It was 2:27 p.m. on March 30, 1981, and the Soviet Union was poised to invade Poland to suppress a labor uprising.
Reagan merely turned toward the press line and waved.
Fantastic lunchtime read. History of the days after Reagan was shot and how 41’s temperament served the nation well. http://t.co/EO0Guxyz0n
— Dana Perino (@DanaPerino) May 18, 2015
Next to Donaldson, a 25-year-old man in a trench coat flexed his knees and raised his hands in a marksman’s stance. With a revolver he had purchased at a Dallas pawnshop, John W. Hinckley Jr. fired six shots.
It was the 70th day of the Reagan presidency.
Accounts of the afternoon tend to be dominated by the sensational storyline of Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s declaration that “I’m in control here.” But Vice President George H.W. Bush’s pitch-perfect reaction to the crisis lies largely unexplored in the shadow of history. He had only recently been Reagan’s energetic opponent, a fact that was fresh in the memories of Reagan loyalists. The steady hand he showed after the assassination attempt would linger in the minds of his admirers as one of the defining moments of his public career.
Now 90, Bush consented to an email interview for this story. His comments, along with hours of tapes from inside the White House Situation Room, never seen photographs taken aboard Air Force Two and interviews with participants in the crisis shed new light on the day Reagan became the fifth sitting president to be shot and the only one who lived.
Read the rest of this entry »
Osama’s body was chopped up and dropped from a helicopter? That’s odd. I saw video of his burial at sea
Michael Morell writes: As a career intelligence officer, I learned that there are few things in life of which you can be absolutely certain. But I am positive that a lengthy new article by journalist Seymour Hersh, which is getting widespread attention with a whole new tale about how Osama bin Laden was brought to justice, is wrong in almost every significant respect.
I can be certain because I was deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency when senior officials from our Counterterrorism Center first brought to CIA Director Leon Panetta and me the news that they had trailed an individual whom they believed was a bin Laden courier to a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. And I was there for every meeting that followed as we worked through the evidence that led our analysts to conclude that the most-wanted man in the world was hiding at the compound.
[Order Michael Morell’s book “The Great War of Our Time: The CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism–From al Qa’ida to ISIS” from Amazon.com]
So I had good reason to know that Mr. Hersh’s 10,000-word story in the London Review of Books was filled with falsehoods. But here’s something I got wrong: I was certain that Mr. Hersh’s allegations would be quickly dismissed. After all, there was a public record about the raid in statements by the White House, Pentagon and CIA, and in books by former officials such as Mr. Panetta, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others. Then there were the media appearances by the Navy SEAL who says he personally shot bin Laden. It should have been clear that either Mr. Hersh’s version of the truth was bogus or that we all had participated in one of the most successful and complex conspiracies in modern history.
Despite the many and obvious holes in Mr. Hersh’s story, his allegations gained some traction. A number of respected news organizations ranging from the New York Times to NBC News picked up slivers of information in Mr. Hersh’s account and essentially said, “Yeah, we heard something like that too.” Almost all of these accounts were attributed to anonymous former officials—many of whom admitted having at best secondhand information. Incredibly, these “I know a guy, who knows a guy who swears that . . .” accounts were given credence over on-the-record statements made in the past four years by people who were in the room—or on the scene.
Mr. Hersh has appeared in the media in recent days saying that when I and others asserted that his report was wrong, we were offering “non-denial denials” because our objections lacked specificity. All right, let me specifically address his major allegations.
• Mr. Hersh says the White House lied when it asserted that the bin Laden raid was, as he puts it, an “all-American affair and that senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services agency (ISI) were not told in advance.” The truth is that the decision not to tell the Pakistanis was made early in the discussions of our options. We would have liked to have made the raid a joint operation with the Pakistanis—what better way to strengthen the bilateral relationship?—but we simply couldn’t trust that someone in the Pakistani system would not tip off bin Laden. I was present during all of these discussions when it was resolved that we wouldn’t inform Pakistan until after the fact. Read the rest of this entry »
…It’s Not Because of Her E-mails
Aaron Blake reports: Hillary Clinton’s image is worse than at any point since 2008. That’s the big takeaway from a new CNN/Opinion Research poll released late Monday. And it’s true; 44 percent now have an unfavorable opinion of her — the highest that has been since June 2008, shortly after Clinton conceded the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama.
The new poll also has the distinction of having come just as Clinton’s use of a private e-mail account during her time as secretary of state is at issue. Ipso facto, her e-mail controversy is the cause of her flagging numbers, right?
