Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Debate 2: The Benghazi Question – Was moderator Crowley briefed beforehand?

President Obama in the Rose Garden
Lots of airtime about the Libyan attack on America’s consulate, and lots of confusion about whether the Obama administration deliberately avoided linking the attack to terrorists but rather linked it to the video.

The Republicans smell a rat and believe the Administration stalled for time, allowing statements to  be made and an impression to take hold that the video caused a demonstration and this was what was considered at the time to be the cause of the attack on the Americans.

President Obama was aware of this attack.

And of course it came up in Debate 2.

Romney thought he had something going with this line of attack: Why did the President’s administration take so long to recognize that there was a terrorist attack on September 11, and did it try to cover up its errors in beefing up security in Libya by trying to blame the video for the riots and attacks?

Romney leaped in.

And then a funny thing happened.

The President seemed ready for him, and ambushed him with a simple statement that he had, the day after the attack, in the Rose Garden, talked about an act of terrorism.

Romney was visibly rocked.

And then a most interesting exchange took place between the President and the moderator – it is outlined in bold and red in the extract from the transcript of Debate 2.

When you read the extract, ask yourself these questions: Was Crowley given a transcript of the President’s speech that he referred to, in advance of Debate 2? And was Romney aware of this? If he was, why did his team goof up by not studying the copy before the debate and factoring it into his debate preparation? If he was not, was this in accordance with the agreed rules governing the debate?

Here is the transcript extract dealing with the whole Benghazi incident:

CROWLEY: Don't go away, though — right. Don't go away because I — I want you to talk to Kerry Ladka who wants to switch the topic for us.

Hi, Kerry.

QUESTION: Good evening, Mr. President.

OBAMA: I'm sorry. What's your name?

QUESTION: It's Kerry, Kerry Ladka.

OBAMA: Great to see you.

QUESTION: This question actually comes from a brain trust of my friends at Global Telecom Supply (ph) in Minneola yesterday.


QUESTION: We were sitting around, talking about Libya, and we were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans.
Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?

OBAMA: Well, let me first of all talk about our diplomats, because they serve all around the world and do an incredible job in a very dangerous situation. And these aren't just representatives of the United States, they are my representatives. I send them there, oftentimes into harm's way. I know these folks and I know their families. So nobody is more concerned about their safety and security than I am.

So as soon as we found out that the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team and I gave them three instructions.
Number one, beef up our security and procedures, not just in Libya, but at every embassy and consulate in the region.

Number two, investigate exactly what happened, regardless of where the facts lead us, to make sure folks are held accountable and it doesn't happen again.

And number three, we are going to find out who did this and we're going to hunt them down, because one of the things that I've said throughout my presidency is when folks mess with Americans, we go after them.

OBAMA: Now Governor Romney had a very different response. While we were still dealing with our diplomats being threatened, Governor Romney put out a press release, trying to make political points, and that's not how a commander in chief operates. You don't turn national security into a political issue. Certainly not right when it's happening. And people — not everybody agrees with some of the decisions I've made. But when it comes to our national security, I mean what I say. I said I'd end the war in Libya — in — in Iraq, and I did.
I said that we'd go after al-Qaeda and bin Laden, we have. I said we'd transition out of Afghanistan, and start making sure that Afghans are responsible for their own security, that's what I'm doing. And when it comes to this issue, when I say that we are going to find out exactly what happened, everybody will be held accountable. And I am ultimately responsible for what's taking place there because these are my folks, and I'm the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home. You know that I mean what I say.

CROWLEY: Mr. President, I'm going to move us along. Governor?

ROMNEY: Thank you Kerry for your question, it's an important one. And — and I — I think the president just said correctly that the buck does stop at his desk and — and he takes responsibility for — for that — for the failure in providing those security resources, and — and those terrible things may well happen from time to time. I — I'm — I feel very deeply sympathetic for the families of those who lost loved ones. And today there's a memorial service for one of those that was lost in this tragedy. We — we think of their families and care for them deeply. There were other issues associated with this — with this tragedy. There were many days that passed before we knew whether this was a spontaneous demonstration, or actually whether it was a terrorist attack.

ROMNEY: And there was no demonstration involved. It was a terrorist attack and it took a long time for that to be told to the American people. Whether there was some misleading, or instead whether we just didn't know what happened, you have to ask yourself why didn't we know five days later when the ambassador to the United Nations went on TV to say that this was a demonstration. How could we have not known?

But I find more troubling than this, that on — on the day following the assassination of the United States ambassador, the first time that's happened since 1979, when — when we have four Americans killed there, when apparently we didn't know what happened, that the president, the day after that happened, flies to Las Vegas for a political fund-raiser, then the next day to Colorado for another event, other political event.

I think these — these actions taken by a president and a leader have symbolic significance and perhaps even material significance in that you'd hope that during that time we could call in the people who were actually eyewitnesses. We've read their accounts now about what happened. It was very clear this was not a demonstration. This was an attack by terrorists.

And this calls into question the president's whole policy in the Middle East. Look what's happening in Syria, in Egypt, now in Libya. Consider the distance between ourselves and — and Israel, the president said that — that he was going to put daylight between us and Israel.
 We have Iran four years closer to a nuclear bomb. Syria — Syria's not just a tragedy of 30,000 civilians being killed by a military, but also a strategic — strategically significant player for America.

The president's policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour and — and — and pursue a strategy of leading from behind, and this strategy is unraveling before our very eyes.

