The Libya Question

I think I’m nearly alone on the left in believing the Libya question in last night’s debate was not a total win for President Obama. I think he could have been even stronger than he was in his own answer, where he talked about how seriously he takes the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and others. After all, Mitt is by his own admission politicizing this, and it would be totally fair for Obama to call him out for dancing on the Ambassador’s grave.

I also think Candy Crowley got a moment of false neutral cold feet, when she said it took “about 2 weeks” for the White House to admit the protest was not a response to an anti-Muslim film. According to CNN, the last time Obama raised the video was on September 20.

Well, we’re still doing an investigation, and there are going to be different circumstances in different countries. And so I don’t want to speak to something until we have all the information. What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the outrage over the video were used as an excuse by extremists to see if they can also directly harm U.S. interests —

So Crowly’s idea of a fact check here was to fudge by 5 days. And even that was in the context of questions about the protests generally.

Before we start, before talking about education and its future, we would like to talk about something that is happening right now in recent news. As we know, at the present time, 1,000 people are trying to get into the embassy in Pakistan, and we have seen protests, anti-American protests in thousands of countries.

We know in Libya, four Americans were killed. We know now that Ambassador Chris Stevens warned about security days before he was killed. Many people want to know whether — if you expected so much anti-American sentiment in the Islamic world. And why wasn’t your administration better prepared with more security at our embassies on September 11?

Still, this “fact check” from John Dickerson is batshit crazy.

The president’s tall tales came during a debate over Libya. The administration’s story is changing almost daily about what happened, who knew what when, and who is going to take responsibility for it. The topic presents political peril for the president. He effectively took command, saying that all responsibility rested with him and that he would get to the bottom of who killed the four Americans, including the ambassador. He criticized Romney for using the issue to score political points and took umbrage at the suggestion that anyone in his administration would act politically. Then, he proceeded to act politically. That is, if you define acting politically as suggesting something that isn’t true is true for the purpose of saving your job.

Obama said, “The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people … that this was an act of terror.” Obama was trying to suggest that he had declared this a terrorist attack long before his administration actually did. For days and days afterward, administration officials would not claim it was a terrorist attack. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice famously refused to call it such on Face the Nation. The president was trying to reset the timeline. If you look at the president’s statement in the Rose Garden, he does use that phrase, but it’s a throwaway cliché. Indeed, it arguably wasn’t about the attack at all, just a bromide about more general acts of terror. In any event, the president buried the lead in the tenth paragraph of his remarks. That’s why none of the papers at the time reported that he had characterized any part of the attack as having to do with terrorism. When Romney called him on it, the president wouldn’t answer. “Please proceed, governor,” he said, as if he were the moderator and not the fellow who was being called out. It was the verbal equivalent of putting your hands over your eyes and pretending no one will see you. [my emphasis and link]

Yes, this fetish with calling things terrorism has become a cliché. But that’s the point–the entire reason Mitt’s team has staked so much on it. Yet using the word precisely as Mitt is using is somehow invalidates it for Dickerson.

And for a journalist to suggest that it’s the President’s fault this wasn’t reported?

So maybe I am totally wrong about how well the Libya question will serve Obama. If reporters like Dickerson are now blaming the President because they didn’t report this well back in September, it must have been an important moment, right?

16 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    You’re not the only one. I’ve seen comments elsewhere that it wasn’t the best answer Obama could have come up with.

    It’s better than the first one, though. And I hear the next one is supposed to focus on foreign policy.

  2. PeasantParty says:

    First, I’d like to point out that Crowley lost control of the debate. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but why she didn’t tell Rmoney to face the audience and get out of the President’s face was a show. That said much more to me than the words that were thrown about.

    Rmoney refused to listen to the moderator as well.

    With that said, yes the fact that the incident was not reported or even reported correctly tells that Pentagon, DC, and Corporate news is worthless. Thank goodness we still have some investigative reporters willing to dig around and point things out.

    Just yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity to link to this site regarding the Benghazi events.

  3. eCAHNomics says:

    Stevens was the point man for organizing U.S. hit squads (think Negroponte) in Libya to be sent to Syria. He got betrayed & assassinated by two of the groups he was working with.

  4. erichwwk says:


    Agree re role of Stevens. Think Marcy’s misses what went on? However, sense I get is that Stevens was collateral damage. Attackers more interested in knowing what CIA was up to, who players were, and what the oil contracts were. Sense I get is they were successful in obtaining data.
    Re Obama @ Rose garden, Obabama’s response was masterful, both in Rose garden [ ] and in response to Romney. On 9-12-12, admin was not sure how to play it, misdirecting with Muslim film was first choice, but not a sure thing. Moon of Alabama dot org and MaClatchy sunk that misdirect on 9-13-12

    But yes, this could be a major blow to Obama if Romney is successful in flushing out obfuscation, but not a given that he can.

  5. klynn says:

    Romney has not followed the rules of debate in either debate. He likes to be a rude bulldozer-type of personality.

    THE key reason Romney should NEVER be President. No self-control.

  6. joanneleon says:

    I agree that this might not end up being as good a thing for Obama as those cheering on the left might think. His answer could have been stronger in the areas that you identified. But overall, Libya is not an issue that the Obama campaign wants to have raging in the media for another one, two, three news cycles because overall the whole incident is a negative for them.

