Candy Crowley exceeded my wildest expectations last night when she inserted herself into the Second Presidential Debate to shut down a Mitt Romney line of attack and steer the conversation away from any potential embarrassment for President Obama.
When asked by Kerry Ladka, who made the decision to refuse additional security at the consulate in Benghazi and why, a visibly flustered President Obama responded with a vague and meandering evasion, one that eventually settled on an accusation that Governor Romney politicized the issue. Up steps the ever helpful moderator Candy Crowley to guide Obama to a more presidential posture. Does the buck really stop with the Secretary of State, Ms. Crowley hinted.
CROWLEY: Because we're -- 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?
Obama siezed his opportunity. Of course the buck stops with him, he said magnanimously. Which of course we know is a bunch of BS. Anything bad is always somebody else's fault. But as Obama wandered through a self-congratulatory description of his wonderful presidentiality, he slipped up. One of the presidential moments he described was the day after the attack when he stood in the Rose Garden and told America and the world that the attack was an act of terror.
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's more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I do.
The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people in 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.
Mitt Romney was stunned. Obama told the American people and the world that "this was an act of terror?" That doesn't square at all with what the Obama administration had been saying in the days and weeks after that attack. He asked the president to confim that he really said that. More than once.
CROWLEY: Governor, if you want to...
ROMNEY: Yes, I -- I...
CROWLEY: ... quickly to this please.
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.
ROMNEY: This -- the administration -- the administration indicated this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.
CROWLEY: It did.
ROMNEY: It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group. And to suggest -- am I incorrect in that regard, on Sunday, the -- your secretary --
ROMNEY: Excuse me. The ambassador of the United Nations went on the Sunday television shows and spoke about how --
OBAMA: Candy, I'm --
ROMNEY: -- this was a spontaneous --
After siding with the president on his mistatement of fact, Crowley then jumped in to prevent Governor Romney from pursuing the obvious, and obviously embarrassing question: If the president was saying the next day that it was an act of terror, why did he send the ambassador to the UN out to all the Sunday talk shows a week later to say it was a spontaneous demonstration over a video? Crowley forcefully and abruptly cut off any more discussion on it.
CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me --
OBAMA: I'm happy to have a longer conversation --
CROWLEY: I know you --
OBAMA: -- about foreign policy.
CROWLEY: Absolutely. But I want to -- I want to move you on and also --
OBAMA: OK. I'm happy to do that, too.
CROWLEY: -- the transcripts and --
OBAMA: I just want to make sure that --
CROWLEY: -- figure out what we --
OBAMA: -- all of these wonderful folks are going to have a chance to get some of their questions answered.
CROWLEY: Because what I -- what I want to do, Mr. President, stand there a second, because I want to introduce you to Nina Gonzalez, who brought up a question that we hear a lot, both over the Internet and from this crowd.
It was an extraordinarily disgraceful performance by a mainstream media moderator. Prior to the debate Crowley insisted upon making her presence felt for the purpose, she said, to make sure questions would be answered. What she did was quite the opposite. On the toughest question of the night for the president she coached Obama to the correct answer, then desperately shut down Governor Romney's follow up to it, for which she was cheered by the partisan audience. It was a remarkable display of presidential and media dishonesty.
Update: I'm struck that most commentary seems focused on whether Romney was right or wrong when he disputed Obama's claim that he callied the attack "an act of terror" the day after it happened. The real issue was the follow up question that Romney was prevented from asking.
Whatever marginal help President Obama got from Candy Crowley’s wrong-headed intervention re Libya will dissipate in the morning air, as the stenographers in the MSM contemplate the question: If Obama knew it was terrorism on Day Two, then why did his administration continue to blame the video for days afterward? Amusing to see CNN rush to her defense by quoting, out of context, the president’s reference to “terror,” but such Clintonian legalistic parsing won’t wash once the parade of contradictory TV clips starts appearing on blogs, in YouTube ads and on Fox tomorrow. [my emphasis above]
I think the question should be asked more bluntly in the blogs and on Fox News: If the White House knew it was terrorism on day two, why was the UN ambassador sent off to the Sunday talk shows to lie to the American people by blaming the video?
Follow up question to that one: What was the better intelligence that the UN ambassador was given than the real time video taken prior to and during the armed attack on the consulate?