Libya attack issues have not been put to rest
Since Tuesday’s debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, there has been a lot of talk about the performance debate moderator Candy Crowley, who, as a noted yesterday, went far beyond her role to become a “fact-checker.”
During the debate, President Obama was asked a pretty clear cut question about the security failures that led up to the terrorist attack in Libya. The questioner, Kerry Ladka, told Obama that he and friends at work “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?” Ladka asked Obama.
Obama gave a long-winded answer where he talked about his appreciate for United States diplomats. He then noted that he gave instructions in the wake of the attack to “beef up security,” investigate the incident, and to “find out who did this.” Obama criticized Romney for allegedly politicizing the attack and defend his out foreign policy record.
Obama eventually said, “[W]hen 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 can read the entire answer in the transcript, but no where in his response did he actually, you know, answer the question. The question wasn’t about what Obama was going to do or about foreign policy initiatives. It was very direct — “Who was it that denied enhanced security [to the consulate in Benghazi] and why?”
After a back and forth, where Obama defended his administration’s against charges of trying to hide the nature of the incident after Romney noted that they blamed it on an offensive anti-Muslim video. During this, Obama said, “The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden, and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened, that this was an act of terror.”
Thinking he caught Obama, Romney replied, “I think it’s interesting the president just said something which is that on the day after the attack, he went in the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.” Romney continued, “You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration.”
Remember, the “spontaneous demonstration” term was used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice five days after the attack, which was clearly a false narrative at that point.
Romney pressed Obama, who wasn’t willing to engage. Romney, sensing a victory on the issue, said, “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.” But then Crowley spoke up, stepping outside of her role as moderator to serve, as noted above, as some sort of “fact-checker.”
“[H]e did in fact, sir,” said Crowley. Obama realized that the tide had turned, asked, “Can you say that a little louder, Candy?” At that point, Crowley realized that she’d made a mistake and tried to correct it, saying, “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 of there being a riot out there about this tape to come out.”
Crowley’s defense of Obama, and that’s exactly what it was, isn’t entirely accurate. The day after the consulate was attacked, President Obama did give a statement in the Rose Garden on what had happened, here are the relevant portions since this posted is already long-winded (emphasis mine):
The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack. We’re working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats. I’ve also directed my administration to increase our security at diplomatic posts around the world. And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.
Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.
No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.
As you can see above, it is clear that President Obama, though not directly mentioning the anti-Muslim video that sparked so much outrage, he did say that his administraton “reject[s] all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.” If that isn’t advancing the “blame the video” narrative, I don’t know what is. The “no acts of terror” line isn’t specific to the Benghazi attack, rather a general or generic policy statement.
So not only did Crowley defend Obama, she misled viewers. Of course, Crowley has defended herself, trying to split hairs about Romney’s word usage and saying that she was trying to move the debate along. Any suggestion that Crowley was acting as a professional journalist during that debate is absolutely absurd.
It should also be noted that Obama lied to Lapka after the debate. According to Joel Gehrke at the Washington Examiner, Obama told Lapka that he couldn’t provide the names of who denied additional security to the consulate. But Gehrke notes:
How’s this for an individual name: Charlene Lamb, who testified about her decision to deny the diplomats’ request. “We had the correct number of assets in Benghazi on the night of 9/11,” Lamb testified, adding that the security that was requested ”would not have made any difference in Benghazi.”
The Cable also noted that Eric Nordstrom, who ran diplomatic security over the summer in Libya, blamed Lamb.
“All of us at post were in sync that we wanted these resources,” Nordstrom said in the public hearing. “In those conversations, I was specifically told [by Lamb] ‘You cannot request an SST extension.’ I determined I was told that because there would be too much political cost. We went ahead and requested it anyway.”
This whole thing has gone bad for worse. Romney had another shot to get it right on Monday, but he may have already blown his chance, no thanks to Candy Crowley.