During the 2nd Presidential Debate on October 16, 2012 the issue of Benghazi came to the forefront after a question about security arrangements at the consulate. The President used his answer to criticize Gov. Romney for playing politics while the attack was taking place. After a response from Romney, the President became indignant at the idea that anyone on his team would play politics with the deaths of four Americans:
Obama: The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people and the world that we were going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror. And I also said that we were 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 UN 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 was of course the statement which set up the big moment in the 2nd debate when Candy Crowley seemed to side with the President on what he had said about Benghazi in the Rose Garden.
Weeks later we found out that the President’s angry response was, ironically, a case of playing politics with situation. He did use the phrase “act of terror” in the Rose Garden, but as an unaired 60 Minutes interview shot the same day made clear, the President did not label Benghazi terrorism. In fact he avoided calling it that, instead connecting it to the You Tube video Innocence of Muslims. Here’s what the President told Steve Kroft:
KROFT: Mr. President, this morning you went out of your way to avoid the use of the word terrorism in connection with the Libya Attack, do you believe that this was a terrorism attack?
OBAMA: Well it’s too early to tell exactly how this came
about, what group was involved, but obviously it was an attack on
Americans. And we are going to be working with the Libyan government to
make sure that we bring these folks to justice, one way or the other.
CBS only chose to release this bit of the conversation, which put the lie to Obama’s claim, two weeks after the election.
But the President wasn’t the only one playing politics. If recent reports prove accurate, then other members of “his team” including several at the State Department and inside the White House were actively playing politics with the facts in the days after the attack.
There is no way to pretend the President did not promise the American people, in the most public way possible, that he and his administration would not play politics with Benghazi. If it turns out they have and that his own staff was part of it, he should be held responsible.