CROWLEY: Because we're — we're closing in, I want to still get a lot of people in. I want to ask you something, Mr. President, and then have the governor just quickly.
Your secretary of state, as I'm sure you know, has said that she takes full responsibility for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Does the buck stop with your secretary of state as far as what went on here?

OBAMA: Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job. But she works for me. I'm the president and I'm always responsible, and that's why nobody's more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I do.

The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime.

And then a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families.

And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the Secretary of State, our U.N. Ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own, governor, is offensive. That's not what we do. That's not what I do as president, that's not what I do as Commander in Chief.

CROWLEY: Governor, if you want to...

ROMNEY: Yes, I — I...

CROWLEY: ... quickly to this please.

ROMNEY: I — I think 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. So let me — let me call it an act of terror...

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

CROWLEY: 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.

ROMNEY: This — the administration — the administration indicated this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.

CROWLEY: It did.

ROMNEY: It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group. And to suggest — am I incorrect in that regard, on Sunday, the — your secretary —

OBAMA: Candy?

ROMNEY: Excuse me. The ambassador of the United Nations went on the Sunday television shows and spoke about how —

OBAMA: Candy, I'm —

ROMNEY: — this was a spontaneous —

CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me —

OBAMA: I'm happy to have a longer conversation —

CROWLEY: I know you —

OBAMA: — about foreign policy.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. But I want to — I want to move you on and also —

OBAMA: OK. I'm happy to do that, too.

CROWLEY: — the transcripts and —

OBAMA: I just want to make sure that —

CROWLEY: — figure out what we —

OBAMA: — all of these wonderful folks are going to have a chance to get some of their questions answered.

Methinks that Romney either screwed up by not reading the materials provided to the moderator, or he was very nicely bushwacked.

This issue is not resolved.

You can bet your bottom dollar that it will be front and centre in Debate 3 next week.

Let’s see if before that any enterprising journalist can clarify who did what to whom and with whom before then. Perhaps Ms Crowley could shed some light on what she was given and what was said at the time, before Debate 2 took place.

PS Check this focus group take on what the moderator did or did not do ... fascinating.

PPS And Crowly's version of the matter. This is what she now says (no mention of anyone else bringing the President's Rose Garden speech to her attention - "I did ..."):

CANDY CROWLEY, debate moderator, after the debate: You know, again, I heard the president's speech at the time. I sort of reread a lot of stuff about Libya because I knew we'd probably get a Libya question, so I kind of wanted to be up on it. So we knew that the president had said, you know, 'these acts of terror won't stand,' or whatever the whole quote was.

I think actually, you know, because right after that, I did turn to Romney and said you were totally correct but they spent two weeks telling us that this was about a tape and that there was this riot outside of the Benghazi consulate, which there wasn't. So he was right in the main, I just think that he picked the wrong word.


  1. A different take.

  2. Thanks, Ligneus.

    The American Thinker has a slightly different twist. The author the article you quote writes that Romney managed to get several statements on record by Obama about when he knew it was an act of terror in Benghazi (the Rose Garden speech the next day); then says there is video of Obama after that date saying it was the video demonstration, and the Secretary of State saying the same thing, then points out that Obama kept on campaigning, and offers advice as to how this will play out.

    The relevant extract from the articles is:

    We have the ironclad transcript and video of Obama asserting this was a spontaneous demonstration--directly contradicting his statement at the debate. Yet, he brazenly reaffirmed at the debate that he said it was an act of terror

    While it is risky to ask such a question, Romney got him to repeat his admission several times--so he can't say he mispoke--and can therefore EASILY impeach his credibility with the actual transcript and video of the Rose Garden statement. Romney wasn't just phumphering around…

    Contrary to the punditry's possibly legitimate concerns that this wasn't the smoothest answer and that Romney muddled rather than clarified the issue, Romney did mention the 14 days, the repeated assertion by the President and Susan Rice that Benghazi was not a terrorist attack but the result of a spontaneous demonstration and drove home the fact that this President chose to "go on with the show" and continue with the campaign rather than give his full attention to the pressing matter of our Ambassador and 3 others being slaughtered.

    If I'm Karl Rove or the Romney campaign, I'm running ad after ad of Obama at the debate declaring that he said in the Rose Garden it was an act of terror. Then, I'd show his actual Rose Garden statement and speckle it with all his other statements and those of Susan Rice and Hillary reiterating that it was the result of a spontaneous demonstration because of the video.

    Then I'd show Romney giving Obama a chance to retract the admission, while he reaffirms it instead saying "That's what I said."

    Then, I'd finish with Obama saying: "You know that I mean what I say."
    And, while this might not be the answer all the Monday morning quarterbacks would have liked and has experts like Daniel Pipes, Ben Stein and George Will -- among others -- shaking their heads, it's an answer that has very long legs and will reach and resonate with independents.

    That author might be right: this might have been Romney's plan - although the transcript and the video of the debate show Romney apparently really thrown off balance by the President's statement about calling it a terrorist act in the Rose Garden speech. Even if Romney was shaken, the author has a point: much hay can be made from the Debate 2 record.

    Starting, I would guess, with an ad barrage a few days before next week's Debate 3 on foreign policy, and ending with Romney walking carefully through the times and statements.

    The moderator of Debate 3 has no option but to address this issue given the President's statement that he wanted to talk about it in detail at a later date, and the confusion that now reigns.

  3. It's game over for obama.

    Must see video of Mitt.

  4. Don't count your chickens before they're hatched, Ligneus.
    Democrats have pushed absentee voting and early voting and have a formidable ground machine.
    And the only real poll is that on voting day ...


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