- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 16, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Mitt Romney should think of the betrayal in Benghazi as gout in Barack Obama’s left big toe, and step on it hard at every opportunity. The president will feel it, and the memory of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens deserves no less.

Making foreign policy an issue is usually hard to do, since most voters think a foreign affair is a naughty weekend in Paris. But this foreign affair is different.

The betrayal in Benghazi — and that is exactly what it was — was tragic for Mr. Stevens and his family, and it went beyond tragedy for the rest of us. The ambassador, watching the security arrangements dissolving over a period of weeks, had begged Washington for additional help. The White House answered with silence, not even sparing a little gas money for the 1936-vintage DC-3, a lumbering old airplane with a legacy of service in a half-dozen wars, assigned to American diplomats in Libya. The plane was insurance for a quick getaway. There was, however, $108,000 available to install a charging station for a fleet of Chevrolet Volts at the embassy in Vienna. It was a question of green priorities.

Mr. Obama, who fell in love with the sound of his voice many years ago, no doubt figured that if there was a genuine need for more security, he would make a speech. Surely the terrorists, like the birds, would fall to the ground at the sound of that voice. So he and his surrogates, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, started spinning tall tales about what the attack on the U.S. Consulate was all about. Who could doubt a messiah, particularly one so close to the land of the pharaohs?

They insisted, against the evidence that a blind man could see, that the trouble was not a terrorist attack, or a “man-caused disaster” or even “workplace violence,” as we are now told by the White House to call Islamic terrorism. Everybody else in the Middle East called it terrorism, probably meant to mark the observance of 9/11, which is the highest high holy day of radical Islam, observed annually with a beheading or a dismemberment of an infidel. So why couldn’t Mr. Obama call it what it was? Even the president of Libya, who ought to know, called it by its right name.

Barack Obama, if he is as smart as he wants us to think he is, knew better. So did Mrs. Clinton and even Jay Carney, the president’s mouthpiece. Mitt Romney called it for what it was, the betrayal of Americans in Benghazi, and the glitteries and notabilities of the mainstream press, many of whom probably knew better too, rallied for the ritual crucifixion of the Republican nominee.

Nevertheless, Mr. Obama, figuring he had no alternative, “doubled down on denial.” He couldn’t concede that he hadn’t, after all, eliminated al Qaeda once and for all. For a fortnight, he and his surrogates insisted that the original cover story was true.

Joe Biden doubled down on denial, too, in his debate with Paul Ryan. Nobody expects a lot from ol’ Joe. The Obama campaign is comfortable sending him out to say whatever crosses his mind, which is usually a hoot. He’s always good for comic relief.

Mr. Romney must resist the temptation to be nice to the point of reticence in his second debate with the president. He has to double down himself, telling it like it was about betrayal in Benghazi. He can be polite and respectful. No noisy talk-over, and none of ol’ Joe’s idiot smiles. He should remember to step often on that big toe, Tuesday night and afterward, pretending that Mr. Obama is suffering gout. He can expect the worst from moderator Candy Crowley, puffed up, as you might say, with self-importance and eager to prove that the Romney-Ryan ticket is a Republican death wish, as she said it was just after Mr. Ryan was chosen.

The president revealed himself in the aftermath of Benghazi to be either terminally naive, which would require an absence of judgment, or terminally incompetent. Neither quality is exactly what anyone wants in the White House. Or it could be something worse.

Mr. Obama knows he looks foolish rattling across the country in pursuit of Big Bird, Elmo and the assorted Muppets of a child’s imagination. But it beats having to explain why he rattled on about an Internet video that almost nobody has seen while American interests are on fire all about him. The president and the Democrats are living in a fantasyland, and it’s up to Mitt Romney to jerk them back to the reality where the rest of us live.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.