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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Was Crowley's Intervention Planned? (Updated)

Those who watched the second debate between Romney and Obama the other night got to see the sickening sight of the moderator, Candy Crawford, intervening at a critical juncture to save Obama. The issue was the attack on Benghazi, and the Administration's denial that it was a terrorist attack for two weeks after the attack on the consulate. Fox News has the transcript of the exchange:
ROMNEY: I think (it's) 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 ... call it an act of terror.

Obama, indicating he thought he had just gotten a boost from the moderator, then chimed in: "Can you say that a little louder, Candy?"
 The Neo-Neocon has reviewed the transcript from the Rose Garden speech, and in fact Obama neither says nor insinuates that the attack was a terrorist attack. After setting out the transcript of the speech, he notes:
You can see that in his speech Obama characterizes the Benghazi violence and/or its perpetrators ten separate times, in an address that is only about 800 words long in its entirety. Each time, he might have chosen to have said “terrorist attacks” or “terrorists” or “terrorism,” but each time he chose not to do so. Instead, he used the words “attack” or “attackers” seven times, the word “act” twice, and the word “violence” once. He’s not shy about employing adjectives to modify those words, either: he calls them “senseless,” “brutal,” “terrible,”outrageous,” and “shocking.”

Note, however, that the word “terrorist” is never used as an adjective to modify Obama’s descriptions of what happened in Benghazi, nor is it used as a noun to describe the perpetrators. There is no question that the omission was intentional on Obama’s part, because if Obama had wanted to call it a terrorist attack it would have been natural to actually, like, you know, do so.
Moving back to the Fox News article, it notes that the administration very specifically dismissed any theories it was a terrorist attack:
Four days after Obama's Rose Garden remarks, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., went on five networks' Sunday shows and cast the attack as hardly a coordinated strike by terrorists.

"We are obviously investigating this very closely. The FBI has a lead in this investigation," Rice said Sept. 16 on "Fox News Sunday." "The information, the best information and the best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack. That what happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video. People gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent and those with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons, which unfortunately are quite common in post-revolutionary Libya and that then spun out of control.

"But we don't see at this point signs this was a coordinated plan, premeditated attack. Obviously, we will wait for the results of the investigation and we don't want to jump to conclusions before then. But I do think it's important for the American people to know our best current assessment." 

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and other administration officials did little to discredit that assessment until Sept. 19, when Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, testified at a Senate hearing.
It was awfully convenient that Crowley had a transcript handy and was able to check it so quickly.... Neo-Necon theorizes:
Speaking of options—watch the tape of the moment in the debate when Obama makes the claim. The words I’m talking about occur right at the beginning where Obama says [emphasis mine], “The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden, and I 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 were going to hunt down those who committed this crime.”
To me it appears that Obama feels that he is putting down some extremely tempting bait for Romney, hoping his opponent will bite.
He has rehearsed this approach in preparation for a Libya/Benghazi question; he believes it to be his trump card, and he knows Crowley will cover for him—or, if she fails to do so, that the MSM will do it for her.

It’s also possible that Obama (or his surrogates) have worked this out ahead of time with Crowley. I don’t know; it’s certainly possible, because her waving those papers around when asked to look at the transcript of the speech (are they actually a transcript? Or something else?) is rather odd. Whichever it is, pre-arranged or no, Obama seems especially delighted at what Crowley says, asking her to repeat it and setting up a nice round of forbidden applause (led by Michelle–preplanned as well?) from the audience. Gotcha!

