna Huffington called, “Despicable.” Third, Obama went to Afghanistan on the one year anniversary of the bin Laden mission and woke the troops in the middle of the night so that they could attend a speech that he would give in time to be broadcast live in the United States during prime time in which he again “spiked the football” and took unseemly credit for the work and bravery of others. And fourth, Obama revealingly said “I said that I’d go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him, and I did.” But he didn’t. A team of Navy Seals did. But the narcissist in chief sees himself at the center of the entire mission and seems puzzled why so many Americans are offended by his weird need to place himself at the center of everything.

An entire book could be written on Obama’s projection of weakness and its costs to American security and safety. But I will limit myself to eight points of projected weakness.

• Obama began his presidency with what sounded like an apology tour in which he leveled criticisms at America and its role in the world while he traveled abroad. While many liberal “fact-checkers” balk at the idea that Obama apologized for America while speaking abroad, they base their claim on the fact that he never uttered the word “apology.” This analysis is shallow and quite frankly dishonest. It is revealing that the European press called Obama’s speech an apology. The Telegraph, a leading British newspaper wrote: “President Barack Obama has offered an apology for the Bush era, declaring that America had “shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive” towards its allies…. His speech in Strasbourg went further than any United States president in history in criticizing his own country’s action while standing on foreign soil.” (emphasis added)  Obama gave similar speeches in Cairo, Turkey, and Trinidad and Tobago, to name only a few. Interestingly, Obama’s critiques of America were designed to set himself up as morally superior, more prescient, and more insightful. Four years of economic and foreign policy failures brings into question the accuracy of his self portrait.

• As the events unfolded in Cairo at the American Embassy, the State Department released a statement online: “The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims….” This was an attempt to appease the growing mob and entirely missed the point. This attack took place on 9/11 and was staged and planned in advance. If it were truly anger about some movie no one is aware of or has seen, it would have began days or weeks ago when it was originally posted online, not on 9/11. Anyone who misses this, needs to put their thinking cap on. This misguided statement remained posted for more than nine hours. Then the State Department doubled down, posting that its earlier condemnation “still stands.” The White House now argues that this response is not at all revealing and does not reflect Administration policy or approach. But it is important to recall that the American Embassy in Cairo is a huge fortress and the most important embassy in the Middle East. It is not a small distant outpost and the White House didn’t distance itself from the statement until Romney correctly criticized it. But the most revealing thing is that Obama seemed more interested in denouncing the Romney campaign’s response to the attacks on our embassies than he was in condemning the assassination of our Ambassador and three other of our diplomats. The Obama campaign immediately denounced Romney, but it was more than 10 hours later before Obama got around to denouncing the attacks or the assassinations.

• The President and his administration are uncomfortable with the phrase “war on terror” and prefer to call it an “ongoing or enduring struggle” or even “man-caused disasters.”Oddly, however, team Obama frequently uses the tortured phrase “War on Women.” And the Obama Administration has steadfastly refused to admit the obvious – that Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s killing spree at Fort Hood that left 13 dead and 29 wounded while he shouted “Allahu Akbar!” was an act of terrorism. Instead, the Obama administration calls it “workplace violence” despite the fact that Hasan had been involved in radical Islam since 2005 and had been e-mailing al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki. Perhaps even more revealing was that Obama wanted to put the terrorist masterminds of 9/11 on trial in federal court in New York City. He inexplicably found the idea of military tribunals for war criminals entirely offensive. Only overwhelming political considerations forced him to back down.

• The President has skipped more than 57% of his daily national security briefings while in office. And his attendance was somewhat better the first two years of his presidency than it has been the last two. He can’t seem to clear time from his golfing, fundraising, and campaigning schedule to attend his daily national security briefings. Thus, we shouldn’t be shocked that Obama has also not found time to meet with his own jobs council since January 2012. It seems he likes the title of President, just not the work of being president. During the week leading up to these new September 11th attacks on our embassies, Obama attended only one national security briefing. On September 11, the same day as the embassy attacks, Obama couldn’t find time for his national security briefing, but did find time to do multiple radio interviews – one with a DJ known as “the Pimp with a Limp” – and discuss Hip Hop music and the NFL Dolphins and Buccaneers. On September 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th, Obama was too busy to bother with the daily national security briefing. On September 12th, Obama made a public statement about the attacks and assassinations, again skipped his security briefing and got on a plane to travel to a Nevada fundraiser and political event.

