In an unprecedented move last night, Moderator Candy Crowley (CNN) intervened on the side of President Barack Obama during the second presidential debate. During the townhall-style debate at Hofstra University in New York, a voter from the audience Kerry Ladka asked the president: who denied the request for extra security at the Benghazi Consulate in Libya prior to the September 11th attack and why, an attack that resulted in the deaths of four Americans including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens?
Obama spent the first part of his answer lauding U.S. diplomats, saying no one cares for them and their families more than he does. He then recapped a version of the situation which appeared to contradict information given to the public in the days and weeks following the event.
“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,”
the president said,
“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.”
Romney called the president to task on his comment, saying many days passed before the public knew whether the attack was a spontaneous demonstration or a terror attack.
“Whether there was some misleading (information), 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?”
Romney said. He also noted the day after the attack Obama flew out to Las Vegas for a political fundraiser, knowing that four Americans were killed, a fact the president did not explicitly deny.
Obama said the day after the attack he was in the Rose Garden (at the White House) and gave a speech where he acknowledged the attack was an act of terror. When Romney challenged this statement, Moderator Candy Crowley intervened on the side of Obama.
“It — it — it — he did in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terror,”
Crowley said, erroneously forcing applause from the audience. By saying this, Crowley agreed with Obama in claiming he called the Benghazi attack an act of terror.
Here are Obama’s exact words from his September 12th speech from the Rose Garden:
“No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of values that we stand for.”
Analysts (even a few from CNN) have already pointed out this phrase is widely general and does not specifically call the Benghazi Attack an act of terror. Further, pundits point out a host of facts supporting that Obama and his administration sold the American People a different narrative, a narrative saying the attack and subsequent deaths of four Americans was the result of protests in response to an anti-Islam YouTube movie. Eyewitness testimonies verify there were no protests before the attack. Also, on September 16th, Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice went on five talk shows to say the attack was due to movie protests, when eyewitnesses proved otherwise. Further, a spokesman in Egypt also said the attacks were likely the result of protests in response to the movie and Obama mentioned the movie six times in his U.N. speech. Additionally, the president aired a TV ad in Pakistan apologizing for the movie, even though there were no protests prior to the strike on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
Following the debate Crowley backtracked, saying Romney was mainly right, meaning that for days the administration insisted the Benghazi strike was a spontaneous attack, when subsequent testimonies proved otherwise.
Crowley also drew attention when she cut Romney off when he brought up the Fast and Furious Scandal.
While Obama delivered a more aggressive performance than the one in Denver, Romney maintained a solid stance, where he articulated the reality of Obama’s record—23 million unemployed, $4300 drop in household income, $4 a gallon gas, and an added $6 trillion dollars in debt,. Analyst Dick Morris says Romney explained his tax plan in detail and deployed the China issue (unfair trade and currency manipulations) for the first time in the campaign. He also says Obama looked undignified and quarrelsome. Obama’s Campaign said the president gave an extremely strong performance, while RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said Obama was more aggressive, yet lacked substance.
The more telling data, though, may be found with voters. In a focus group following the debate of undecided voters most of who voted for Obama in 2008 said they will now vote for Romney. Also, a Gallop Poll released today, shows Romney at 51% and Obama at 46%.
The next and final debate is slated for next Monday, October 22nd at 9:00 P.M. in Florida, when the main focus will be Foreign Policy.