Presidential Debates 2012

Did Barack Obama Call Benghazi a Terrorist Attack?

One of the most contentious points in tonight's debate hinged on the reaction to the 9/11 attack on the Benghazi consulate



What Barack Obama said toward the end of his remarks at the Rose Garden on September 12th, where he said at the debate he called Benghazi a terrorist attack:

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.

Here's what Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said on Sunday, September 16th, on Face the Nation:

Bob, let me tell you what we understand to be the assessment at present. First of all, very importantly, as you discussed with the President, there is an investigation that the United States government will launch led by the FBI, that has begun and–

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): But they are not there.

RICE: They are not on the ground yet, but they have already begun looking at all sorts of evidence of– of various sorts already available to them and to us. And they will get on the ground and continue the investigation. So we'll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions. But based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy

The qualifier of an ongoing (but at that point not yet on the ground) FBI investigation has been used to defend Rice's statements, and the administration has insisted over the last few weeks her statements and the view of the administration in the days after the attack on the Benghazi consulate were informed by the intelligence available. Yet, as we noted here on Reason on September 14:

report in The Independent relying partially on anonymous sources suggests the United States had warnings about the Tuesday's attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the assault on the embassy in Cairo…

The Independent paints a crisis as a result of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, reporting sensitive documents going missing, including lists of Libyans working with the U.S. and some related to oil contracts. None of the safe houses around the country are considered safe anymore. A link to Al-Qaeda is suspected…

The Administration latched onto the YouTube clip of Innocence of Muslims. The FBI was reported to be

an act of terror… percipated by a movie

investigating its alleged creator within days. He was taken into custody late last month.  Appearing at the United Nations less than two weeks after the Benghazi attack, the president condemned those who "slander the prophet of Islam."

The link between the attack on the Benghazi consulate and America's intervention in Libya's civil war, brought up by former presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich at hearings on the Benghazi attack, has as yet to surface in either tonight's debate or the Biden-Ryan debate that included questions on Libya.

Between Mitt Romney's interventionism and Barack Obama's interventionism, next Monday's debate on foreign policy will leave those looking for an adult conversation on the architecture and consequences of U.S. foreign policy sorely lacking.

UPDATE: Via commenter Bam!, Candice Crowley admits Romney was "right in the main" but "wrong on the words" on the issue. The president and his administration's response in the weeks after the attack were muddled and often pinned to the YouTube video despite that not being the reality.

NEXT: Obama, Romney Mix It Up in Second Debate

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The thing is, by a rational definition of terrorism, it wasn’t a terror attack.

    Terrorism should be defined as deliberate attacks on civilian targets. This seemed to be pretty much targeted at the Ambassador, which by some of his actions, made him a valid target in a war.

    Of course, now it means pretty much anything.

    1. Your comment seems pretty terroristy to me.

      1. Git em, and considering his name is probably mohammed (“Jeremy” sounds like one ‘a them funny names injun call center guys use), I should say:

        Git Mo.

    2. Ambassadors are civilians.

    3. Don’t think an ambassador can ever be a legitimate target.

      1. Diplomatic Immunity!
        (read it with a South African accent)

    4. Diplomats are not valid targets in war.

      1. They are to anarchists, who don’t recognize the validity of the state and its diplomatic apparatus. Not that anyone here is an anarchist.

        1. If the attack was carried out by the government of a nation, it would be an act of war.

          The killing of a diplomat by a non-governmental organization seeking to intimidate through violence is pretty much the definition of terrorism.

          1. There are no rules in anarchy.

          2. If the attack was carried out by the government of a nation, it would be an act of war.

            Or a proxy of a government, of course.

            Where attacks are carried out from the territory of a nation-state, while not technically an act of war, the nation that was attacked is traditionally allowed to engage in a military response on that nation’s territory, as well.

    5. Ambassadors generally do not actively participate in warfare. If this had been an attack on a U.S. or other NATO military base you might have a point. But ambassadors are civilians. In fact, in sane eras they are used to help prevent warfare.