While these two events are temporally aligned, there is little reason to believe the e-mails have really moved numbers that much. Not only is the change from CNN’s polling not statistically significant from two polls last year, it’s also part of a long-term trend. Clinton’s numbers have been declining for some time, and the shift in the latest poll is very much in line with what we would expect.
Here’s how the steady progression looks:
The second number that people focused on in the new poll is the “honest and trustworthy” number. While 56 percent of people described Clinton thusly one year ago, it’s down to 50 percent today. Read the rest of this entry »
— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) February 17, 2015
Republican senators on Friday put pressure on President Obama to confirm his whereabouts during the night of the Benghazi attack, after an ex-White House spokesman revived the debate by telling Fox News he was not in the Situation Room.
The detail about the president’s location the night of the attack is just one of many revelations that have, in a matter of days, kicked up the controversy to a level not seen since last year. After new emails were released raising questions about the White House response to the attack, a key panel on Friday subpoenaed Secretary of State John Kerry and House Speaker John Boehner announced a special investigative committee.
On Friday afternoon, three GOP senators wrote a letter to Obama asking about his whereabouts and spokesman Tommy Vietor’s comments to Fox News.
“Last night, the former Communications Director for the National Security Council, Tommy Vietor, stated that on the afternoon and night of September 11, 2012 — while the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya was under attack — that you never visited the White House Situation Room to monitor events,” they wrote.
Claiming that Americans still do not have an “accounting of your activities during the attack,” the senators asked him to confirm Vietor’s account. The letter was signed by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.
In the earlier interview with Fox News, Vietor said he was in the Situation Room during the Benghazi attack — where four Americans including the U.S. ambassador died — but Obama was not.
He said Obama was in the White House.
“It is well known that when the attack was first briefed to him it was in the Oval Office and he was updated constantly,” Vietor said Thursday, adding he did not know where the president was at all points in the night because he does not have a “tracking device on him.” He said Obama does not have to be in the Situation Room to monitor an ongoing situation. Read the rest of this entry »
Former NSC Spokesman Tommy Vietor
On Wednesday, at least three State Department employees will testify before the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee on Benghazi. They are expected to say that yes, there was a stand-down order during the battle. They may also testify that the State Department itself has tried to bully them into silence. What else they may say is not yet known.
As the Benghazi story has unfolded, many mysteries have persisted. Why wasn’t the Benghazi mission’s security enhanced? Where was President Obama? What role, if any, did Obama campaign officials play in crafting the government’s communications after the attack? Perhaps Wednesday’s witnesses can help shed some light on them.
1. Who gave the stand-down order, and why? Fox and CBS have both reported that there was a stand-down order issued during the battle in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. Four Americans died, while as many as 30 survived. Assistance could have come in from U.S. bases in Italy or possibly from bases in the Middle East. There was a drone, unarmed, overhead, and there have been reports that an AC-130 gunship was also overhead at some point during the prolonged battle. The question is not, now, whether there was a stand-down order issued. Fox and CBS have independently reported that there was. The question is, how far up in the U.S. chain of command was that decision made, and why was it made? Additionally, how did U.S. forces react to that order? Was anyone relieved of command for considering or attempting to disobey that order, as has been rumored for months?
2. Where was President Obama and what was he doing? As commander-in-chief, the president is ultimately responsible for any U.S. response to attacks on our missions and personnel overseas. According to official schedules and White House answers after the fact, President Obama held a regularly scheduled meeting at 5 pm Washington time with his then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, around the time that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi began. No photos from that meeting have been released. The American people have been told very little about the president’s activities that night. He held the meeting, the attack began and would unfold for several hours, and the president reportedly went to bed that night in the White House. By the time he went to bed, news had already broken that U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens was missing. Obama went to bed not knowing his ambassador’s fate, and reportedly learned the next morning that Stevens had been killed. No photos of the president being present or in command during the attack have ever been released by the White House. This in itself is strange behavior from a White House that even released a photo of the president, by himself, holding a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston bombing. In February, Panetta testifiedthat he had no communication with Obama after their September 11 meeting, and in fact had no communication with anyone at the White House at all during the attack, raising the question of whether anyone was in the White House Situation Room monitoring the attack. It’s implausible that the secretary of Defense and president of the United States would not communicate at all during an attack on a U.S. facility overseas, but that is Panetta’s testimony. That mystery deepens when we consider then Secretary of State Clinton’s actions during the attack.
