Presidential debate 101: When did Obama label Libya attack 'terror'?
In a narrow sense, Mitt Romney was wrong when he said at the presidential debate that Obama took weeks to describe the consulate attack in Libya as an act of 'terror.' But in a larger sense, Romney isn’t wrong.
When did President Obama label as “terror” the attack that killed the US ambassador to Libya? This issue has become one of the most contentious to arise out of Tuesday night’s presidential debate at Hofstra University. That’s because it involved a tough question, a heated response, a lunge counterattack, and then intervention by controlling authority. (It sounds Shakespearean when we summarize it that way, doesn’t it? As if it’s a lost scene from “Hamlet” or “King Lear.”)Skip to next paragraph
Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.
House IRS hearing explodes. Why such anger? (+video)
George P. Bush wins Texas primary. Return of the dynasty? (+video)
Obama submits budget. Why did he bother? (+video)
Michelle Obama to visit China. Do first ladies often travel solo abroad? (+video)
Sarah Palin: 'I told you so on Ukraine'
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
This dramatic exchange began when moderator Candy Crowley asked Mr. Obama whether Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was responsible for any US failures that led to the assault in Benghazi, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Obama replied – as he had to in that circumstance – that as president the buck stops with him.
Then he added this: “The day after the attack ... I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people and the world that we were 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.”
After a few more lines from Obama, Mitt Romney pounced. Pacing the stage like a big fish that thinks it’s spotted a tasty herring, the former Massachusetts governor repeated Obama’s assertion that he’d used the word “terror” in the Rose Garden.
“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,” said Mr. Romney.
Snap. Just like that the herring turned into a lure, and Romney got caught.
“Get the transcript,” said Obama.
Moderator Crowley, who had access to the transcript in question, stammered out this: “He did in fact sir ... call it an act of terror.”
“Can you say it a little louder, Candy?” said Obama.