October 22 2012

Quick Debate Thoughts: Romney's Misses on Benghazi

Julie Gunlock

I understand why Romney didn’t go there. Word on the street had it that Obama planned to paint Romney as a war mongering, trigger-happy neophyte who, frothing at the mouth, would haul off and nuke the first country that failed to send him a birthday gift. It’s understandable that Romney was determined to be calm, presidential, articulate and most of all, avoid too aggressively criticizing the president. But I was shocked that Romney let the opportunity to demand answers on Benghazi slip by, especially when the President left the door wide open.

Benghazi was the first topic brought up by Bob Schaeffer (who, in my opinion, acted like a professional, not a star-struck Obama intern like Candy Crowley). Schaeffer asked for reaction to Romney’s statement that American policy in the Middle East is unraveling.

Romney gave a broad answer reminding Americans of the deteriorating situation in the Middle East—the failed Arab Spring, the situations in Egypt, Syria, Mali, and Iran, as well as the renewed strength of Al Qaeda in 12 nations around the world. He mentioned Benghazi only once (and briefly) to express his thoughts for the victims. But Romney did not address the Administration’s clear mistakes in the days and weeks following the attack, nor did the mention the security failures leading up to the attack. 

Obama’s response was to point out that as Commander-in-Chief his first duty is to protect the American public (apparently only those on U.S. soil though) and then ticked off a number of so-called accomplishments in the Middle East. Those were all predictable talking points; but what was startling was Obama’s clear assertion that the Administration had responded quickly and effectively to Benghazi. He said:

Now with respect to Libya, as I indicated in the last debate, when we received that phone call, I immediately made sure that, number one, that we did everything we could to secure those Americans who were still in harm's way; number two, that we would investigate exactly what happened, and number three, most importantly, that we would go after those who killed Americans and we would bring them to justice. And that's exactly what we're going to do.

When I heard Obama say this, I thought "here it comes; Romney's going to pounce." Obama had basically invited Romney to hammer him on the Benghazi response; to point out Susan Rice’s lies, Hillary Clinton’s false statements, and Obama's failed leadership. I fully expected Romney to go there; to attack; to get in a few good lines.  But, it didn't happen. Instead of questioning the President, Romney treated us to another of his 5-point plans--this one for peace in the Middle East.  Yawn.

And then Bob Schaeffer moved on to Syria.

It was a lost opportunity for the American public and a tragedy for those killed in Benghazi.

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