Romney trapped Obama in the Second Debate
Many in the punditry need to re-visit the section of the debate last night between Romney and Obama addressing the Libya question. Too many are saying Romney flubbed it, his answer was flustered and a lost opportunity to strike back. This was not my first impression watching the debate so I went back and watched it again. After reviewing the footage I think many in the punditry missed what really happened.
Obama finished his 2+ minute answer to the initial question with "You know that I mean what I say."
Romney then gave his 2+ minute response starting out saying many days passed before we knew if the Benghazi tragedy was a terror attack or resulted from a spontaneous demonstration. He asserted that we KNOW it was a terror attack but took a long time before the American People were told that and it was either misleading or they didn't know and, if the latter, we have to ask why. So far so good.
Romney then continued that after 5 days, the Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice went on TV and said the attack was because of the spontaneous demonstrations. Romney asked again: "How could we not know?"
He then recited how on the day following the death of Ambassador Stevens (which is the first time this has happened since 1979) when "apparently" we didn't know what happened, the President went to Vegas and the following day to Colorado for campaign events--which actions have symbolic and possibly material significance. He pointed out it was clear this was not a demonstration and called into question the President's Middle East policy. Romney then used this opportunity to go into some detail about Obama's failed Middle East policy.
Candy Crowley then asked the President about the buck stopping at his desk and he launched into his tirade about being offended by Romney calling him out the Sunday morning after the murders and said "The day after, I stood in the Rose Garden and told people this was an act of terror."
Bam! For a lawyer -- any lawyer--even one who never practiced like Romney -- this is the stuff movies are made of. This is the kind of admission we are always sniffing out and Obama, a lawyer himself who was obviously trying his hand at Clintonian hair splitting, offered it up knowing full well that's not what he said. And he got Candy to go along with him. Bad Candy.
But before the pundits continue to beat up on Romney for lost opportunities and a flubbed answer, Romney pounded Obama on his Rose Garden claims. With deadly seriousness he looked at Obama and said "I think it's interesting the President just said something 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 interjected: "That's what I said." Bam!
Romney continued: "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 are saying?"
Obama haughtily invited Romney: "Please proceed Governor." Bam!
Romney responded: "I wanna make sure we get that for the record because it took him 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror." Bam!
At which point Obama called for Candy to "Get the transcript" and she came to his rescue ruling that Obama did say it was an act of terror--applause--and that Romney was also correct that it took 14 days for clarification--applause.
Romney, with a bit of stuttering, says: "The administration indicated that this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction....It took them a long time to say this was a terrrorist act by a terrorist group....On Sunday...the Ambassador to the United Nations went on the Sunday television shows and spoke about how this was a spontaneous reaction." Bam! Bam!
Obama--desperately wanting to change the subject--announced "I'm happy to have a longer conversation about foreign policy...." as Candy tells them that she wants to move on. And the President concedes "Ok, I'm happy to do that, too.... I just wanna make sure all these wonderful folks are gonna have a chance to get some of their questions answered."
While Romney might not have had 100% alpha male domination over the answer, what he did that seems to be overlooked by way too many, was to expose the President as a liar and not just a misspeaker on an issue everyone is talking about. And, this is not just conjecture or spin. We have the ironclad transcript and video of Obama asserting this was a spontaneous demonstration--directly contradicting his statement at the debate. Yet, he brazenly reaffirmed at the debate that he said it was an act of terror
While it is risky to ask such a question, Romney got him to repeat his admission several times--so he can't say he mispoke--and can therefore EASILY impeach his credibility with the actual transcript and video of the Rose Garden statement. Romney wasn't just phumphering around. He was onto something average folks (jurors, if you will) see because, well, it isn't hard to find--it's right there in the open and completely verifiable--this guy is lying!
Contrary to the punditry's possibly legitimate concerns that this wasn't the smoothest answer and that Romney muddled rather than clarified the issue, Romney did mention the 14 days, the repeated assertion by the President and Susan Rice that Benghazi was not a terrorist attack but the result of a spontaneous demonstration and drove home the fact that this President chose to "go on with the show" and continue with the campaign rather than give his full attention to the pressing matter of our Ambassador and 3 others being slaughtered.
If I'm Karl Rove or the Romney campaign, I'm running ad after ad of Obama at the debate declaring that he said in the Rose Garden it was an act of terror. Then, I'd show his actual Rose Garden statement and speckle it with all his other statements and those of Susan Rice and Hillary reiterating that it was the result of a spontaneous demonstration because of the video. Then I'd show Romney giving Obama a chance to retract the admission, while he reaffirms it instead saying "That's what I said."
Then, I'd finish with Obama saying: "You know that I mean what I say."
And, while this might not be the answer all the Monday morning quarterbacks would have liked and has experts like Daniel Pipes, Ben Stein and George Will -- among others -- shaking their heads, it's an answer that has very long legs and will reach and resonate with independents.