Many people go through life and never really face a test of courage and resolve. For Charles Ramsey, the test came in Cleveland, and he was up to the challenge: he passed the test.
Our Presidents are far more likely to be tested, and some have passed, while others have failed. President Kennedy was tested in October of 1962, with the Cuban Missile Crisis. President Kennedy had more time than Mr Ramsey to think and react; he was able to consult with his advisors and plan, but, in the end, the decisions were taken by the President and he passed the test.
President Nixon was tested by Watergate. He had not ordered the break-in, but, as President and the chief federal law enforcement officer in the country, he faced an obvious test: was he going to do his duty, even though it meant the cutting loose of some of his friends, or was he going to try to help his friends and shirk his duty? President Nixon failed that test, and was forced to resign to avoid being impeached and removed from office.
President Carter was tested, twice, by the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran by Iranians claiming to be students. Our people were held in captivity until the day President Carter left office, due to his pusillanimous response, and President Carter failed the test; the American people held Mr Carter accountable, and turned him out of office in the 1980 election.
President Carter was also tested by the Soviet Union, and its invasion of Afghanistan. That invasion may well have been encouraged by the weakness Mr Carter had shown over the embassy seizure; President Carter bravely cancelled American participation in the 1980 Olympic games to be held in Moscow, but did nothing else. Two tests, and Jimmy Carter failed them both.
The elder President Bush was tested, by Saddam Hussein and Iraq, with the invasion and conquest of Kuwait; President Bush rose to the challenge, and put together the international force which expelled the Iraqi military from Kuwait. President Bush passed the test.
President Clinton was tested, with the genocide in Kosovo. It wasn’t quite as serious a test as some Presidents have faced, but he passed it nevertheless.
The younger President Bush was tested, less than a year int office, by the attacks on the World Trade Center. He showed courage and resolve and put together the force which went after Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. President Bush passed the test.
And now we come to President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. For most of the President’s first term, there was no real test. The economy was in a steep recession, but that wasn’t a test of the sort to which I have referred; that was a known problem, coming into office, which he met with a plan that he pushed through Congress. That plan failed to produce the results the President claimed it would, but that is a failure of policy, and not one of meeting an unexpected test.
The test came on September 11, 2012, when terrorists attacked our Ambassador in Libya and several other Americans. This was the test: the unexpected event which calls for resolve, commitment and quick action. Faced with terrorists torturing and murdering our Ambassador, over the course of several hours — time in which action could have been taken, or at least attempted — President Barack Hussein Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stood by and did absolutely nothing. The test came, and the test went, and the result was four brave Americans murdered by Islamist terrorists. Had President Obama shown some resolve, had the President or the Secretary been decisive, they would have gotten the military assets we had in the area moving, ready to defend our diplomats. It is possible that the incident would have been over and our people dead before our forces could have arrived, and those forces would have to be called back, but Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton never even tried. The White House admitted — well after the fact, and, of course, well after the election — that President Obama didn’t make even one single phone call during the night of the attacks.
During the 2008 Democratic primaries, when Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton were competitors, Mrs Clinton’s campaign put out the famous “3 AM Phone Call” campaign advertisement, telling the voters that she was the one who could be counted upon to be determined and experienced and wise enough to handle those unexpected crises which occur and test so many of our Presidents. The voters were also supposed to infer that Senator Obama, with less than four years in office, could not be counted upon in such a situation.
Mrs Clinton was half right: as President, Mr Obama failed the test, and failed it miserably. But Mrs Clinton was also half wrong: her performance during the Benghazi attacks, and even in the days following, proved that she, too, had failed the test. The only real, unexpected test of leadership that she faced as Secretary of State, and she failed.
The default assumption is that Mrs Clinton will be running for President in 2016. As I noted here, it is my guess that, in the end, she will not be a candidate. But if she does run, you can bet your bottom dollar that she won’t be running that 3 AM phone call ad again; she had her chance, and she failed. She knows it, and she won’t want to remind the voters about it.