(Cross posted from Blogodidact) Some folks are surprised by the ire directed at CNN’s Candy Crowley for her efforts in moderating the last debate, particularly for her ‘factual insertion’ regarding an ‘act of terror’. Well, since the context depends just as much upon what was not said, as well as what was not said, lets have a look at what was, wasn’t, and should have been said, both during the debate, and in the original White House statement’s – what was written and approved, and the President’s live comments, the day after the attack took place.
This all began of course during one of the many prickly moments in the debate, this time when it ‘strayed’ towards Libya and Obama tried to erect himself with a comment that,
“… the day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we’re going to hunt down those who committed this crime.”
Romney knew that to be untrue, and set out after the president. After some back and forth, Romney pointed out that it was in fact 14 days before Obama called it “an act of terror“. Obama retreated, and then told Romney to,
“Get the transcript”
Crowley, seemingly shocked at this questioning of the media narrative, and stuttering in a manner that’d make Obama proud, said,
“eh,eh,eh, he, ah, he did in, in fact sir, so let me, let me, uh, call it an act of terror, so ul [garbled]…”
At which point Obama takes advantage of being let off the spitted hook Romney had him on, says
“Can you say that a little louder, Candy?”
She chuckles, as does the much pleased audience, and she says
“He did call it an act of terror, he did as well, uh, take, it did as well, uh, take, two weeks or so, uh, for the whole idea of their being a riot out there about this tape, to come out, you’re correct about that.”
There are many things to criticize Crowley for on this, not least of which was that she was supposed to be the moderator, not a tag-team player in the debate. Her job was to keep the candidates moving along and on point, not to help one of them to make their point for them, or to restrain the other from pressing home their point.
The fact is that Crowley not only did not insert facts into the debate, she effectively removed them, and in the process helped Obama to escape from a very, very, uncomfortable situation. There are many things which that is, but moderating isn’t one of them; it was instead tantamount to a referee knocking the ball out of bounds for the home team.
The words you choose have meaning – as do the words not chosen
As to factual evidence of the President’s statement in question, while in the leftist world, where concepts and principles are relegated to 2nd place, and at best to factoids, her comment was neither factual nor accurate. People like to say that words have meaning, but what meaning they have is determined by the context of the passage (comment, speech, book, etc) they are used or abused in. Noting that the word ‘terror’ was used, is a meaningless factoid, of not much more worth than noting the total number of words used in the speech.
The question is did the President call the Benghazi attack and ‘act of terror’, and the answer, easily verifiable by looking at his own words, is no, he did not.
The official transcript does not even mention the word terror at all. Not in any way shape or form. Nada. Zero. None. Look for yourself (at the link, or it’s reproduced at the bottom as a courtesy to my intellectually lazy readers):
“I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi,…”
Here it is simply characterized as an outrageous attack. Of course… he also called Romney’s comment to him in the debate outrageous, presumably he wasn’t calling Romney a terrorist, or imply that he was engaging in a terrorist attack?
He closes out that paragraph with the comment that those killed
“… stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.”
Callously took their lives is a far different thing than being murdered for a political cause. He then directs that the barn door be closed, now that the horse, 9/11, is out, by having his administration
“…provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya…”
and around the globe. He then refers to what he has already put forward as the cause of unrest in the region, the obscure anti-Muslim video (which he was to hang Susan Rice out to dry on, that Sunday)
“While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others”
, and says that
“we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.”
“That kid of senseless violence” is also not calling, or even appropriately hinting at calling, the Benghazi incident a Terrorist Act.
In his words at the podium, he says he will
“Work with the Libyan govt, to bring to justice, the killers, of our people.”
The word Killers is also not a reference to terrorism, and that failure to not state it flat out, clearly, as an act of terror, is a much louder statement, portraying this as simply a ‘man caused disaster’. He then says that:
“…there is absolutely no justification to this kind of senseless violence.”
Yet another deliberate instance of Not referring to an act of terror. He continues, “… None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.” Another deliberate instance of Not referring to an act of terror.
He makes further references to ‘attacks’ and ‘attackers’, but pointedly not to terrorism. After an extended comment on Ambassador Stevens activities, he finally gets around to mentioning 9/11 (but not terrorism) and how he’d visited wounded warriors and then learned of this, you guessed it, ‘attack’. Finally, he manages to eek out the word terror,
“No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values we stand for. Today we mourn four Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done in this terrible act, and make no mistake, justice will be done.”
In that context, and following his ramble about what he did to mark 9/11, it was at best an oblique and very general comment about terrorism in general, it was NOT an instance of coming out and calling the Benghazi attacks to be an act of terror, made all the more obvious by his reference immediately afterward to a ‘terrible act’, and then again, to attackers:
“But we also know that the lives these Americans led, stand in stark contrast to their attackers.”
The very deliberate intent of this entire speech, and of the complete absence of the word ‘terror’ from the official statement, is to deliberately Not refer to Benghazi as an act of terror.
I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.
I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.
On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States. Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi. As Ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya’s transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my Administration, and deeply saddened by this loss.
The brave Americans we lost represent the extraordinary service and sacrifices that our civilians make every day around the globe. As we stand united with their families, let us now redouble our own efforts to carry their work forward.