  2. It was obnoxious for Candy to butt in and offer what she thought was the “fact”. The reality is that the administration acted for a full month like the event at Benghazi was an impromptu protest of a youtube video gone viral. Admittedly, Romney hasn’t offered the full throated defense of speech that I would expect from someone I vote for (hence why he ain’t getting my vote). Instead of getting caught up on the word “terror” Romneybot should have reprogrammed his software ahead of time to focus on the fact that Obama made it out to be about some youtube video. Also, he needed to be a little more forceful in his response to Obama’s “I’m offended blah blah” spiel.

    1. Did anyone else notice that Obama didn’t answer the guys question?

      The old dude Kerry, that Obama thought was a woman at first…


      QUESTION: 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?”

      Obama never answered the question. “The buck stops with me”? So you’re the one who denied enhanced security??”

      Romney should have said that immediately afterwards and blew it.

      I hate politicians.

      1. Yes, I noticed that too. It is quite interesting he did not answer the question. I hope this comes up in the next debate and that someone asks him the VERY SAME QUESTION. “Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?”

    2. It was both obnoxious and telling. In a way I am glad she did. It helped to show anyone with a brain that she was not being evenhanded.

    3. Not only was it “obnoxious”, it was a complete violation of the purpose of her role as moderator.

      A moderator is supposed to referee, they are not supposed to engage in the debate. Crowley was butting in and engaging in the debate on Obama’s behalf.

      That makes it no longer a fair faight, but a two-on-one.

      1. If we’re going by weight, I would say its more like 2.5 to one.

  3. How recently was the Obama Administration still blaming the attack on the video?

    1. At Obama’s speech to the UN?

  4. Obama was lying, flat out and so was Crowley.

    He intentionally told a known falsehood with the intent that it would be accepted by his listeners.

    He used terror in his quoted remarks as a weasel word that could later be used to claim that he wasn’t saying what he plainly was saying, which he did tonight. This type of parsing bullshit and lying while ‘technically’ not lying is one of the reasons that people hate lawyers and politicians.

    1. Unfortunately, Romney was the one who came off as the dissembler in that exchange. Romney did not communicate the chronology of events well at all — and by focusing on the use of a word, undermined what might have been a very strong and accurate point regarding the administration’s response to the Libya attacks.

      1. Romney will get a second shot during debate #3, which is all foreign policy. “Energy independence” ties into foreign policy, which means he can use the opportunity to remind Obama that he cut oil and gas leases.

        Romney needs to shut his trap on China. Seems like a real loser

        1. Does “Fast and Furious” count as foreign policy?

          1. The Romney campaign needs better talking points on foreign policy. The clunkers I’ve heard from him and Ryan so far in their respective debates have been incredibly bland and not at all hard hitting. They are mishandling presentation of the Obama administration’s bad record on defence and civil liberties.

            Libertarians have a bad habit of supposing that their positions are more popular than they really are, but I think that a non-interventionist lite policy expressed in the right way would have been a real winner this time around, both for the good of the country and electorally. Don’t tell me it wouldn’t work with the right-wingers, neither — plenty of folks on that corner of the map who are tired of nation-building and us rooting about without purpose.

            1. Starting point:

              When talking about non-proliferation of nuclear arms, one thing they could say is that “Iran is less likely to give up it’s nuclear program today because this administration decided to overthrow the last regime, without any direct US interest in doing so, that actually gave up its weapons program.”

            2. Agreed.

              A non interventionist foreign policy would be very popular at this point in time.

              The problem for Romney-Ryan is that they really don’t disagree with or want to change any of Obama’s foreign policies. They’re really just arguing for different posturing. But, for whatever reason, they can’t admit that and instead get into ridiculous pissing matches with the dems.

              1. It could even be presented in terms of shrewdness and consistency, e.g., the new governments in the Middle East present us with an opportunity for friendship and a risk of tensions; our administration will maintain a firm and unequivocal position in favor of human rights and trade, and against violence done to our people. Arbitrarily breaking off relations with and engaging in hostilities with countries that have complied with our requests vis a vis nuclear non-proliferation does nothing but embolden our enemies, and I believe that American trade is the strongest force for peace, democracy, and economic recovery, etc.

