Team Obama kraait victorie over de smack down die Mitt Romney over Libië kreeg in het tweede presidentiële debat, maar de man die de eigenlijke vraag stelde, was minder tevreden. Eric Wemple van de Washington Post vroeg het aan Kerry Ladka en die antwoordde: “I really didn’t think he totally answered the question satisfactorily as far as I was concerned.” Later zou de president hem apart nemen voor een privé onderhoud over de kwestie Libië en toegeven dat hij bewust heeft gewacht om het drama als terrorisme te bestempelen.
Wat ons bij blijft uit het debat is de verhitte discussie die plaatsvond over of president Obama nu wel of niet meteen het drama in Benghazi een ‘act of terror’ genoemd heeft. En of dat ook betekende dat hij de aanval op het consulaat waarbij vier Amerikanen omkwamen meteen kwalificeerde als de terroristische aanslag die het later bleek te zijn. Maar wat was de vraag waar het allemaal mee begon? De vraag van Kerry Ladka luidde:
Q: This question actually comes from a brain trust of my friends at Global Telecom Supply in Mineola yesterday. We were sitting around talking about Libya, and we were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans. Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?
Wat volgde was een gelikte verhandeling van Obama over hoe erg het drama was, hoe adequaat hij erop reageerde, en wat een gevoelloze hork Romney wel niet is dat hij politieke munt probeerde te slaan uit het drama. Maar geen antwoord op de vraag wie er extra beveiliging van het consulaat geweigerd had vóór dat de aanvallen plaats hadden. Wellicht dat Obama zich daar niet helemaal goed over voelde, na het debat nam hij de vragensteller apart om extra tekst en uitleg te geven.
Act of terror
Tegenover vragensteller Ladka gaf Obama toe dat hij twee weken gewacht had om Benghazi volledig als terroristische aanslag te kwalificeren omdat hij zeker wilde weten dat “intelligence he was acting on was real intelligence and not disinformation”. Een zelfde verhaal vertelde Ladka ook tegenover FoxNews. Daaruit blijkt dus dat dat Romney wel een punt had toen hij stelde dat Obama twee weken lang het Amerikaanse volk niet het juiste verhaal vertelde. Obama ontweek de kwestie door in het debat met Romney te stellen dat hij de aanval op het consulaat meteen de dag erna een “act of terror” had genoemd, alsof het Witte Huis niet eerst lange tijd vol had gehouden dat het Benghazi drama het gevolg was van een spontane rel in reactie op een anti-Islam film. Arme Romney gebruikte alleen het verkeerde woord “act of terror” om Obama op aan te vallen, zo gaf moderator Candy Crowley later ook toe. Die term had Obama wel degelijk meteen gebruikt, maar dat waren meer algemene bewoordingen, zo blijkt nu wel (“No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this nation”).
In het debat haalde Obama zijn gelijk over zijn gebruikte woorden met hulp van de moderator en een daverend applaus van medestanders in het publiek. Voor Ladka, die geen antwoord kreeg, stelde Obama wel publiekelijk teleur. Maar hij kon het het privé onderonsje wel waarderen: “I appreciate his private answer more than his public answer.” Op wie hij ging stemmen, daar liet Ladka zich nog niet over uit. “I like Obama very much but I am very impressed with Romney’s business background.” Die blijft dus nog wel even zweven tot 6 november.
Hieronder de hele Libië episode uit het debat naar aanleiding van een vraag waarop dus geen antwoord kwam:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me, first of all, talk about our diplomats, because they serve all around the world and do an incredible job in a very dangerous situation. And these aren’t just representatives of the United States; they’re my representatives. I send them there, oftentimes into harm’s way. I know these folks, and I know their families. So nobody’s more concerned about their safety and security than I am.
So as soon as we found out that the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team, and I gave them three instructions. Number one, beef up our security and — and — and procedures not just in Libya but every embassy and consulate in the region. Number two, investigate exactly what happened, regardless of where the facts lead us, to make sure that folks are held accountable and it doesn’t happen again. And number three, we are going to find out who did this, and we are going to hunt them down, because one of the things that I’ve said throughout my presidency is when folks mess with Americans, we go after them.
