Mike Kueber's Blog

November 20, 2012

Candy Crowley’s fact-checking of Obama’s Rose Garden statement

Filed under: Issues,Media,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 3:40 pm
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In reviewing this year’s presidential election, many pundits have suggested that the first debate was the most significant ever, even more significant than the Kennedy/Nixon debate in 1960.  This year’s debate in Denver was a game-changer because by most accounts, Obama, who was cruising toward an easy victory, was dreadful, whereas Romney, who had been successfully demonized by negative ads during the summer, gave a tour de force. 

Following the first debate, Romney’s momentum was palpable and the contest between Obama and Romney was a horse race.  But the momentum didn’t last, and there are two competing partisan explanations for why:

  • The Democrats claim that the Romney momentum simply ran out of steam because the underlying fundamentals of the race couldn’t sustain it.  Obama’s subsequent debate performances put the race back on its pre-debate trajectory.
  • The Republicans claim that the first-debate momentum could have been built upon in the second debate if CNN moderator Candy Crowley hadn’t inappropriately and unfairly interjected herself into the candidates’ discussion of Benghazi.  And even with his momentum blunted by Benghazi, Romney could have prevailed in the election if Chris Christie, Romney’s keynote speaker, hadn’t given Obama a platform for shifting the focus from the economy to his handling of a national disaster.

According to an article in the NY Times, Chris Christie is currently working feverishly to regain the favor of vast swaths of Republican activists and donors who are incensed – “A few days after Hurricane Sandy shattered the shores of New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie picked up the phone to take on a different kind of recovery work: taming the Republican Party fury over his effusive embrace of President Obama….  Mr. Christie has been explaining himself to Republicans ever since. His lavish praise for Mr. Obama’s response to the storm, delivered in the last days of the presidential race, represented the most dramatic development in the campaign’s final stretch. Right or wrong, conventional wisdom in the party holds that it influenced the outcome.” 

The role of Christie in the election of Obama will continue to play out in the future, but Candy Crowley’s role in that election is likely to escape further analysis.  Before moving on, however, I wanted to know the facts, and to my good fortune, I stumbled across an article on DailyKos.com that provides many the details.  To summarize:

  1. During the second debate, Romney charged that Obama misrepresented the Benghazi attack for two weeks as being prompted by a YouTube video when it was actually a terrorist attack by al Qaeda.  This charge was critical because (a) it supported Romney’s assertion that Obama liked to blame America first, and (b) it belied Obama’s assertion that al Qaeda had been decimated.
  2. Obama responded that Romney’s charge was false because Obama had immediately in a Rose Garden statement characterized Benghazi as a terrorist attack. 
  3. When Romney said Obama’s claim was not true, Crowley decided to be an on-the-spot fact checker in the following exchange:
  • ROMNEY: I — I think interesting the president just said something which — which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.
  • OBAMA: That’s what I said.
  • ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?
  • OBAMA: Please proceed governor.
  • ROMNEY: 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.
  • OBAMA: Get the transcript.
  • CROWLEY: It — it — it — he did in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terror…
  • OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy? 
  • CROWLEY: He — 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 there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.

In the exchange, President Obama snarkily suggested that we get the transcript, but Candy didn’t have time for that, so instead she paraphrased what the transcript said.  But fact-checking and paraphrasing are done at a moderator’s peril, and a review of the following transcript confirms that Candy had ventured where she shouldn’t have gone:

THE PRESIDENTGood 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 home.

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 Arlington Cemetery, 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 dignity.

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.

The transcript reveals two critical facts – (1) in the fourth paragraph, President Obama clearly indicates, albeit indirectly, that the Benghazi attack was prompted by the YouTube video, and (2) in the tenth paragraph, as he is wrapping up the statement, the President declares that no act of terror will ever shake the resolve of our great nation.   

Although you can argue either way with respect to whether the President in his statement called Benghazi an act of terror vs. a spontaneous response to a YouTube video, it is shocking that a moderator felt she should declare President Obama the winner in this exchange and bring it to a close. 

Ulimately, however, Mitt Romney bears some responsibility because he still had a third debate for clarify his winning points and, inexplicably, he declined to do so.  To this day, I’ve not heard the inside scoop on why the Romney campaign decided to not press this issue in the third and final debate.

Incidentally, the Daily Kos article pointed out that the Romney campaign might have been confused by the official White House release of the Rose Garden statement (attached below), which referred indirectly to the You Tube video, but did not include any reference to an act of terror.  Apparently, President Obama expanded greatly on his prepared remarks in actually delivering the Rose Garden statement, and I agree that the Romney campaign in listening to the statement might have missed the act-of-terror reference buried at the end of the statement.  

Statement by the President on the Attack in Benghazi

I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.

I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.

On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States. Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi. As Ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya’s transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my Administration, and deeply saddened by this loss.

The brave Americans we lost represent the extraordinary service and sacrifices that our civilians make every day around the globe. As we stand united with their families, let us now redouble our own efforts to carry their work forward. 

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