Note also Obama’s affect when Romney questions him as to whether he really means to assert that he called it an act of terror the day after the attack. The camera zooms in on Obama as the president says to Romney “Please proceed, Governor,” and then cuts away just after the fleeting ghost of a faint smile crosses Obama’s face (mostly in his eyes; it occurs at about 1:22). It is at that point that Obama summarily orders Crowley to “check the transcript” (no “please” for Obama), and she immediately answers that Obama did say it that way. Not only do we know that assertion is false, but she didn’t even seem to have time to check any transcript between Obama’s request and her answer.
(Update: Oct. 19, 2012): James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal  notes the convenient readiness of Crowley to report on what was in the transcript of the Rose Garden speech, but dismisses the theory that her response was choreographed. He writes:
If Obama and Crowley were in cahoots, why did Crowley begin the exchange with a very sharp question to the president, and why did she end it by acknowledging that Romney was right, as she later put it, "in the main"? We can't imagine a good answer. Such a dance, if that's what it was, would have to be elaborately choreographed, and it could easily have gone wrong for Obama if Romney had declined the bait of Obama's Rose Garden claim.

But a nonconspiracy theory raises a big question, too: How would Obama have known to expect support from Crowley on this point? We think we've found the answer.

Yesterday Tony Lee of Breitbart.com dug up a transcript of the Sept. 30 episode of "State of the Union," which included an interview with David Axelrod of the Obama campaign. The two had an exchange on this very topic:

Crowley: There's a back and forth now about why didn't this administration--why did it take them until Friday after a Sept. 11 attack in Libya to come to the conclusion that it was premeditated and that there was terrorists involved. John McCain said it doesn't pass the smell test, or it's willful ignorance to think that they didn't know before this what was going on. Your reaction?
Axelrod: Well, first of all, Candy, as you know, the president called it an act of terror the day after it happened.
Crowley wasn't buying what Axelrod was selling. "First, they said it was not planned, it was part of this tape. All that stuff. . . . didn't the administration shoot first? Didn't they come out and say, listen, as far as we can tell, this wasn't preplanned, this was just a part of"--at which point Axelrod interrupted her.

Lee writes: "This was Crowley the journalist, unlike the pro-Obama advocate who moderated Tuesday's debate." If one accepts this characterization, the conspiracy theory makes even less sense. Why would Crowley the journalist, having been granted a rare opportunity to appear before an audience of tens of millions, use it to throw away her integrity?

Here's what almost certainly happened: After the interview, Axelrod, or someone else from the campaign, called Crowley's attention to the White House transcript. She read the relevant portion and conceded that Axelrod was right: Obama had called the attack an act of terror. As we wrote yesterday, such an interpretation was reasonable, although it was a matter of opinion because the president's statement was ambiguous. Obama was briefed on all this during his debate preparation.

If this surmise is correct, then Crowley knew about the "acts of terror" Easter egg hidden in Obama's Sept. 12 speech, and Obama knew she knew. Romney did not know and was as incredulous as Crowley had been, because the administration had spent weeks peddling the claim that the video dunnit. Obama brought the matter up expecting incredulity from Romney and backup from Crowley. She therefore unwittingly played her role in Obama's little ambush of his opponent. She was just clarifying the facts--or so Axelrod & Co. had led her to believe.
Whether Taranto is correct about there being a specific, orchestrated plan is beside the point (although I think he was wrong--she appears to have had the transcripts at hand in anticipation of the moment). Obama clearly expected Crowley to intervene and--perhaps based on prior agreement, perhaps from desperation at seeing her "Fuhrer" caught by his own lies--she obliged him.

Her actions are more suspicious because she also gave Obama significantly more time to speak, allegedly because Obama spoke slower than Romney (some people may put this down to his pretentious manner of speaking, but I put it down to the inevitable delays in neural processing caused by having to formulate lies). As the Powerline blog notes:
CNN’s explanation of “why Obama got more time speak” is an admission that Crowley intentionally gave Obama extra time because she thought he hadn’t said enough. It’s also an admission that it doesn’t know whether, objectively, Romney said more than Obama in the same amount of time. CNN hadn’t done a word count when it made the claim, and Crowley certainly hadn’t performed one when she gave Obama more time than Romney.

Crowley was, however, watching the time, as she told the candidates several times. As the CNN memo confirms, she wanted to give Obama more time than Romney.
(2nd Update: Oct. 19, 2012): Obama knew within 24 hours that the Benghazi attack was by terrorists and not the result of a spontaneous mob.

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