Lost in the navel-gazing last night over “acts of terror” was the fact that, um, Obama wasn’t asked about that. He was asked a much more important question, one which Mitt unfortunately neglected to press him on but surely will on Monday. Quote:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’m sorry, what’s your name?
Q: It’s Kerry, Kerry Ladka.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Great to see you here.
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?
The One conveniently forgot to explain that, as Ladka pointed out afterward to WaPo’s Erik Wemple, and of course his pal Candy Crowley didn’t press him to, so we spent the early a.m. hours today engaged in a talmudic parsing of Obama’s and Jay Carney’s rhetoric on the attack instead of on the heart of the matter. I’m a little worried that Team Mitt and their Super PAC allies might keep going with that, using an opportunity to raise public awareness about what happened in Benghazi by obsessing over when a “spontaneous protest” became a “pre-planned attack” instead of focusing on State’s inexplicable negligence in refusing to better protect Chris Stevens. The administration’s ass-covering and scapegoating of the Mohammed movie is important, but it’s not the deeper scandal. The deep scandal is sending a U.S. ambassador into a jihadi hive protected by a skeleton crew of possibly treacherous locals supervised by a notably inexperienced contractor. Stevens was a sitting duck. And the next time the Unicorn Prince feigns outrage by claiming it’s “offensive” to accuse him of playing politics with what happened, Romney had very well better point that out. On the offensiveness scale, leaving the U.S. ambassador to suffocate to death while jihadi degenerates overrun his threadbare security detail ranks a wee bit higher than accusing Barack Obama of — gasp — focusing unduly on his own reelection.
But enough of that. The key bit from Wemple’s post:
President Obama, though, wasn’t done with Kerry Ladka. “After the debate, the president came over to me and spent about two minutes with me privately,” says the 61-year-old Ladka, who works at Global Telecom Supply in Mineola, N.Y. According to Ladka, Obama gave him ”more information about why he delayed calling the attack a terorist attack.” For background, Obama did apparently lump Benghazi into a reference to “acts of terror” in a Sept. 12 Rose Garden address. However, he spent about two weeks holding off on using the full “terrorist” designation. The rationale for the delay, Obama explained to Ladka, was to make sure that the “intelligence he was acting on was real intelligence and not disinformation,” recalls Ladka.
As to Ladka’s question about who turned down the Benghazi security requests and why, Obama reportedly told him that “releasing the individual names of anyone in the State Department would really put them at risk,” Ladka says.
Two things there. One: The bit about not wanting to act on incomplete intelligence is obviously self-serving nonsense. The White House’s surrogates, like Carney and Susan Rice, were only too happy to push the apparently phantom connection to the Mohammed movie. Obama himself, in the “acts of terror” speech in the Rose Garden, linked the attack to the film by saying, “We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence.” He was happy to jump the gun and float disinformation when it suited his purposes. Two: As Howard Portnoy notes in the Greenroom, and contra his own spin last night, Obama seems to acknowledge here that the “acts of terror” quote in the Rose Garden wasn’t sufficient. He “delayed” describing Benghazi specifically as a terror attack for weeks, supposedly out of an abundance of caution but in reality because it didn’t mesh with his “I kicked the shinola out of Bin Laden and Al Qaeda” reelection pitch. So by his own account, his “check the transcript” defense last night was misleading — and of course his pal Candy gave him cover on it. Perfect.
I’ll leave you with this superb little video memo to Mitt from Revealing Politics: When this comes up again on Monday, and it will, keep your eye on the ball.