One of the weirder exchanges tonight? The discussion over whether Obama called the attack on the Benghazi consulate an “act of terror.” Candy Crowley jumped in to defend Obama (oddly) and fact-check Romney, to say that Obama did, in fact, call it one. The video of Obama’s speech in which he supposedly called it an act of terror is below.
One problem: He never calls it that. He mentions the extent to which acts of terror will have an impact on American life (not much, apparently), but he never calls out this particular act as an act of terror. And whatever the case, it takes four whole minutes — a lifetime in speechwriter years — to get to that word. Terror.
If you’re going to rebut Romney’s claim that Obama took forever to get to the heart of the matter, don’t cite as your evidence a meandering speech in which Obama mentions terror, in passing, in a way that suggests, implies, or otherwise avoids directly addressing the horror as, in fact, an act of terror.
Alana Goodman at Commentary had more to say on this at the time:
If Obama wanted to call the Benghazi assault a terrorist attack in that speech, he had plenty of opportunities to do so. Instead, he described it as a “terrible act,” a “brutal” act, “senseless violence,” and called the attackers “killers,” not terrorists. It’s also important to consider the context. For a week after this speech, the White House would not call it a terrorist attack. The official position was that Libya was a spontaneous response to an anti-Islam film, not a premeditated or preplanned act.
Some may wonder why it even matters. Maybe Obama really was referring to Benghazi as an “act of terror” in the speech, and he just failed to make that clear enough — so what?
Actually, this is much more than an issue of semantics. Calling it a terrorist attack would have given Obama powers under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF) to use military action, including drone warfare, against the perpetrators. If he were serious about “bring[ing] to justice the killers,” which he vowed to do in the speech, then labeling this incident a terrorist attack (if he believed that’s what it was) would have been critical. Instead, we now have the FBI sitting with its hands bound in Tripoli, unable to move forward with a serious investigation.