The final presidential debate earlier this week was a tailor-made opportunity for Mitt Romney to rip into President Obama's inconsistent, value-free and at times incoherent foreign policy. It was also an opportunity for the president to explain his administration's material misrepresentations on the murders of our ambassador and others in Libya. Instead, we heard silence from both of them on this topic.
One can conclude from this that the president uttered a silent sigh of relief when he dodged a bullet. One can also conclude that Romney wanted to look and sound presidential, emphasize his economic credentials and allay fears that he wants another war. Whatever the gain and whatever the strategy, this matter of American deaths in Libya is of vital importance to American voters.
It is important because it shows how far the American government has drifted from the confines of the Constitution and how far we as a people have drifted from the rule of law. The president bombed Libya last year in a successful effort to remove Moammar Gadhafi from power. Gadhafi was a monster, but he kept the streets safe, the mobs from foreign embassies and consulates and the terrorists in jail.
In 2005, President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair praised Gadhafi as a partner in the war on terror because he disposed of his nuclear weaponry and he arrested and prosecuted al Qaeda operatives. Mr. Obama, who last year claimed he did not have the time to seek authorization from Congress to bomb Libya as the Constitution requires, but did have the time to seek approvals from NATO and the Arab League, also claimed at the time and as recently as last Monday night that there were no American boots on the ground during the bombing. That, of course, is patently false and is known to be false.
American fighter planes (boots in the skies) would not be sent to bomb a foreign land without guidance from troops on the ground. I suspect that by "boots," Obama meant "uniforms." We know that American intelligence agents and American Special Forces -- neither of whose personnel wear uniforms, but most of whom no doubt wear boots on their feet in the Libyan desert -- were there, are still there and were providing intelligence about Gadhafi and his military to aid the assault by U.S. warplanes.
The assault was devastating not only to the Gadhafi government, but also to the Libyan people. It destroyed much of Libyan authority structures as they then existed. Not only were Libyan government personnel and buildings and equipment destroyed, but so were Libyan intelligence agents and assets, police stations, roads and bridges, and innocent civilians, as well. This resulted not only in the death of Gadhafi and the destruction of his government, but also in a vacuum into which moved the roving gangs of militias who reign there today. The militias opened up Gadhafi's jails and released many of the prisoners Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair had praised Gadhafi for incarcerating.
Fast-forward to September 11th of this year, and some of these al Qaeda-led and populated gangs murdered our ambassador and his colleagues. The Obama administration -- which knew of the al Qaeda role in all this and knew that the president's unconstitutional behavior facilitated that role -- denied what it knew and dispatched the American ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, to deliver lies to the American public. Ms. Rice claimed on five TV shows that U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed by the spontaneous reaction of ordinary Libyans to a cheap, homemade YouTube clip about Mohammed -- not by an organized terrorist gang.
Shortly after Stevens' murder, European newspapers began to speculate that though Stevens was the bona fide U.S. ambassador to Libya, he was also a member of the U.S. intelligence community, as were his now-murdered colleagues. Earlier this week, my colleagues at Fox News discovered that the building in which they were killed was and was known locally to be a CIA facility, and that the future Ambassador Stevens had used that facility to meet with Libyan rebels during the Gadhafi years.
Now we can connect some dots. If Stevens was a CIA agent, he was in violation of international law by acting as the U.S. ambassador. If he and his colleagues were intelligence officials, they are not typically protected by Marines, because they ought to have been able to take care of themselves. If Ms. Rice knowingly lied to the American public about a matter as grave as this, she should be fired, no matter who asked her to lie. Fourteen days before a crucial presidential election, when both major-party candidates have an audience of 60 million voters, why were they mysteriously silent about all this? Might U.S. intelligence agents who routinely brief Mr. Romney have whispered the same instructions into his ear that they received from the president when they briefed him?
I still think Mr. Romney has a far better understanding of economic forces and a far superior appreciation for the free market than does Mr. Obama. But I had hoped he could demonstrate a better understanding of the proper role of the U.S. in foreign lands than has the president.
On this from Mr. Romney, thus far we have heard only silence; from the president, only boasts.
Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel. He is author of "It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom" (Thomas Nelson, 2011).