Team Romney wants everyone to think the larger problem is that Obama won't confront terrorism by name. That he is an appeaser. That we're being attacked as a result. But that is nonsense, and voters know it. They've known it all along. When Obama says he's going to do his best to track down and kill whoever attacked our consulate, voters believe him, as they should.
He will try to do just that.
So why doesn't Romney change his line of attack? Why doesn't he stop acting like the problem in Libya is what Obama said after the Benghazi attack, as opposed to what he did before the attack?
Ross Douthat is wondering too.
As he notes, there are much stronger critiques that someone could make about Obama's Libya policy, the security vacuum it created, and the various ways that security vacuum threatens American interests. Perhaps Romney isn't making them because he too favored intervening at times?
Instead Romney focuses on the fact that Team Obama at first thought, or at least said, that Benghazi was the act of a crowd protesting a movie, and only later acknowledged that it was a premeditated terrorist attack. Romney is right about that. I criticized the Obama Administration on the same grounds. I just don't see why that particular criticism would change any voter minds.
As it turns out, Romney wasn't even able to prosecute that point, because he was apparently unaware that Obama used the words "act of terror" in his Rose Garden speech. Tripped up on that detail, and corrected by the moderator, he lost the exchange in the eyes of most viewers. But even had Romney more adeptly shown that Obama was slow getting accurate facts to the public, it wouldn't have mattered. Romney will fail on that issue because his larger narrative is wrong. Obama has lots of flaws. An unwillingness to confront acts of terrorism and terrorists isn't one of them.
Okay, now to the transcript. Below are all the Rose Garden comments, with sections characterizing the attack boldfaced:
Good morning. Every day, all across the world, American diplomats and
civilians work tirelessly to advance the interests and values of our
nation. Often, they are away from their families. Sometimes, they brave
great danger. Yesterday, four of these extraordinary Americans were killed in an
attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi. Among those killed was our
Ambassador, Chris Stevens, as well as Foreign Service Officer Sean
Smith. We are still notifying the families of the others who were
killed. And today, the American people stand united in holding the
families of the four Americans in our thoughts and in our prayers.
The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and
shocking attack. We're working with the government of Libya to secure
our diplomats. I've also directed my administration to increase our
security at diplomatic posts around the world. And make no mistake, we
will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who
attacked our people.
Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects
all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of
others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of
senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally
reject these brutal acts.
Already, many Libyans have joined us in doing so, and this attack
will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya. Libyan
security personnel fought back against the attackers alongside
Americans. Libyans helped some of our diplomats find safety, and they
carried Ambassador Stevens's body to the hospital, where we tragically
learned that he had died.
It's especially tragic that Chris Stevens died in Benghazi because it
is a city that he helped to save. At the height of the Libyan
revolution, Chris led our diplomatic post in Benghazi. With
characteristic skill, courage, and resolve, he built partnerships with
Libyan revolutionaries, and helped them as they planned to build a new
Libya. When the Qaddafi regime came to an end, Chris was there to serve
as our ambassador to the new Libya, and he worked tirelessly to support
this young democracy, and I think both Secretary Clinton and I relied
deeply on his knowledge of the situation on the ground there. He was a
role model to all who worked with him and to the young diplomats who
aspire to walk in his footsteps.
Along with his colleagues, Chris died in a country that is still
striving to emerge from the recent experience of war. Today, the loss of
these four Americans is fresh, but our memories of them linger on. I
have no doubt that their legacy will live on through the work that they
did far from our shores and in the hearts of those who love them back
Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we
marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks. We mourned with the
families who were lost on that day. I visited the graves of troops who
made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hallowed
grounds of ArlingtonCemetery, and had the opportunity to say thank you
and visit some of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed. And then last
night, we learned the news of this attack in Benghazi.
As Americans, let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only
sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to
stand up for it, and in some cases, lay down their lives for it. Our
country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service
of those both civilian and military who represent us around the globe.
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. Today we mourn four more 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 for this terrible act. And make no mistake,
justice will be done.
But we also know that the lives these Americans led stand in stark
contrast to those of their attackers. These four Americans stood up for
freedom and human dignity. They should give every American great pride
in the country that they served, and the hope that our flag represents
to people around the globe who also yearn to live in freedom and with
We grieve with their families, but let us carry on their memory, and
let us continue their work of seeking a stronger America and a better
world for all of our children.
Thank you. May God bless the memory of those we lost and may God bless the United States of America.
As you can see, it's unclear whether Obama is applying the descriptor "acts of terror" to the attack on Benghazi or not. The killing of the ambassador is the subject of the whole speech. On the other hand, Obama had just mentioned the September 11 attacks, and could've been referring to them when he noted that America won't be shaken by acts of terror. It's impossible to tell.