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Wednesday, 17 October 2012 11:40

Obama's Debate Routing of Romney Happened in Benghazi

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BuzzFlash at Truthout had warned awhile back that Mitt Romney was going to opportunistically take advantage of any harm that would come to Americans abroad before Election Day.  We didn't just surmise that at BuzzFlash: Romney actually said it himself during his infamous "47 percent" question and answer remarks.  

The BuzzFlash commentary (posted on October 1) was entitled, "Romney Promised to Take Advantage of Foreign Policy Crisis in 47 Percent Remarks." Mother Jones, who obtained the secretly recorded tape of Romney's words, noted in its article about the full transcript:

Envisioning a pre-election hostage crisis, à la Iran and Jimmy Carter, [Romney said], "If something of that nature presents itself, I will work to find a way to take advantage of the opportunity."

Romney's shocking statement came after a fat cat in the audience specifically brought up how Ronald Reagan used the Iranian hostage crisis to his campaign's advantage.

It is important to remember that the 47 percent – and other – fundraiser remarks were before the tragic killings of the US Ambassador to Libya and other foreign service representatives.

Sure enough, once the murders occurred, Romney rashly held a press conference that incorrectly conflated the deaths with a prior US Cairo Embassy news release and cast blame on Obama.  However, the Romney campaign backed off for awhile due to a general condemnation by the DC punditry, many leading Republicans, and the corporate media of his reckless remarks.
But then Romney, who has no foreign policy or military experience (he was a Mormon missionary in France for two years though and received a deferment), returned to accusing the White House of not providing enough security for the diplomats who were killed.  This attack line started to have some resonance when State Department "traffic" indicated that one or more verbal requests had been made for increased protection in Tripoli, the capital of Libya.  (Who said what to whom and when is still being sorted out.)

Fast forward to the debate on Tuesday night.  Based on a question from an audience member named Kerry Ladka, President Obama took full responsibility for handling the Benghazi situation and responded in a dignified fashion that honored the loss of life in the line of duty.

Then three words set in motion the defining moment of the debate when Crowley offered Obama a brief chance to respond to Romney saying that the president began his term with "an apology tour" through the Middle East.

Obama returned to the bloodshed in Benghazi. In his brief remark, he included these words: "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."

Here is what follows, according to the New York Times transcript:

MS. CROWLEY: Governor, if you want to reply just quickly to this, please.

MR. ROMNEY: Yeah, I — I certainly do. I certainly do. I — I think it’s interesting the president just said something which is that on the day after the attack, he went in the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror. You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Please proceed.

MR. ROMNEY: Is that what you’re saying?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor.

MR. ROMNEY: I — I — 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.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Get the transcript.

MS. CROWLEY: It — he did in fact, sir.

So let me — let me call it an act of terrorism — (inaudible) —

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy? (Laughter, applause.)

MS. CROWLEY: He did call it an act of terror.

Romney reached for the brass ring and ended up face first in the latrine.  

What's more, it offered Obama the opportunity to credibly assert his stature as Commander in Chief as he dressed Romney down as if he were a dilettante in a dangerous world.  Because just before Romney stepped into it real deep, Obama sternly lectured him, staring him directly in the eye:

And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the secretary of state, our UN 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.

Romney's lust for a coup de grace backfired and the former governor of Massachusetts was left a rattled shadow of his bravado self in the first debate. Romney shambled into the next question about gun control with a Bloomfield Hills ramble that included the claim that if young people are going to have babies, they should get married and then we will have less gun violence.  A short time later, after Obama gracefully and persuasively closed with a "47 percent" put down that Romney could not respond to due to time having run out, the governor was seen in a wide angle shot aimlessly wandering around on the circular red carpet.

The second debate went Obama's way for a variety of reasons, particularly because he forcefully and firmly called Romney out on his cornucopia of lies.  Obama was also the Commander in Chief of the debate.  Romney had been curtailed from his interrupting, intimidating sales pitches by a surprisingly vigilant Candy Crowley.

What is so important about the Benghazi moment is it cuts off a strategy that the Romney campaign was starting to find had some political traction.  Remember, the next debate is about foreign policy, and all Romney has going for him was insulting the British, the Palestinians, pandering to Israel and forgetting that free Poland arose from a union movement.  Then for a few days, he employed an opportunistic usage of the Benghazi killings.

But with just a few minutes left in the town hall encounter, Romney's flim-flam high pressure sales approach imploded with his smug challenge to just three words: "act of terror."

For a fuller analysis of the debate, including the Benghazi moment, read William Rivers Pitt on "When the President Comes to Town."