• The President aided the overthrow of allies who kept the peace with Israel, maintained stability in the region and assisted with intelligence and internal control of extremists like Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile, protestors of the most cruel and oppressive regime in the Middle East in Iran cannot get any support or even lip service. It was entirely predictable that when Egypt’s more moderate leader, Hosni Mubarak, was deposed with Obama’s encouragement and aid that the violent lunatics of the region and the Muslim Brotherhood would take charge. That is exactly what happened. Peace in the Middle East is now less likely. Freedom for Egyptians is now less likely. Israel is at greater risk. America’s interests are at greater risks. The only winners from Obama’s failures are the terrorists.

• Obama displayed stunning weakness when he abruptly canceled plans that had been thought set in stone to build America’s missile defense for the eastern coast of the United States and that would have also protected Europe. Oddly, Obama didn’t even use the cancelation as a bargaining chip. He simply announced the cancelation and moved on to more golf and fundraisers. In the ultimate show of disrespect and poor form, in the middle of the night, he called the leaders of the Czech Republic and Poland (where the defenses and radar would have been built) rousing them from sleep to inform them that we would shortly announce that the missile defense plans had been canceled. This is not the behavior of a foreign policy ace. It is the behavior of a rank amateur.

• The State Department’s own internal investigations have warned numerous times in the past two years that the security at America’s embassies is not sufficient – particularly in war-ravaged nations with little stability. Yet, nothing was done – not even leading up to the anniversary of September 11th. Didn’t every American on September 11th have at least two thoughts — first, thoughts of remembrance and solemnity for the losses of that fateful day, and second, questions about what terrorists might try to do on this important anniversary? But apparently Obama didn’t have these thoughts. He was too busy raising money, campaigning, and talking with the “Pimp with a Limp.”

• Earlier this year, Obama explained to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in what Obama thought was a private conversation that he had a tough election coming up, but after the election, if reelected Obama ominously promised that he would have “more flexibility.” Here are Obama’s actual words: “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved, but it’s important for [incoming Russian President Putin] to give me space. This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.” President Medvedev, who would soon turn the Russian presidency over to Vladimir Putin, responded, ” I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir. And I stand with you.” These ominous words are almost treasonous. Obama was saying he plans to do things that he knows will be wildly unpopular, but if the Russians give him space, he will be able to win reelection without alerting the public to his objectionable and secret plans. And sadly, Obama seems more interested in having the Russian president stand with him, than the American public. Everyone knew what Obama meant. Obama was promising that with his reelection he would be free to unilaterally disarm America and leave us more vulnerable to the violent thugs and crazies of the world.

Obama’s projection of weakness has been consistent and unmistakeable. Perhaps Americans who have become distracted by his flowery rhetoric and glittering generalities forget or overlook these facts or maybe they allowed the facts to become clouded by the incessant clamoring of the Obama-adoring media. But our enemies have not missed the clear and consistent projection of weakness. Our enemies are emboldened. They see opportunity as they did in Egypt, Libya and Yemen this week. We are comparatively weaker. We can thank Obama for this cold, harsh reality. But the most stunning thing is that Obama plans to make us weaker still if given four more years.

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George Landrith is the president of Frontiers of Freedom, a public policy think tank devoted to promoting a strong national defense, free markets, individual liberty, and constitutionally limited government. Mr. Landrith is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where he was Business Editor of the Virginia Journal of Law and Politics. In 1994 and 1996, Mr. Landrith was a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District. You can follow George on Twitter @GLandrith.