Talking Terror In The Rose Garden

Andrew Sullivan —  Oct 17 2012 @ 10:15am

Following the debate, Candy Crowley said Romney had a point about the Benghazi rhetoric from the Obama administration but Romney "picked the wrong word":

We linked to the debate exchange here. PolitiFact referees it, calling Romney's claim that it took 14 days for the president to use the terrorist attack label a "half true" on the grounds that although he said "act of terror" in the Rose Garden on September 12, "neither [Obama] nor all the members of his administration spoke consistently on the subject."A good example of that:

[On Sept. 25,] Obama declined to called the attack an act of terrorism when asked directly on ABC’s The View. "We are still doing an investigation," he said when asked if the Benghazi attack was an act of terrorism. "There is no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn’t just a mob action. Now, we don’t have all the information yet so we are still gathering."

J.P. Freire questions Obama's implied meaning of "act of terror":

[In the Rose Garden speech, Obama] mentions the extent to which acts of terror will have an impact on American life (not much, apparently), but he never calls out this particular act as an act of terror. And whatever the case, it takes four whole minutes — a lifetime in speechwriter years — to get to that word. Terror. If you're going to rebut Romney's claim that Obama took forever to get to the heart of the matter, don't cite as your evidence a meandering speech in which Obama mentions terror, in passing, in a way that suggests, implies, or otherwise avoids directly addressing the horror as, in fact, an act of terror.

But Josh Rogin adds a piece of evidence that suggests otherwise:

[O]n Sept. 13, at a campaign event in Colorado, Obama again used the phrase "act of terror" and this time tied it directly to the Benghazi attack. "So what I want all of you to know is that we are going to bring those who killed our fellow Americans to justice. I want people around the world to hear me: To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished. It will not dim the light of the values that we proudly present to the rest of the world. No act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America," he said. [video link]

While Jim Geraghty concedes the ambiguity of the Rose Garden phrase and finds Romney's handling of the debate exchange "disappointing", he also sees an opened can of worms:

[T]he American people may remember the administration spending a lot of time talking about a YouTube video in the days after the Benghazi attack, and Obama’s sudden insistence that his administration never really pushed that implausible-from-the-start alternate explanation may strike them as odd and implausible. Viewers may also notice that the president never responded to the audience member’s question about what the administration did in response to the reports indicating Benghazi was growing increasingly dangerous.

Josh Marshall's take

Now Romney’s allies are trying to recover the fumble on his behalf by saying well, sure he uttered the word terror. But that’s just a word. Look at the context. He also mentioned the video. And videos don’t have anything to do with terror! In other words, but, but, but … the video!

Live by the buzzword, die by the buzzword. It’s been a nonsensical proposition from the start to imagine that foreign policy seriousness is defined by being the first one to hit the ‘terror’ buzzer like you’re a contestant on jeopardy. But the Romney camp laid the trap. And tonight Mitt walked right into it.

Goldblog weighs in:

Does Mitt Romney actually think that Barack Obama doesn't believe that what happened in Benghazi was an act of terror? A larger question: Does anyone seriously believe that Barack Obama, a president who is at war in more Muslim countries than any president in American history, is soft on al Qaeda? And one other question: Does Barack Obama believe that Republicans somehow aren't allowed to raise serious questions about the Administration's response to the attack?

Again, I wish the Republicans would frame these questions not to raise doubts about the commander-in-chief's innermost feelings about terrorism, but to ask what specific actions do we need to take, quickly, to try to prevent follow-on attacks?

Think Progress provides a timeline of the Benghazi fallout.