Romney has already won Debate 3, and Obama knows it
posted at 10:58 am on October 19, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
In the game of poker it’s called a “tell.” A player raises his left eyebrow or licks his lower lip or makes some other unintentional but revealing gesture every time he draws a third jack or, alternatively, bluffs. A skilled opponent uses this to his advantage.
In Monday night’s third and final presidential debate, we will see whether Mitt Romney is skilled enough to read Barack Obama’s “tell” on Benghazi. He already used it, tipping his hand in Debate 2, but Romney either missed it or failed to call the president out on it.
See if you can pick it up. Here is the official White House transcript of the president speaking at a campaign rally in San Francisco on Oct. 9:
Now, four years ago, I made a few commitments to you. I told you I’d end the war in Iraq, and I did. I said I’d end the war in Afghanistan, and we are. I said we’d refocus on the people who actually attacked us on 9/11—and today, al Qaeda is on its heels and Osama bin Laden is no more.
Here he is two days later in Miami. Again, the source is the White House website:
Four years ago, I told you we’d end the war in Iraq—and we did. I said that we’d end the war in Afghanistan—and we are. I said that we’d refocus on the people who actually attacked us on 9/11—and today, al Qaeda is on its heels and Osama bin Laden is dead.
Now compare both excerpts from his standard prefabricated stump speech with his claim during the debate last Tuesday:
[W]hen it comes to our national security, I mean what I say. I said I’d end the war in Libya—in—in Iraq, and I did. I said that we’d go after al-Qaeda and bin Laden, we have.
Did you notice the difference? It’s subtle but substantive. The line about al Qaeda being “on its heels” has been modified to the more modest claim that “we’d go after al Qaeda.”
This was no slip of the tongue. Obama didn’t inadvertently omit a boast he meant to make. The day after the debate he said in Mount Vernon, Iowa (again, according to the official White House summary of his remarks):
Four years ago, I told you we’d end the war in Iraq—and I did. I said we’d end the war in Afghanistan—and we are. I said we’d focus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11—and we have, and bin Laden is dead.
His spiel has been carefully reconfigured to match the revised administration narrative about what happened in Benghazi on Sept. 11. Early on, the president and his spokesmen clung to a plausible-sounding explanation for the attack—that it was a mob response to an anti-Islamic video. Even after House testimony clarified that that was not what went down, he dispatched his U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, to five (count ‘em, five) news shows the following Sunday to perpetuate the party line, which the president repeated himself on late night TV.
As it became increasingly obvious to the American public that this was a planned, coordinated terror attack, likely orchestrated by Osama bin Laden’s successor and specifically pre-determined to coincide with Sept. 11, Obama grudgingly accepted the truth—which he probably knew on Sept. 12, the day he made his Rose Garden speech.
If he tries to weasel out of his obvious politicization of the attack in Debate 3, as he did in Debate 2, Romney will be ready. And Obama knows it.
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