With the story of the run-up and aftermath of the Benghazi assault becoming ever more murky and questions continuing to pile up over the Obama administration's handling of those attacks, "Fox News Sunday" offered a study in contrasts between the two parties' approach to the issue.
On the one hand, Sen. Mike Udall (D-Colo.) hedged repeatedly, complained about the issue of being politicized and refused to answer a question on whether the drones flying over Benghazi had been armed.
In contrast, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), known in press circles as the man who toughened up Mitt Romney in debate prep, gave a good showing of precisely why Romney was relieved to only be debating the president instead of Portman himself. Addressing Udall personally, Portman launched into an urgent litany of reasons why the administration's story desperately required clarification, and not for political reasons at all.
Specifically, Portman took aim at the administration over recent revelations that the White House might have known about the danger to American assets in Benghazi, and might have decided -- in spite of that -- not to send reinforcements or protect those assets any further. He combined this with previous revelations suggesting that the administration had ignored requests for more security in the run-up to Benghazi to paint a brutal picture of incompetence on the part of the executive branch.
"There was a shocking breakdown operationally not having the security there in the first place. And not to respond to these guys and their pleas for help for seven hours during a firefight, it’s unbelievable," Portman said. "And, now we’re hearing that the president of the United States, based on his own words, issued a directive immediately after he found out about the firefight saying he wanted to be sure the people on the ground were safe and they were getting what they needed. It didn’t happen. This means that either the president’s order was not followed. Which would be a breakdown in terms of the White House procedure or it means the order wasn’t issued. We need to find out about this. It’s not about politics."
Portman later observed, increduously, "This makes no sense."
Coming from the generally mild-mannered Portman, this emphatic demand for information must have sounded more than a little chilling to supporters of the administration. And certainly, Portman had his reasons for incredulity and urgency. As Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post asks:
Meanwhile, the father of slain SEAL Tyrone Woods is furious with the administration, demanding to know why his son wasn’t saved when “apparently even the State Department had a live stream and was aware of their calls for help. My son wasn’t even there. He was at a safe house about a mile away. He got the distress call; he heard them crying for help; that’s why he and Glen risked their lives to go that extra mile just to take care of the situation. And I’m sure that wasn’t the only one received that distress call — you know, ‘Come save our lives.’”
Did Defense Secretary Leon Panetta take it upon himself to call off any rescue effort? (He told the press on Thursday that the Pentagon lacked clear information as to what was going on.) Where was the president and did he or some other official take it upon himself to deny help to the trapped Americans?
With an old legislative hand like Portman now sounding like a fire breathing Tea Partier in his demands for information, one wonders whether the administration will feel a bit more heat in the last nine days before the election.