In Tuesday night’s presidential debate, President Obama countered Mitt Romney’s charge that he failed to describe the attack on the US consulate building in Benghazi, Libya last month as a terrorist attack, insisting that he “get the transcript.”
The town hall style debate featured voters asking questions to each candidate. One asked President Obama why requests from State Department officials in Libya for greater security at US diplomatic buildings went unanswered.
“Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?”
Obama responded by saying that “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” to beef up security, investigate the incident, and hunt down those responsible.
Romney then countered, trying to capitalize of the Benghazi question, claiming that Obama stuck to the story that this was a demonstration instead of a terrorist attack, which the administration later unequivocally admitted.
“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,” Romney said.
Obama responded: “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.”
The Romney campaign has maintained for weeks that the Obama administration was too slow to call this a terrorist attack, and Romney asked the President once more, “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?”
“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,” Romney added.
Obama responded from him chair: “Get the transcript.”
The debate moderator, Candy Crowley, then confirmed, speaking to Mr. Romney, that “he did call it an act of terror.”
Some of Obama’s first public words in the Rose Garden on the Benghazi incident that killed four Americans was that these “Americans were killed in an attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi.” He added that “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.”
The confirmation by Ms. Crowley was seen as a blow to Romney’s rhetorical approach. But the fact that Obama did in fact use the words “act of terror” and “attack” in his first public comments on the Benghazi attack serves to prove that the administration’s fumbling in the aftermath was politicized by the Romney campaign to be more of an issue than it had to be.
While the issue of whether or not the Obama administration called the attack a terrorist attack was the only thing being talked about, the question of whether or not the US should have gone to war in Libya without congressional approval and helped support the rebel groups there in the first place was ignored. The case study of blowback that the Benghazi incident represented was ignored.
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