                Non-interventionism doesn’t need to be expressed in terms of either anti-colonialism jargon or in a loony way (which unfortunately is how RP came off sounding at times), and I think that Americans are intuitively in favor of non-interventionist policy for the most part.

                1. I concur. I always felt that one of the things Paul should’ve been forceful about was still wanting America to be a superpower and an active force in the world through diplomacy and trade while being non-interventionist.

                  1. I agree with both of you.

                    RP fucked up by having an anti-American tinge to his non-interventionism (“of course they hate us, would you if they were doing to us what we do to them”) when it’s not necessary and completely counter productive to getting elected.

                    1. The Golden Rule is anti-American?

                    2. I would say so, yeah, unless you want other countries doing unto us as we have done unto them.

            3. The Romney campaign needs better talking points on foreign policy.

              No kidding. And they can easily stay out of the weeds on the substance of policy just by hammering away on competence. That alone gives them plenty of material for the next few weeks.

        2. Romney needs to shut his trap on China. Seems like a real loser.

          He seems to think that dey turk er jerbs will be winning pandering in Ohio, MI and WI. It’s hard to accept that he actually believes his own bs wrt China.

          1. Bu…Bu…Bu…But, CURRENCY MANIPULATION!!!!!!!!!

            Was he talking about Uncle Ben? When is China going to get tough on the US for currency manipulation?

          2. He seems to think that dey turk er jerbs will be winning pandering in Ohio, MI and WI. It’s hard to accept that he actually believes his own bs wrt China.

            That’s my take, too.

  5. Candy says Romney was right. Yeah, now, after the fact, after the imprint was made. Cunt.

    1. I can understand misunderstanding the technical issue in the heat of the moment, but that crap is why the moderator is not supposed to rebut candidates.

      1. Exactly. Crowley violated her role as moderator and joined the debate on Obama’s side. But good luck getting the media to debate the professional ethics of that, since they are so in the tank for Obama. They will have nothing but priase for how awesome she was for rebutting Romney’s “lies”.

    2. So not only is she a fat, she’s also a cunt. A fat cunt.

    3. Jesus fuck…

      If the attack at benghazi had been the result of a youtube clip being protested, it would have been nominally a ‘terror’ attack.

      Obama wins the weasel word fight here.

      The fact of the matter is the administration aggressively created a different narrative than the one we all know: it was a planned attack with the full intent of killing Ambassador Stevens (whose name was on Al Qaeda hit lists) on the anniversary of 9/11.

      1. Romney could’ve reiterated that the attack occurred on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 and that there were numerous warnings that an attack on American institutions in Libya were in the works. It would’ve been much more constructive than trying to dumb it down to the T word.

        1. The T word is like red meat for Republicans. It’s like screaming “The Children” in front of Democrats.

          1. “The Children” is pretty much universal. “Lady Parts” or “Fair Trade” would be more apropos.

  6. But this will all be over shadowed by Romney’s binders of women

    1. Wait. I need a mansplanation.

      1. IF you would stop MALE GAZING maybe you’d figure out on your own.

        Btw, I liked when Mitt said he doesn’t believe any company should have the right to deny a woman access to contraception. He should’ve also said, “As a businessman, I would encourage all my female employees to use contraception. I can’t afford them to be out for 12 weeks on maternity leave.”

        1. He would lose points with feminist. If you can’t mimic the democrat’s WOMEN CAN HAVE IT ALL AND DO IT ALL!!! now give me some free shit, oppressor schtick, you wont make any inroads with them.

        2. Oh, and I thought my male gaze was flattering. Creepy? Dang. Thought I was the one who was different from all the other male gazers.

        3. He also should’ve said “and by the way, maternity leave is why you get paid less. Well, not YOU specifically since young, single and childless women get paid more than men. And if you continue to be childless, you will continue to be paid more. But if you do decide to take several years off to have a kid, why should you get compensated as much, when
          you return, as those who were staying at work gaining skills and experience?”