Now, Governor Romney had a very different response. While we were still dealing with our diplomats being threatened, Governor Romney put out a press release trying to make political points. And that’s not how a commander in chief operates. You don’t turn national security into a political issue, certainly not right when it’s happening.
And people — not everybody agrees with some of the decisions I’ve made. But when it comes to our national security, I mean what I say. I said I’d end the war in Libya — in Iraq, and I did. I said that we’d go after al-Qaida and bin Laden. We have. I said we’d transition out of Afghanistan and start making sure that Afghans are responsible for their own security. That’s what I’m doing.
And when it comes to this issue, when I say that we are going to find out exactly what happened, everybody will be held accountable, and I am ultimately responsible for what’s taking place there, because these are my folks, and I’m the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home, you know that I mean what I say.
MS. CROWLEY: Mr. President, I got to move us along. Governor?
MR. ROMNEY: Thank you, Kerry, for your question. It’s an important one. And — and I — I think the president just said correctly that — that the buck does stop at his desk, and — and he takes responsibility for — for that — for that — the failure in providing those security resources, and those terrible things may well happen from time to time.
I — I’m — I feel very deeply sympathetic for the families of those who lost loved ones. Today there’s a memorial service for one of those that was lost in this tragedy. We — we think of their families and care for them deeply.
There were other issues associated with this — with this tragedy.
There were many days that passed before we knew whether this was a spontaneous demonstration or actually whether it was a terrorist attack. And there was no demonstration involved. It was a terrorist attack, and it took a long time for that to be told to the American people. Whether there was some misleading or instead whether we just didn’t know what happened, I think you have to ask yourself why didn’t we know five days later when the ambassador to the United Nations went on TV to say that this was a demonstration. How could of we not known?
But I find more troubling than this that on — on the day following the assassination of the United States ambassador — the first time that’s happened since 1979 — when we have four Americans killed there, when apparently we didn’t know what happened, that the president the day after that happened flies to Las Vegas for a political fundraiser, then the next day to Colorado for another event, another political event, I think these — these actions taken by a president and a leader have symbolic significance, and perhaps even material significance, in that you’d hoped that during that time we could call in the people who were actually eyewitnesses. We’ve read their accounts now about what happened. It was very clear this was not a demonstration. This was an attack by terrorists.
And this calls into question the president’s whole policy in the Middle East. Look what’s happening in Syria, in Egypt, now in Libya. Consider the distance between ourselves and Israel, where the president said that — that he was going to put daylight between us and Israel. We have Iran four years closer to a nuclear bomb. Syria — Syria’s not just the tragedy of 30,000 civilians being killed by a military, but also a strategic — strategically significant player for America. The president’s policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour and pursue a strategy of leading from behind, and this strategy is unraveling before our very eyes.
MS. CROWLEY: Because we’re closing in, I want to still get a lot of people in. I want to ask you something, Mr. President, and then have the governor just quickly. Your secretary of state, as I’m sure you know, has said that she takes full responsibility for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
Does the buck stop with your secretary of state as far as what went on here?
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.
MS. CROWLEY: 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.
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.
MS. CROWLEY: It — he did in fact, sir.
So let me — let me call it an act of terrorism — (inaudible) —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy? (Laughter, applause.)
MS. CROWLEY: 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.
MR. ROMNEY: This — the administration — the administration — (applause) — indicated that this was a — a reaction to a — to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.
MS. CROWLEY: They did.
MR. ROMNEY: It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group and — and to suggest — am I incorrect in that regard? On Sunday the — your — your secretary or —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Candy —
MR. ROMNEY: Excuse me. The ambassador to the United Nations went on the Sunday television shows and — and spoke about how this was a spontaneous reaction.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Candy, I’m — I’m happy to —
MS. CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me — I —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’m happy to have a longer conversation about foreign policy.
MS. CROWLEY: I know you — absolutely. But I want — I want to move you on.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: OK, I’m happy to do that too.
MS. CROWLEY: And also, people can go to the transcripts and —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I just want to make sure that —
MS. CROWLEY: — figure out what was said and when.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: — you know, all these wonderful folks are going to have a chance to get some — their questions answered.
Obama komt dus ook goed weg in de kwestie waarom het Witte Huis zo lang volhield dat de ellende allemaal veroorzaakt was door één suf anti-Islam filmpje.