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Obama and the “T” Word

When did President Obama refer to the Benghazi attack as an “act of terror”? According to Candy Crowley and White House spin artists, it was in his Rose Garden speech on September 12. But as I wrote last month, the reference was ambiguous at best. It was never clear whether Obama was referring to the Benghazi attack, the 9/11 attacks, the unrest across the Muslim world, or just terrorism in general.

However, at Foreign Policy, Josh Rogin dug up a transcript of Obama referring to the Benghazi attack more directly as an “act of terror” on Sept. 13 — at a campaign event in Colorado:

President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney sparred over whether Obama called the Sept. 11 murder of four Americans in Benghazi a “terrorist” attack. In fact, Obama did refer to the attack as “an act of terror,” but he did not do so directly in the Rose Garden the next day.

Romney said during Tuesday night’s debate that it took 14 days for Obama to acknowledge that the attack was a terrorist attack, while Obama and CNN’s Candy Crowley agreed that Obama said so Sept. 12 in remarks in the Rose Garden. In those remarks, journalists noticed, he did not explicitly refer to the Benghazi attack as an “act of terror,” though he did use those words. …

But on Sept. 13, at a campaign event in Colorado, Obama again used the phrase “act of terror” and this time tied it directly to the Benghazi attack.

“So what I want all of you to know is that we are going to bring those who killed our fellow Americans to justice. I want people around the world to hear me: To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished.

The bottom line? CNN’s Candy Crowley seriously erred in “correcting” Romney on that point, since Obama’s comment in the Rose Garden speech was debatable from the context. However, if the president now wants to clarify that he was referring to the Benghazi attack as an “act of terror” on September 12, let’s take him at his word.

Of course, clearing that up raises more questions than answers.

For one, why, if the president immediately knew Benghazi was a terrorist attack, did he fly to Las Vegas for a fundraiser the very next day? Why didn’t he inform UN Ambassador Susan Rice before she went on the Sunday shows and blamed the attack on the anti-Islam film? Why didn’t he tell his own spokesperson, who insisted days later that “We have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack…And while the violence is reprehensible and unjustified, it is not a reaction to the 9/11 anniversary that we know of, or to U.S. policy”? Why did the president himself go on “The View” nearly two weeks later, and — when asked point-blank whether Benghazi was a terrorist attack — say that “well, we’re still doing an investigation” and “it wasn’t just a mob action”?

More importantly, if President Obama believed it was a terrorist attack from Day One, why didn’t he share this with the American public? Why would he make a vague one-line reference to it in a single campaign stump speech in Ohio, but not give a full address to the American people, outlining what he knew?