Debate moderator Candy Crowley stepped out of her purportedly neutral role in Tuesday's presidential debate by spontaneously fact-checking Mitt Romney's assertion that President Obama delayed calling the fatal Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya an act of terrorism. She later corrected herself, saying Mr. Romney was "right in the main" on Benghazi but that the Republican "picked the wrong word." In fact, Mr. Romney simply was right.
Contrary to his boast, Mr. Obama did not single out Benghazi as an act of terrorism in his Sept. 12 Rose Garden statement. He referred to it as an "attack" and to the perpetrators as "killers." He then said, "We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others," an obvious reference to the YouTube video to which he alluded as the motive for the mayhem. Later he said, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation," but this was in the context of Sept. 11, 2001, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It wasn't a direct reference to Benghazi. The presidential proclamation on Benghazi, issued the same day, made no reference to terrorism. That evening, however, Undersecretary of State Patrick F. Kennedy, whose portfolio includes overseas facilities and operations, called Benghazi a terrorist attack in a private conference call with congressional staff.
On Sept. 14, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney claimed the spate of Mideast unrest, including the Benghazi assault, was "in response to a video that Muslims find offensive." He avoided calling those who attacked the Benghazi consulate terrorists, referring instead to "assailants" and "attackers." The same day, Mr. Obama attended the transfer-of-remains ceremony for the Benghazi fallen and made no reference to terrorism in his remarks. In his weekly address on Sept. 15, Mr. Obama made much of the denigration of Islam and angry mobs but said nothing of terrorism. On Sept. 16, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice was dispatched to the Sunday talk-show circuit to state authoritatively that the attacks were "spontaneous -- not premeditated" and "in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated."
The White House stuck to this line until Sept. 19, when National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen testified publicly before Congress that Benghazi was an act of terrorism. Even after this admission, the White House kept promoting the spontaneous-mob theory. On Sept. 20, Mr. Carney said the Benghazi tragedy was "an opportunistic attack" that grew from alleged video-based unrest. In his speech to the United Nations on Sept. 25, Mr. Obama referred to the video six times but didn't once describe the events as terrorism.
The Obama administration's video-inspired, spontaneous-mob fiction was concocted so the White House could dodge charges of massive intelligence failure. The reality -- a planned, focused, al Qaeda-linked jihadist battlefield victory -- didn't fit the White House's rosy election-year storyline. Instead, Obama officials tried to make the tragedy into a teachable moment to lecture Americans on tolerance for Islam and the limits of the First Amendment. The story keeps shifting. In the wake of the debate, Mr. Obama admitted he delayed using the terrorist designation in the interest of acting on sound intelligence. We'll see how long this new tale lasts.
The Washington Times
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