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Obama Misleads on the Libya Scandal

Romney stumbles in his response.

8:10 AM, Oct 17, 2012 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Obama, with the instincts of a good poker player who had just won on a bad hand, urged Crowley to move to a different topic. “Candy, I’m happy to have a longer conversation about foreign policy,” he began, before Crowley, sensing where Obama was heading, said she, too, wanted to move the conversation along. “I’m happy to do that, too,” Obama said, adding moments later: “I just want to make sure that all those wonderful folks are going to have a chance to get some of their questions answered.”

And the debate moved on.

Obama’s answer was fundamentally dishonest. It’s true that he used the phrase “an act of terror” in his Rose Garden remarks on September 12. But his words were not specific to Benghazi. “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,” he said. The Obama campaign can claim that since the speech was given to address the events in Libya, his words were – indirectly, and at least by implication – describing the attack there.

But that’s not what the president said at the debate. He claimed that he stood in the Rose Garden and told the American people “that this was an act of terror.” No, he didn’t.

Obama obviously wanted viewers to believe that his administration was straightforward about the fact that the deaths in Benghazi were the result of a terrorist attack. The opposite is closer to the truth.

*         On September 14, at the White House briefing, Jay Carney said: “Let’s be clear, these protests were in reaction to a video that had spread around the region.” And: “We have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack.” And: “The cause of the unrest was a video.” And: “The reason why there is unrest is because of the film. This is in response to the film.” And: there was “unrest brought about by this offensive video.” And: “The unrest that we’ve seen is in reaction to a film which the United States government had no involvement, which we have denounced as offensive.”

Carney, asked specifically whether the film led to the violence in Benghazi, seemed to rule out terrorism: “What I’m saying is that we have no evidence at this time to suggest otherwise, that there was a preplanned or ulterior instigation behind that unrest.”

When a reporter asked Carney to respond to comments from Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, who had told reporters that the attack was a “terrorist attack organized and carried out by terrorists,” in the words of the reporter, Carney pushed back. “My point was that we don’t have and did not have concrete evidence to suggest that this was not in reaction to the film”

*         That same afternoon, when Obama received the remains of the four Americans at Andrews Air Force Base, he spoke for several minutes and did not once refer to what happened in Benghazi as a terrorist attack.

*         On September 16, in her appearances on political talk shows, Ambassador Susan Rice repeatedly downplayed the possibility that the Benghazi incident was a terrorist attack. “This was not a pre-planned, premeditated attack,” she declared.

*         On September 17, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was asked directly whether the Benghazi assault was a terrorist attack. She responded: “I’m not going to put labels on this until we have a complete investigation.”

*         On September 18, one week after the attack, David Letterman asked Obama whether the attack was an act of war. The president once again invoked the video produced by a “shadowy character” and said “this caused great offense in much of the Muslim world.” He said nothing about a terrorist attack and tied the incidents in Benghazi directly to the film.

*         On September 20, Obama is asked directly whether terrorists conducted the siege in Benghazi. He notes that there’s an investigation and declines to express an opinion about terrorism. He adds: “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.”

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