– State Department email obtained by FOX News showing that within two hours of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya hundreds of Obama administration officials had been alerted to the potential role of al Qaeda-affiliate Ansar al-Sharia.
If Barack Obama fails in his bid for a second term as president, historians and political analysts will spend years trying to answer why and how he and his administration so badly mishandled the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
The question will linger for many years: Since it was clear that he and his team knew that Islamist militants were to blame, why did the president move off of his initial response and try to minimize the role of al Qaeda?
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney felt the need to stay statesmanlike and focus on his own credentials as commander-in-chief more than prosecuting Obama’s ongoing struggle in their final debate. But as the clock ticks toward Election Day, the debacle in Benghazi and the botched public response to it have proven to be one of the embattled incumbent’s greatest liabilities anyway.
A president who had hoped to make foreign policy a central point in his re-election case instead is confronted with a stream of evidence that the raid might have been foiled with adequate security and that the story Obama and his team told the public about the attack being a spontaneous event was at odds with lots of evidence to the contrary.
State Department emails obtained by FOX News colleague Chad Pergram show that even as the fighting continued between Islamist militants and the tiny, doomed garrison at the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, high-ranking officials had reason to believe an al Qaeda was involved.
This comes on the heels of the revelation that top officials, and perhaps even the president himself, were able to watch the hours-long battle in real time as U.S. drone aircraft circled the besieged compound filming the slow-motion massacre.
The president knew, or ought to have known, about the involvement of al Qaeda and may have seen the attack unfold. In speeches the next day, he certainly suggested that he understood what had happened, referencing acts of terror in his Rose Garden remarks and then more explicitly calling the raid “terror” in a campaign speech in Las Vegas that night.
But then the administration and the president wheeled around and began focusing more on a YouTube video that was deemed offensive by Muslims. Rather than staying on his language about defiance in the face of terror and promising retribution, Team Obama backpedaled for two weeks, abandoning the president’s first posture.
That was a grave error.