Analysis of almost every angle and moment in the townhall debate can be found just about everywhere online at any site remotely related to news and politics. I have my own moments of talking back to the television screen. And it has taken me days to get it posted because of so many intervening demands. But that hasn’t diminished one bit what happened in that debate.
I started writing this post right after the townhall debate at Hofstra University last week ‘moderated’ by CNN’s Candy Crowley. It’s remarkable that it not only remains relevant, it’s grown in depth of gravity since then. Investigations are ongoing. The terror attack was the incident. The handling of it afterward, even and especially in the presidential debate, have elevated the tension over it.
The day after the debate, comedian Jon Stewart cracked on the Daily Show that when the moment came for Gov. Mitt Romney to challenge President Obama about his response to the Benghazi consulate attack, the president at first protested, and then smugly said, ‘proceed, Governor’ welcoming him to plunge headlong into a faux painted boulder just as Wiley Cayote does to Road Runner. Implying that the president knew he was sending Gov. Romney into a stonewall.
How did that get set up ahead of time so that Obama would have such assurance? Someone on a news show said that though there were suspicions that ‘plants’ were among the townhall participants, the real plant was Candy Crowley.
The moderator in Tuesday night’s presidential debate, after appearing to side with President Obama on the question of whether he called the Libya strike a terror attack from the start, conceded afterward that Mitt Romney was “right” on the broader point — that the administration for days insisted it was a spontaneous act.
“He was right in the main. I just think he picked the wrong word,” Candy Crowley said of Romney on CNN shortly after the debate ended.
Crowley was referring to the tense exchange in the final half-hour of the debate, when Romney questioned whether Obama had called the attack an “act of terror” rather than “spontaneous” violence that grew out of a protest against an anti-Islam video.
Crowley then intervened. Here’s the exchange:
ROMNEY: I think (it’s) interesting the president just said something which — which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.
OBAMA: That’s what I said.
ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?
OBAMA: Please proceed governor.
ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
OBAMA: Get the transcript.
CROWLEY: It — it — it — he did in fact, sir … call it an act of terror.
At which point I was talking back to my TV ‘Not true!’
However, it was an emboldening moment for the president, depicted by Stewart as Wiley Cayote.
Obama, indicating he thought he had just gotten a boost from the moderator, then chimed in: “Can you say that a little louder, Candy?”
However, Obama didn’t explicitly label the Benghazi strike terrorism in those Sept. 12 remarks. What he did say is: “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.”
The general reference to “no acts of terror” instead of the specific one that hit Benghazi was the president’s cover for the plausible deniability he’s crafted into an art.
Crowley, during and following the debate, pointed out that despite Obama’s Sept. 12 remarks his administration was peddling a different story to the public. She said it took two weeks for officials to say more definitively that the attack was more than an out-of-control protest.
But this was a late correction.
And she continued to clarify on CNN that Romney was making a legitimate point.
“Right after that I did turn around and say, ‘but you are totally correct that they spent two weeks telling us that this was about a tape’,” she said.
Not true. Here’s a fack-check:
The infamous incident when she interrupted Romney’s claim about Obama’s refusal to call the Benghazi murders a terror attack:
“It – it – it – he did in fact, sir. So let me – let me call it an act of terror…
Prompted by Obama to say it a little louder, Crowley obliged:
“He – he did call it an act of terror. It did as well take – it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.”
“It did take…two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out”? What does that mean, in its awkward statement? It’s swiftness in moving on meant it was intended to move on.
CBS is apparently one of the remaining media outlets with fact-checkers, and they produced this.
ROMNEY: “You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?… I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror… The administration indicated this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction…”
In Sept. 12 remarks in the White House Rose Garden reacting to the Libya attack, Mr. Obama did refer generally to “acts of terror,” though he didn’t specifically call the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi an act of terrorism.
Just be honest.
It’s true that the administration, including U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, maintained for several days that the attack was spontaneous and the result of protests over an inflammatory anti-Muslim video. Meanwhile, CBS News reported on Sept. 12 that the assault appeared to be a planned terrorist attack.
In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 25, Mr. Obama did not give any indication that the attack was an act of terrorism, instead repeatedly referencing the anti-Muslim YouTube video that allegedly spurred spontaneous protests.
There’s no spinning the increasingly obvious, and the more he does, or his administration does or his surrogates do, the worse it gets. Even Saturday Night Live got it.