At long last, Barack Obama has found himself in a pickle he can't blame on George W. Bush.
For a long time, his failure to revive the economy was due to the mess he inherited. Then, when the recession hung on, it was because the mess he inherited was even more serious than he ever imagined.
When he caught Osama bin Laden, he did not say it was because of the protocols George W. Bush had created, but rather acted as if he led the SEAL team in person. But in Benghazi, Libya, he has created a mess of his own out of a circumstance that, though grim, was ripe with potential for leadership. He turned it instead into a rolling disaster that is now eating his campaign alive.
It wasn't Bush who said that the riots in Egypt and Libya -- the latter of which killed one U.S. Foreign Service officer, two SEALs and one ambassador -- were in reaction to one 12-minute video made last July and seen mainly on YouTube, rather than terror attacks by a resurgent al Qaeda that is not even slightly "on the ropes." It wasn't Bush who said to send out Susan Rice to repeat this on five Sunday talk shows. Nor was it Bush who told him to say it himself in his speech to the United Nations two weeks later, in which he attacked the attacks less than he did the video, which he bravely as ever condemned.
And surely, it wasn't Bush who told Obama to give some chilly remarks about four dead Americans, then quickly hop on the plane to Las Vegas to laugh it up with a collection of millionaire airheads, as if he hadn't a care in the world. Bush didn't say to go on "The View" instead of meeting world leaders. Oddly enough, this is the single attack on this country that did not result in a bump in the polls for the man in the White House. Obama doubtless is wondering why.
Why indeed? Because he has no idea what it means to be president, and this crisis is stripping him bare. The man who redesigned the presidential seal and the American flag as his personal symbols is the one who saw the attacks as a threat to his claim that war was receding, and made up the ludicrous tale of the video to keep this illusion alive.
Of course, he flew off to fundraise without meeting his National Security Council (as David Axelrod verified). The right thing would have been to stay home, immerse himself in and take hold of the crisis, say something went wrong and vow to do better, and ask for the country's support while he did. This never occurred to the Boy Wonder, who lost his big chance to nail down the election, which by now is forever gone.
Of course, the right thing would have also been politic, as Bob Woodward on Sunday averred: "[When] an ambassador is killed, the president should be more proactive and be out there. He can go ... five minutes in the White House briefing room and say this is really serious; we're going to get to the bottom of it; we don't have the answers. And all of this could have been nipped in the bud."
It wasn't. He didn't. And now he is losing. When he does, he'll blame Bush.
Examiner Columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."