          1. Blaming the victim of pregnancy!

            1. The child?

            2. Paul’s right. To the ladyparts crowd, pregnancy is a sexually transmitted disease.

  7. This is an Abomination

    1. I was there up to the bacon bits, and the jack danials and buffalo sauce, thinking it could be an interesting abomination worthy of a challenge, but then he started laying down hamburgers and then it pretty much became a typical casserole straight out of Iowa.

  8. When Romney said tonite he doesn’t think employers should dictate contraception, he lied. He supports in print the Blunt amendment. Read it.

    1. What Romney did to that dog was really horrible.

      1. It was.

        1. You’re stayin’ on message. I like that in a fanboy.

        2. It would have been far more merciful and culturally sensitive to eat it, right?

      2. I heard the dog paid no taxes for ten years.

    2. RMoney Lied,
      Nobody died (yet).
      Obama lied,
      Made mommas cry
      Tears of sorrow
      At their daughter’s
      Blown apart weddings.

      1. Obama drones are good drones. Obama indefinite detention is like free room and board. Obama warrantless wiretapping is like a national beer summit, where Obama listens to the entire nation talk. Obama drug war is for your good. Obama law breaking is because the Republicans the Devil made him do it.

    3. See, this is why it’s so hard arguing with leftists. They think that if an employer offers health insurance that doesn’t cover contraception, they are “dictating” it. No, they are just not paying for it. They are not stopping you from getting it on your own.


    4. Allowing employers to not pay for contraception doesn’t allow employers to dictate contraceptive choices. Women are perfectly free to buy their own damn contraception whether their employer pays for it or not.

  9. Romney lied a lot tonight, but the binder full of women one should stick.

      1. Shut up, Wesley.

    1. Derp!

  10. Obama vs. Romney Debate Scorecard. Good analysis.

  11. Romney DID NOT balance MA budget. He left a 1.2BILLION DOLLAR debt.

    1. He balanced it for a year and a half — which is a year and a half more than your boy.

    2. 1.2 billion debt? What a piker. I mean, Obama has added $5 TRILLION to US debt. Geez Romney is lame.

    3. He left a 1.2BILLION DOLLAR debt.

      What a loser.

      Bammy blows through 1.2billon dollars of debt every 9 hours.

    4. Debt and deficit are two different things.

      We could balance the federal budget next year, and still have a $16T debt.

  12. Romney also raised middle class taxes as governor.

    1. Wait – I get it – RMoney just rearranges the letters in “Romney” to underline the fact that he is a rich person. What artistic inspiration! What deep thinking! My panties are wet just thinking about it!

    2. It’s a good thing few people here are voting for Romney. Now I can not vote for Romney knowing the truth that Romney is ex-fucking-zactly like Obama.

      1. Romney also cut school budgets and increased class size. MA schools are #1 in spite of him, not because of him.

        1. Romney also cut school budgets and increased class size.


        2. I thought you were trying to persuade us not to vote for Romney.

        3. Romney also cut school budgets and increased class size

          Wait, now you’re giving us reasons to vote for him. Tell us more about how he made real cuts to the power and scope of leviathan.

        4. And every fucking study on class size shows no relation to actual learning.

          Get a fucking life, cock muppet.

        5. Do you live in France? Are you not allowed to do your homework?

        6. Re: RMoney Laid,

          Romney also cut school budgets

          He’s got my vote, then!!!!

          Thank you, troll! NOW *I* finally know whom should get MY vote! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    3. Romney passed a penaltax? Just like Obama?

  13. R-Money? Is he an East Coast or West Coast gangsta?

    1. I think it’s Kanye’s perfume brand.

      1. I thought it was called Fishdicks.

        1. That is among the unique fragrances offered by Kanye’s line of perfumes.

    2. R-Money vs B-Rock the remix.

  14. David Lynch has come to Reason:

    Director David Lynch notes that if you scramble the GOP candidate’s last name, you get “R MONEY. I believe Mitt Romney wants to get his Mitts on R Money. He would like to get it and divide it up with his friends, the Big Money Bunch.”

