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CROUSE: Sandy’s passed, Benghazi storm intensifies

Hurricane diligence was sorely needed during Libya debacle

- - Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Recent polls showed Mitt Romney ahead and President Obama ceasing his campaign to watch weather reports about Hurricane Sandy's progress along the Eastern Seaboard. Let's repeat that, slowly: President Obama stopped campaigning to watch reports and do a news conference about Hurricane Sandy. This situation warranted presidential attention and comment, but the massacre at Benghazi did not.

The so-called mainstream media covered attractive pictures over the weekend of the president's family walking to church on Sunday and treated it as a routine practice of the first family. Most Americans are aware that the Obamas have attended church more often during the weeks of the campaign than during the whole of the president's term of office. His Christian rhetoric has increased with his church attendance during the election campaign.

In addition to the hypocrisy of officially explaining Benghazi as a demonstration run amok because of an obscure YouTube video and the obvious political ploy of suddenly using Christian rhetoric and attending church services, several of Mr. Obama's carefully constructed stereotypes of Mr. Romney have proved false recently.

During the campaign, Mr. Obama and his surrogates repeatedly have portrayed Mr. Romney as an unhinged extremist, but during the first debate -- when Americans got an unfiltered view of the former Massachusetts governor -- they saw a rational, successful businessman whose common-sense views resonate with Middle America, and they heard articulate counterarguments for the president's campaign rhetoric.

Even more important, they heard a persuasive litany of the current administration's dismal record on a wide variety of issues important to Americans. The bottom line is that the president was revealed to be an empty suit -- or, if you will, the empty chair Clint Eastwood presented during the GOP convention. Even the president's much-ballyhooed economic plan, titled "The New Economic Patriotism," has been exposed as a rehash of his 2008 campaign, with nothing innovative or appropriate in the hastily assembled, overproduced 20-page booklet for the new economic realities the country faces.

The American public -- already worried about the "fiscal cliff," unemployment, the costs of gasoline and food, and the untenable economic circumstances of their lives -- have heard from Mr. Romney a rational plan that contrasted sharply with the fact that the president has not presented a single viable budget during his entire term or made economic recovery a priority.

Viewers of the first debate and subsequent ones saw Mr. Romney as a man with the experience and temperament necessary to address the multiple crises facing America after four disastrous years of radical-leftist policies. They saw Mr. Romney as a man with a record of bipartisanship and cooperation across the political divide, in contrast with a candidate who failed, even when he had both the House and Senate on his side. Moreover, the Democratic president rammed an unwanted and extreme health care plan through Congress without a single Republican supporting it and in the face of overwhelming public opposition.

However, the final blow to Mr. Obama's credibility is Benghazi. The president and his men continue to obfuscate and prevaricate, leading the American people to suspect a cover-up. The president has refused to hold a news conference, yet he has appeared on numerous talk shows to field softball questions and try to deflect criticism by joshing with the likes of Jon Stewart and the girls on "The View."

To be blunt, the facts on Benghazi don't look good for the Obama administration. The president insists that an investigation will give a full report "after the election." This sounds ominously like erstwhile House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's remark about having to pass Obamacare in order to know what's in it. Do we have to re-elect Mr. Obama to know what happened in Benghazi? There is no lack of conflicting reports about what really happened in that tragic attack, which resulted in four unnecessary deaths. Most notable among them: The CIA goofed, or it was Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's fault; certainly, it couldn't be blamed on the White House.

It is stunning to see the ways Mr. Obama has squandered his likability and high approval ratings. In 2008, Americans chose "hope" over a record of achievement, and the desire for a post-racial society probably was at the top of the list of motivating factors prompting Mr. Obama's election. So little was known about his pre-presidency life, but since his election, it's been all about him. It is rare for a presidency to be so embodied by the persona of the officeholder, yet as Mr. Obama notably revealed in the final presidential debate, he is sure the nation's fortune is tied to his personal future. "This nation, me, my administration," he said. It's all about "me." No wonder he never closed his Ohio campaign office and has continued to campaign for the past four years instead of working to improve the lives of Americans.

Numerous reporters made fun of Clint Eastwood's "empty chair" analogy, but events over the past few weeks have reinforced the appropriateness of the comparison. Mr. Obama has lost respect at an astounding pace as multiple events have eroded his credibility, but the most devastating blow was the careless disregard he showed for the lives of public servants during the tragic episode at Benghazi.

Janice Shaw Crouse is senior fellow at Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute and author of "Marriage Matters" (Transaction Publishers, 2012).