President Obama Counters Romney’s Libya Attack With Passion And Gravity… And Transcript


In a debate that saw a resurgent, aggressive, but cool President Obama fending off an often erratic Mitt Romney, the audience question on the recent tragedy in Libya provided a microcosm of the rest of the debate, as well as the most significant challenge to the President. In a see-saw battle over security at the consulate in Benghazi, and the Obama administration’s muddled public statements in the aftermath of the tragedy, Gov. Romney swung wide one time too many, and President Obama seized the high ground with measured outrage and palpable passion.

The questioner, after giving a shout-out to his co-worker “brain-trust,” asked “who was it that denied enhanced security,” in Benghazi, “and why?”

The President spent his two minutes praising his diplomatic corps, and wisely seizing back responsibility from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and answered the man’s question by saying “When I say that we are going to find out exactly what happened, everybody will be held accountable, and I am ultimately responsible for what’s taking place, because these are my folks, and I’m the one that have to greet the coffins when they come home, you know that I mean what I say.”

Gov. Romney began with a somewhat petty paraphrase of the President, saying “I think the President is right when he says that the buck stops at his desk, and he takes responsibility for providing the security resources and terrible things may happen from time to time,” and may have overreached with his pointed criticism of the President’s priorities the day after the attack.

He then moved on to a broader critique of the President’s Mid-East policy.

Moderator Candy Crowley followed up by asking the President about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s acceptance of responsibility for the tragedy, the President again took full-throated possession of the buck. He then used the gravity of his office, and just the right dosage of raw emotion, to address Romney head-on. “The day after the attack, Governor,” the President said, “I stood in the Rose Garden and told the American people and the world that we were 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. And a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base, and grieving with the families. And the suggestion that anybody on my team, whether it’s 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, Not what I do as Commander-in-Chief.”

It was a powerful moment, followed by a bad stumble by Romney, who decided to challenge the President on what he said in the Rose Garden that day. “You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror?”

Moderator Candy Crowley, of course, confirmed that he had.

Here’s the clip:

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