    ’90 Days’ and No Good Reasons

    1. He’s simply doing everything he can to assuage the white guilt that follows him and his last name around.

      You know David, if you don’t rearrange a single letter in your last name, YOU’RE A RACIST!

      1. He’s not a racist.

        He’s a grand wizard.

    2. That’s not much of a scramble… I prefer “My tort mine” or “Yo Mr Mitten” or even “Memory Tint”.

      1. Nothing compares to BAA BAM CROAK

        1. Holy Terrorist Attack, Ba(t)rack!

      2. I know a guy whose full name is David Alan Gani and my friends and we were always thinking that if he went down the wrong path at least we could look forward to the front page rape testimony headline of “David Alan Gani Did Vagina, Anal”

        1. And now that I’ve named a friend of mine online I’m sure he’s been added to the no-fly list… you’re welcome!

    3. Oh, Lynch…you’re so “creative”

      1. Hey now. He made a good movie 25 years ago.


    4. It sucks when you’re last name is “Lynch”.

  15. Women need flexible schedules so they can make dinner. -Mitt Romney

    1. Ya know, I don’t see a lot of white folk going around crusading for blacks’ rights.

      I don’t see a lot of thin folks going around advocating acceptance for obesity.

      I don’t see a lot of rich folk lamenting about the trials and tribulations of the working poor.

      But every fucking liberal male I’ve seen on the time spent on this site thinks they have something to say about women’s rights.

      Guess what asshole? I do need a flexible schedule so I can make dinner.

  16. ‘Binders Full of Women’ Won the Debate
    “I’m gonna pitch it as a show. BINDERS FULL OF WOMEN: a new show about women trapped in binders by rich men who never had to work 4 anything,” tweeted Shondra Rhimes, the creator of Grey’s Anatomy. “‘Whole binders full of women’ pretty much sums up Mitt Romney’s campaign,” said Mother Jones. Even Big Bird weighed in, “Binders full of women? Really, Mitt? Women aren’t just resumes. They’re people, like your corporations.”

    1. Fuck off, slaver troll!

    2. Why are the proglodytes trying so hard to contrive a point out of that clunky phrase?

      Is it because Mitt hasn’t ever seen fallen heros amongst the corpsemen at his events in any of the fifty seven states? Would it have been better if he’d said it in Austrian? Or offered to subsidize breathalyzers for their asthmatic childern? Or told them to take the blue pill instead of get the operation?

      1. Yes, Obama bloopers are legion, but they’re all minor errors of no account because they are made by a Democrat. Republican errors, on the other hand, are always proof of their stupid, ignorant, and evil nature.

      2. It’s almost like there’s a double standard.

    3. Was there a debate tonight?

  17. Bottom line – millions of so-called “high information” voters heard for the first time that Benghazi was definitely a terrorist attack and had nothing to do with the video.

    And millions more had their faces rubbed in proof of that “media bias” that non-leftists are always going on about.

  18. 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.

    So what should we call it when the US ambassador to the UN goes on every Sunday morning talk show, and blames the attack on a video?

  19. What did the president know about Susan Rice not knowing what she was talking about, and when did he know that she didn’t know?

    1. She reports directly to Obama, too, not to Hillary.

      Hillary only took the fall for the lack of security, not the coverup. So there’s no reason that the Romney campaign (well, in an alternate universe, where the Romney campaign is competent) can’t hang the coverup on the Preshizzle.

  20. lol people taking this terrorist nonsense WAY too seriously.

    1. Wrong debate anonybot – and you had been on such a roll too.

  21. Good luck waiting for the media to start discussing Crowley’s biased moderation of the debate and their own role in pushing her to moderate in a way that was biased in Obama’s favor.

  22. If Romney was ready to go there he should have been ready to point out the President’s own words. The most telling portion of the Rose Garden speech…particularly how it seems to reject the idea that violence and attacks can be justified by outrage at a movie:

    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.

    1. Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths.

      Well, except the Mormons, who were hounded out of the US.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.