The tragedy is not just that Obama has been a bad president; it’s that Romney would have been a good one

As I write, the counting is still not complete in the American presidential elections. Under the (to an outsider) bizarre American electoral college system, the result is now a landslide, despite the fact that each candidate has an almost identical number of votes, both having gained around 49%. The graceful concession speech has been delivered, and Obama has been re-elected. I couldn’t face watching his victory speech, so I have turned off the box; now, I sit here, grimly tapping away.

I cannot help regarding this result as a tragedy, for America and for the world. Firstly, because Obama has been a dreadful president; second, because I get the strong impression that Romney would have been a good one, despite the fact that, though his campaign had a late surge, it didn’t quite have the cutting edge it should have had. But a good campaign doesn’t necessarily produce a successful presidency, as Obama’s first four years have amply demonstrated. Obama was the better campaigner, this time too, it seems: he had a better “ground game”, the pundits seem to think, and he spent hundreds of millions on negative advertising which in key industrial states like Ohio blackened Romney’s character as a ruthless and uncaring capitalist who cared nothing for the working class, and who had, for instance, opposed state support for a managed bankruptcy of the automobile industry which would have had the same effect as what actually happened: in fact Romney called for just such a state-supported bail-out: the Obama campaign simply lied, over this and much else.

The other reason Romney lost was that he took the stragic decision, in order to mount a positive and optimistic campaign, not to make the Benghazigate cover-up an election issue; and that Obama’s steadfast refusal to respond to the growing evidence of this mounting scandal was supported by the equally scandalous failure of most of the American media to report it.

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But not everyone failed to report it: enough was in the public domain for Romney, if he had kept his nerve, to have mounted an indictment powerful enough to make Obama unelectable, as unelectable as Nixon would have been if the Watergate cover-up had emerged in time (in other words actually during his re-election campaign rather than some time later). The Fox News correspondent, Catherine Herridge, brilliantly reported the whole affair: but since Fox News was clearly on Romney’s side, its reporting was largely ignored. But Reuters, CNN, CBS and others nevertheless retailed most of it: the facts were out if you knew where to look.

The general lines of the scandal are clear enough. Firstly, there was the fact that intelligence immediately indicated that the US consulate in Benghazi was destroyed in a planned terrorist attack, not as the result of a “spontaneous” protest triggered by a YouTube video. This, however, is what the Obama administration, including President Obama, repeated obsessively for weeks, knowing it to be untrue.

The greatest scandal, however, is that the murdered American ambassador Stevens, who had repeatedly asked for more security — a request which was repeatedly refused because it was “unnecessary” (after all, hadn’t the President killed Osama bin Laden with his own bare hands, thus defeating al-Qaeda and all other terrorism?) — had made it quite clear that terrorism was still a major threat in Libya, however politically inconvenient this might be, and that he was himself in danger. Knowing this, the administration did nothing to protect him.

Catherine Herridge established this beyond any doubt, in what will become recognised, in the history of this affair, as her famous “smoking gun” revelation, which established the State department’s (and therefore Obama’s) involvement in the scandal and in its cover-up beyond any doubt.

Here it is (October 31), as it was revealed on Fox News:

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Disturbing new information about Benghazi and the Obama administration. Fox News obtained a classified cable sent in August from the US mission in Benghazi to the State Department in Washington. The cable, coming just weeks before the attack, warned the Benghazi consulate could not sustain a coordinated attack.

But that is not all that was in that cable. Fox News chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge, who has read that cable, is here with the latest — Catherine.

CATHERINE HERRIDGE, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the status of the cable is that I really believe, having read it, that it is the smoking gun warning here. You’ve got this emergency meeting in Benghazi less than a month before the attack. At that briefing, the people are told that there are 10 — 10 — Islamist militias and al-Qaeda groups in Benghazi.

The consulate cannot sustain a coordinated attack and that they need extra help. And this information goes directly to the office of the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. So again, you’re got the culpability of the State Department. This is a very specific warning that they are in trouble, they need help and they see an attack on the horizon.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, what’s the date on this cable?

HERRIDGE: It’s the 16th of August.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any response or any indication that there’s been any direct response to that cable between the 16th of August and the 11th of September?

HERRIDGE: I don’t know what the classified traffic was between the 16th and the 11th, but I asked the State Department today specifically, given the warnings and how detailed they were and the intelligence that al-Qaeda and these militias were operating in Benghazi, was any extra security considered or put in place in light of the 9/11 anniversary? You’re three weeks out. I think that’s the critical question.

And the State Department said to me today they wouldn’t comment because it’s classified. And they are also waiting for the outcome of this investigation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Who was the signatory to the cable?

HERRIDGE: Ambassador Stevens.

VAN SUSTEREN: And you say that it was — it went to the office of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Was there any indication that it actually went to her? ….

HERRIDGE: The copy to her, and then it routes out, in this case, probably, typically to diplomatic security, their Near East Asia desk and others. But it is specifically addressed to her office.

VAN SUSTEREN: How did you get to see it?

HERRIDGE: It came to me through confidential sources… the warning that came from Benghazi was very specific. It said, We cannot withstand an attack. The militias are everywhere. Al-Qaeda is here. This was known to the US intelligence community, as well, and that they really could not see a situation where the security was going to turn around. They said it was trending negatively.

This comes three weeks, three-and-a-half weeks before the attack. I can’t think of anything that would be more specific than if these groups had emailed the State Department and said, Here’s the time, here’s the place and here’s the method of the attack, because the cable names the two groups, al-Qaeda and Ansar al Sharia, that we believe were responsible for this assault.

Knowing all this, Governor Romney made the decision not to mount an indictment of the President as part of his campaign. That may arguably have been wise, in view of the way the media would have gone for him in defence of the President. It might have been risky. On the other hand, what he did wasn’t successful either.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and no doubt there will be many now to say the same thing; personally, I had hoped all along that Romney himself would accuse the Obama administration of the scandalous cover-up and the equally scandalous refusal to provide Ambassador Stevens with more security, scandals which with congressional attention already on them will now begin to unravel too late, and which will, I suspect, come more and more to dominate Obama’s second term. We shall see what we shall see.

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