As presidential debaters clash over the meaning of a Rose Garden general reference to "acts of terror," and whether that phrase was applied to the murder of our ambassador to Libya and three of his colleagues, and with a debate moderator throwing a "life line" to one of the candidates, it's interesting to note something else said in the secure environs of the White House complex the bright morning after that night of flame and death in Benghazi.
It's almost like Poe's short story, The Purloined Letter. The critical evidence is in plain sight. The day after the murders of the Americans, President Obama promised to cooperate with our presumed friends in the new Libyan regime in Tripoli. Here's what he said:
"The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack. We're working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats… And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people." --Rose Garden Statement, September 12, 2012
The "make no mistake" phrase has been poll-tested, no doubt, to suggest the speaker is most resolute, most firm. In this context, however, the phrase is as vacuous as Bill Clinton's definition of "is" is, or Joe Biden's definition of "we."
The candid world has already seen just how cooperative this new Libyan regime is. The New York Times inadvertently showed us the spots of this leopard in its story on the reported death of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi back in May:
"Tripoli's new leaders refused to return him. But, under international pressure, they signaled a willingness to get to the bottom of the Lockerbie case, still unresolved after nearly a quarter of a century of struggle among nations and investigations that spanned the globe, touching on Iranians, Syrians, Palestinians and Libyans."
The Times then reported how Tripoli's new rulers had declined to help the U.S. bring closure to the investigation into the bombing of PanAm 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. Recall, these are rulers whom President Obama helped to put in power. For them, he ordered NATO airstrikes against the dictatorship of Col. Muammar Khaddafi. For them, he has requested another $250 million in foreign aid.
Suddenly, the man who was imprisoned in Scotland, but who later infamously was released from jail and flown home to a rapturous reception in Tripoli, has turned up dead. How convenient.
It is this same Libyan gang that President Obama says he will work with to get to the bottom of the murders in Benghazi. Don't hold your breath. We've been waiting 24 years for the "international community" to bring to justice the killers of 270 passengers of the doomed jet liner and bystanders on the ground in Lockerbie. With the supposed death of Megrahi, we will probably count PanAm 103 as a cold case and not pursue it further.
Libya is a burning issue. The case of the PanAm jet that fell in flames from the skies cries out for justice. Why should we give a penny in aid to a so-called government in Tripoli that stonewalled our efforts to bring Megrahi to justice?
That same Tripoli government was duty-bound under international law to protect our diplomats and State Department employees. We saw on September 11th -- of all days -- how indifferent this Libyan bunch was to the safety of our American personnel.
"Working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats" is one of the weakest excuses in history. We already know how much this Libyan regime cares about American lives.
They do care, of course, about another $250 million in American aid. Not a penny of that money should be given unconditionally to people who have already shown their indifference to human lives -- ours and others.
The final presidential debate is scheduled for next week. Let us see whether CBS' Bob Schieffer will raise this burning Libyan issue with the candidates.