    An honest analysis of the Rose Garden speech acknowledges that right up front in the speech, he refers to the anti-Muslim film, an implication that this was the reason for the embassy attack and other embassy attacks which were being conflated with this one at that point in time (particularly the one in Egypt that they initially connected with this one). It is not until much later in the speech that he uses the term “acts of terror” and it is embedded in a paragraph that refers to the 9/11 attacks. I think that is what Dickerson is referring to there, but his argument doesn’t work very well. Obama covered himself by using the term, but he also had members of his administration out there speaking for the administration and specifically saying it was not a planned attack, it was related to the film, etc.

    Everybody knows that, well everybody who knows the details of the situation and was paying attention as it happened. Crowley… I don’t know. She back pedalled after the debate and clarified, but by that time the media was off and running. 2000+ articles about the dust up via Google news search two hours later. 10,000+ by this morning.

    Romney got hurt by this, no doubt about that and especially because he was going in for the kill. Obama was lucky that he had put that phrase in the speech while his administration went out for how long, at least a week, telling a different story and there is other information out there that seems to prove that they might have known within 24 hours that it was a planned attack. We were all watching it unfold — so everybody here knows how it played out. But I think that the biggest reason that this could backfire is that it keeps the situation in Libya in the news for at least a few more days after Issa the witch hunter did it last week.

  7. joanneleon says:

    Overall, I got the strong feeling that this was kind of blowback for Romney though in a couple different ways — he played fast and loose with the facts in the debate that he decisively won. So even if what Obama said wasn’t exactly true, or could be interpreted more than one way, Romney is kind of getting back what he dished out, so it’s blowback of sorts.

    These debates end up being a referendum on style more than facts anyway. And in that sense, he did not come off very well during the Libya question.

    One thing I forgot about… everybody has totally forgotten about actual question from the audience about Libya. I thought the question and the questioner were interesting. Did that guy really want to know about Libya because he and his colleagues were wondering, or did he really just want to say the first sentence of the question which established that the blame was on the State Department, not the administration on the same day that Hillary stepped out and took responsibility for it?

  8. thatvisionthing says:

    Didn’t see the debate. Am only surfing the sense of the argument on the Libya question. But, trying to pin down when Obama told the truth? I voted for him the first time and I can tell you which side of his mouth I thought I was voting for, but since then here are all these people telling me, no, it was the other side you should have been listening to, fool. I point to words. They point to words. Words were said, things were not said. Just saying, been there, done that. Have fun.

    Also, people like to call when a debate was won or lost? As far as I’m concerned, Obama lost the debates before they ever started, because when he talks now I dive to turn him off.

  9. Michael Murry says:

    President Obama flagrantly violated the War Powers Act by instigating and perpetrating the violent overthrow of the Libyan regime, not only without the express permission of Congress, but in open defiance of it. That violent overthrow of the Libyan regime predictably resulted in a power vacuum which armed factions immediately rushed to fill — with predictable, chaotic results. Posting an “ambassador” to an unstable environment without a government virtually begged for one or another of the contending militia factions to score some always-popular points by hitting back at the United States for its always reprehensible policies in the Middle East.

    But did Romney criticize Obama for violating our own laws and instigating chaos in Libya that has now predictably blown back upon the United States? Not a chance. That failure to step to the left of Obama and speak to the American people’s disgust with these endless Presidential wars for nothing but domestic political repute marks Willard Romney as even less of a man and leader than either Deputy Dubya Bush or his understudy, Barack Obama.

    President Obama and Willard Romney have no discernible differences whatsoever when it comes to America’s Apartheid Zionist foreign policy. And their next debate on this subject, I suspect, will concern only which one of them will officially move America’s capital to Tel Aviv the fastest, since this has already happened as a matter of fact.

  10. 4jkb4ia says:


    The minute Romney said that the day after the attack, Obama went to a fundraiser, he couldn’t save his answer. Romney put himself open to saying that Chris Stevens was more important than any of the soldiers being killed in Afghanistan. It also came off as a cheap political salvo. I could hear how badly Romney lost the answer as opposed to Obama winning even when hoping desperately for the Kitties to score more runs.

  11. 4jkb4ia says:

    12 forgets that you can’t support Israel without understanding that Jerusalem is the capital. People I know were actually upset with the Democrats for that particular piece of chaos.
    (ABL proved that she is Jewish enough to get that one right. The only impact of not saying that Jerusalem is the capital is more demagoguery for the RJC and Bibi Netanyahu.)

  12. kim says:

    Almost a week after the Rose Garden speech Obama, when directly asked if it was terrorism, refused to label it. This was several days AFTER his counter-terrorism czar had called it terrorism. I found that a bit odd.

  13. Michael CheneyWatch McCollum says:

    “misdirecting with Muslim film was first choice,”

    Sorry mate, the misdirection wasn’t from the WH. The read on the ground in the north of Africa was that reactions that day from Egypt to Libya were in direct relation to IOM film.

    Now…we can meta argue that the real fighters weren’t truly offended but we cannot dispute what they were claiming was their reason. Libya and Cairo aren’t very far apart when it comes to passing messages along social media.

    On Sept 9, protests were called for in Cairo to happen at Embassy. Even one of the people who called for the protests was upset that protesters breached the wall.

    But it has been easy to fall into the “Libya had nothing to do with Cairo, had nothing to do with film” and sorry, that is false.

    Reuters and NYTimes are barely running the story but clearly as we get closer to those who were involved, they’ve been making it clear that they were sick of our shit.

Comments are closed.