Second 2012 Presidential Debate Fact Check: The truth about Obama’s ‘act of terror’ Libya comment

17 Oct

Plenty of punches were figuratively thrown by both sides in the town hall-style second presidential debate. The one that has gotten plenty of press in particular was the dispute about Libya and who was correct.

In case you missed it, Romney accused Obama of not knowing for 14 days whether the attack in Benghazi (where four Americans were killed) was due to a terrorist attack or retaliation for an American-made video mocking the Muslim prophet Muhammad, and that Obama even went fundraising twice during those 14 days. Obama attempted revisionist history in saying he knew from the beginning that it was a terrorist attack.

In the debate recap on ABC’s Nightline show, Terry Moran showed a clip where Crowley confirmed Obama’s assertion, leaving the impression that Romney had egg on his face.

And some bloggers were all too happy to tout Obama’s seeming victory on the issue.

For example, Lisa Taylor at examiner.com wrote:

The piece of tonight’s debate that caught my attention the most was the moment President Obama chastised Romney on his statement about campaigning during the Libyan crisis, and rightly so. Romney had been misbehaving like an ill-mannered child all evening. But to imply that the President didn’t care, rather went on the campaign trail and ignored the Libya situation was quite a mistake.

If you didn’t actually watch the debate, you would simply conclude that must be true.

But here at Minor Insights, we Insightful people know that there is more than meets the eye if you want more, ahem, Insightful analysis.

Ready?

What they actually said

Here is the transcript of the exchange from the debate:

CROWLEY: Because we’re — we’re closing in, I want to still get a lot of people in. I want to ask you something, Mr. President, and then have the governor just quickly.

Your secretary of state, as I’m sure you know, has said that she takes full responsibility for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Does the buck stop with your secretary of state as far as what went on here?

OBAMA: Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job. But she works for me. I’m the president and I’m always responsible, and that’s why nobody’s more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I do.

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 and I also said that we’re going to hunt down those who committed this crime.

And then a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families.

And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the Secretary of State, our U.N. Ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president, that’s not what I do as Commander in Chief.

CROWLEY: Governor, if you want to…

ROMNEY: Yes, I — I…

CROWLEY: … quickly to this please.

ROMNEY: I — 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.

OBAMA: That’s what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror.

It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed, governor.

ROMNEY: 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.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CROWLEY: It — it — it — he did in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terror…

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

CROWLEY: He — 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 there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.

ROMNEY: This — the administration — the administration indicated this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.

CROWLEY: It did.

Now that we have the full context of this exchange, let’s take a look at the various issues surrounding this Libya moment in the debate.

Issue #1: with whom did moderator Crowley side with?

Many media reports did not report Crowley agreeing with Romney. As I mentioned earlier, Nightline did not show that part of the clip. So some media reports made it appear that the moderator only backed up Obama.

But as you saw in the transcript, Crowley agreed with Obama (in using the phrase “act of terror”) and with Romney (in the Obama administration not knowing whether the attack was in reaction to a video for 14 days).

Perhaps Romney would have come across stronger if he also asked Crowley to “say that a little louder” after Crowley agreed with him.

So, technically, Crowley sided with both Romney and Obama. But Crowley later admitted that, semantics aside about whether Obama used the words “act of terror”, when it comes to the issue itself, she agrees with Romney.

Winner: Romney.

Lesson learned: don’t let the media spoon-feed you their conclusions b/c most media will intentionally slant their reports with a bias. Check for yourself.

Issue #2: did Obama really say “act of terror” in his Sep 12th speech?

For the answer to that, we would need to “get the transcript,” as the President advised.

OK, President, here is that transcript:

Good Morning. Everyday all across the world, American diplomats and civilians work tirelessly to advance the interest and values of our nation.

Often, they are away from their families, sometimes in great, great danger.

Yesterday, four of these extraordinary Americans were killed in an attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi. Among those killed was our Ambassador Chris Stevens, as well as his Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith.

We are still notifying the families of the others who were killed and today the American people stand united in holding the families of the four Americans in our thoughts and in our prayers.

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. Already, many Libyans have joined us in doing so, and this attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya.

Libyan security personnel fought back against the attackers alongside Americans. Libyans helped some of our diplomats find safety, and they carried Ambassador Stevens’ body to the hospital, where we tragically learned that he had died.

It’s especially tragic that Chris Stevens died in Benghazi because it is a city that he helped to save. At the height of the Libyan revolution Chris led our diplomatic post in Benghazi.

With characteristic skill, courage and resolve he built partnerships with Libyan revolutionaries and helped them as they planned to build a new Libya.

When the Gadhafi regime came to an end, Chris was there to serve as our ambassador to the new Libya, and he worked tirelessly to support this young democracy. And I think both Secretary Clinton and I have relied deeply on his knowledge of the situation on the ground there.

He was a role model to all who worked with him and to the young diplomats who aspire to walk in his footsteps.

Along with his colleagues, Chris died in a country that is still striving to emerge from the recent experience of war. And today the loss of these four Americans is fresh, but our memories of them linger on.

I have no doubt that their legacy will live on through the work that they did far from our shores and in the hearts of those who loved them back home.

Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks. We mourn with the families who were lost on that day. I visited the graves of troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hallowed grounds of Arlington Cemetery, and had the opportunity to say thank you and visit some of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed. And then last night we learned the news of this attack in Benghazi.

As Americans let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases lay down their lives for it. Our country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of those, both civilian and military, who represent us around the globe.

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 for 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.

But we also know that the lives these Americans led stand in stark contrast to those of their attackers. These four Americans stood up for freedom and human dignity. They should give every American great pride in the country that they served, and the hope that our flag represents to people around the globe who also yearn to live in freedom and with dignity.

We grieve with their families, but let us carry on their memory and let us continue their work in seeking a stronger America and a better world for all of our children. Thank you. May God bless the memory of those we lost, and may God bless the United States of America.

So did Obama say “act of terror”? Yes. In paragraph #18 of the 21 paragraphs he read.

Winner: Obama, on a technical point. But there’s more to this story. Read on.

Issue #3: did Obama believe the attack was terrorist or retaliation to a video?

If you read the transcript, you saw that Obama believed the attack was in retaliation to an American-made video insulting Muhammad.

In paragraph #7, he said:

We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None.

Obama clearly linked “this type of senseless violence” with “denigrating the religious beliefs of others.”

So, yes, later in his speech, “this type of senseless violence” was referred to as an “act of terror.” But Obama did not believe this “act of terror” was a terrorist attack. This fact was borne out over the ensuing days when the Obama administration continued to insist the attack was a “spontaneous protest” in order to give American citizens the false impression that al-Qaeda is not still a threat. In fact, townhall.com has a handy timeline of the Libya debacle.

Winner: Romney.

Bottom line

Obama seemed to convince un-Insightful people that he won the point on Libya because Crowley confirmed that Obama technically did use the phrase “act of terror”. But only Insightful people do fact-checking to realize the larger point that Obama did not know—or did not want to admit to the public—that it was a planned, premeditated terrorist attack.

Obama demonstrated passion and fire as he defended himself against Romney’s Libya charge. But passion and fire to cover up lies and administrative bungling is just putting lipstick on a pig.

By the way, the person who asked the question that sparked this whole firestorm in the first place said afterward, “I really didn’t think [Obama] totally answered the question satisfactorily as far as I was concerned.”

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