3. Where was Secretary of State Clinton and what was she doing? How much did Clinton know about the security situation in Benghazi before the attack? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s whereabouts and activities during the attack in Benghazi are similarly mysterious. Clinton’s State Department repeatedly rejected requests for enhancing security at Benghazi, even as Ansar al-Sharia’s power in the area grew over the summer of 2012. Why did State not beef up the Benghazi mission’s security? The Benghazi attack was focused on the U.S. consulate, which belongs to the U.S. State Department. Why Stevens was in Benghazi that night, and what the consulate may have been used for, remains unknown. One of the Wednesday whistleblowers, veteran counterterrorism officer Mark I. Thompson, is expected to testifythat Secretary of State Clinton sought to cut the State Department’s counterterrorism bureau out of the chain of reporting and decision-making during the attack. Thompson also claims that the State Department suppressed his account after the attack. Another unnamed State official corroborates Thompson’s account. But Daniel Benjamin, head of the counterterrorism unit at the time, says Clinton never tried to cut his group out during the attack. All of this brings to mind the question, exactly what was Clinton’s role on the night of the attack? Secretary of Defense Panetta testified that he and Clinton never communicated during the attack. All three of the nation’s top national security and diplomatic officials — President Obama, Defense Secretary Panetta and Secretary of State Clinton — were in Washington that night. Panetta and Clinton were evidently engaged in responding to the attack, independently. Yet according to Panetta, they never talked to each other during the attack. Why would they not communicate during an ongoing attack on a U.S. facility overseas, if indeed they did not? Both Defense and State would surely be involved in any effective response to an attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission overseas.
4. Who changed the talking points, and who made the decision to blame a movie? Stephen Hayes reported last week that the CIA’s original talking points drafted after the attack made several references to al Qaeda and to the true nature and origins of the attack. State Department whistleblower Thomas Hicks was the mission deputy in Libya. Hicks says that the administration knew that Benghazi was a terrorist attack “from the get-go.” The CIA’s original talking points never mentioned a movie or a protest at all. But beginning on September 12, through Clinton’s speech before the coffins of the slain, through U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice’s infamous five-shot on Sunday talk shows on September 16, 2012, the administration said that the attack grew from a spontaneous protest of a movie. During her talk show appearances, Rice claimed that the attack was not premeditated and that it happened due to a spontaneous protest of a barely seen “hateful” movie that had been posted on YouTube months before the attack. Why did Rice mischaracterize the attack? Was she aware of the original talking points, and how they had been altered? Were Rice or Clinton the senior officials on whose behalf State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland had the talking points scrubbed of references to al Qaeda and terrorism? Why was Rice the face of the Obama administration that day, when she was the US ambassador to the UN, not Libya? Why did the president and other senior officials continue to mischaracterize the attack until the president’s address before the United Nations on September 26? During that address, President Obama said that “The world must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” in reference to the movie and the role that he and Rice and Clinton had insisted it played in Benghazi. By that point it was obvious that the movie had played no role in the attack. It’s now obvious that the CIA and the administration itself were aware, during the attack, that the movie played no role. Who changed those CIA talking points? Who decided to substitute the attack’s actual cause — al Qaeda, in a premeditated attack that we now know included operatives from as far away as Yemen — for a movie? When specifically was President Obama aware that the movie played no role in the attack? What role, if any, did he and Attorney General Eric Holder play in the arrest and incarceration of Nakoula Nakoula, the man behind the film that the Obama administration blamed for the attack? Why did President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton produce a public service announcement that ran in Pakistan, and denounced the movie that they blamed for the attack, when the administration knew from September 11 forward that the movie had played no role?
5. Where are the Benghazi survivors and why have we not heard from them? As many as 30 Americans survived the attack at Benghazi. Some of them have turned up, quietly, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Where are the rest? Why have we not heard anything from them about the attack? Are they being silenced by threats and intimidation from higher up in the government, as several State Department officials claim is happening to them?
via The PJ Tatler
Was Obama in Charge—or Not?
by Gary Schmitt
Much has been made of President Obama’s considerable use of the pronoun “I” on the night he announced to the nation the killing of Osama bin Laden. As Mark Bowden notes in his recently published account of the killing and the decision-making that led up to the operation, The Finish, the president was not shy about putting himself front and center when it came to the decision to proceed with the operation: “I directed Leon Panetta … I was briefed … I met repeatedly with my national security team … I determined … and authorized … Today at my direction.”
While a bit over the top when it comes to the “me” factor, nevertheless, the president is indeed commander in chief and, under the Constitution, with its unitary executive, he is, as the text of that document asserts, the sole holder of “the executive power.” Unlike many of the state constitutions of the time, the national executive authority was not divided among various state office holders nor as under the Articles of Confederation—the country’s first federal constitution—was it in the hands of the national assembly. So, whether critics of the president liked his rhetoric or not, whether they felt it was unseemly or not, it wasn’t out of bounds from a constitutional perspective.