Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The best moment in last night's Prez debate

If you missed last night's second presidential debate, I advise you to remedy that mistake post-haste: you can catch it here, here, or here. Obama's lethargic lecturing from the first debate was nowhere to be seen last night. The POTUS came in swinging, and gave plenty of that no-holds-barred political knife-fighting ninja-technique which Dem supporters (such as your correspondent) eat up like candy or red meat or high-quality illegal substance.

This is entertainment. You thought Biden repeatedly punching Paul Ryan in the head--hanging out in the background giggling at Ryan's numbers, calling them "malarkey" and "a bunch of stuff"--was fun? Wait until you see Obama all but challenge Romdog to a duel (at 1hr 13min. on the first link, above). The issue at hand was the Benghazi, Libya attack which left Amabassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead on the 9/11 anniversary about a month ago.

This should have been an easy attack for Romney. What happened was, for about two weeks it was supposed that the attack was a spontaneous reaction to an inflammatory Youtube video which portrayed the prophet Mohammed in a let's call it unflattering light. Then the White House/US came out and said that, no, actually it seems that the attack was planned in advance by Islamic militias. (Sidenote: the popular Libyan response to the attack was overwhelmingly pro-American: 30,000 Libyans took to the streets protesting the attack, and they literally ran militias out of town who were suspected of involvement with the attack.)

But so the basic Romney criticism was that Obama fudged the ball by taking so long to respond to the attack as a planned terrorist action, rather than a spontaneous uprising. He's been doing this since the night of the attack, criticizing whatever Obama does as incompetent and the wrong move.

In response, Obama took an aggressive stance:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job. But she works for me. I'm the president. And I'm always responsible. And that's why nobody is more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I did (sic).

The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden, and I told the American people and 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. And then a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families.

And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the secretary of state, our U.N. ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive. That's not what we do. That's not what I do as president. That's not what I do as commander in chief.

This is the best moment in the debate: Obama's stare at Romney could cut glass, and his moral outrage is palpable.

But just when you think it can't get any better, here's how Romney responds:

MODERATOR: Governor, if you want to reply just quickly to this, please.

MR. ROMNEY: Yeah, I — I certainly do. I certainly do. I — I think it's interesting the president just said something which is that on the day after the attack, he went in the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror. You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration. [At this point Romney looks at Obama with his eyebrows cartoonishly raised up, like, 'Isn't that true?'.]

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Please proceed.

MR. ROMNEY: Is that what you're saying?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor.

MR. ROMNEY: I — I — I want to make sure we get that for the record, because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Get the transcript.

So what's happened is Romney, rather than sticking to his broad criticism of "It took you two weeks to figure out what happened" lets himself get fixated on the specific point of whether Obama used the phrase "act of terror" in his remarks on the day after the attack. Not satisfied with criticizing Obama's response as 'not good enough,' Romney wanted to nail him as being too timid to use the word "terror" in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

He should have been more certain of his facts. Because here's what happened next:

MODERATOR: It — he did in fact, sir.  So let me — let me call it an act of terrorism —

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy? (Laughter, applause.)

MODERATOR: He did call it an act of terror. It did as well take — it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea of there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.

Here's the actual quote from the Rose Garden speech, given the day after the attack:

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.

Yup: Obama sure did call it an "act of terror." And Romney, by focusing on that specific question rather than his broader criticism, set himself up to look like a fool. Obama's campaign couldn't have scripted it better: Obama's "please proceed, Governor" remarks highlight how it was Romney, not Obama, who chose to make the actual wording of the Rose Garden speech an issue; so when the moderator steps in and says, "He did in fact, sir," Romney looks like a fool of his own making. It's like in superhero movies, when the villain's own hubris leads to their demise: Romney overreached, and the move blew up in his face.

This is bloody golden.

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