Any sports fan will tell you that if you leave the game talking about the umpire or referee, that official did an awful job. The same thing goes when talking about political debates.
Candy Crowley was more than a moderator at the Hofstra town hall type debate, she was an active participant, not allowing Romney to answer Obama’s attacks, even fact-checking the GOP candidate using incorrect facts.
When the Hofstra debate was over ninety-eight minutes after it began, nothing had changed. President Obama displayed more energy than in the first debate and Governor Romney was still strong. But supporters of Obama left the debate still supporting Obama, supporters of Romney still supported the GOP candidate and I would guess that undecided voters remain on the fence.
Romney scored points, scoring big on the economy and gas prices. The President, with help from the moderator, won on Libya.
This may have been the most contentious presidential debate on TV since they were restarted in 1976. For much of the debate, it seemed as if the candidates were in each other’s faces. It was painfully obvious that these were two powerful men with a total mutual distain, each trying to out-“testosterone” the other.
The most controversial part of the debate began with Romney’s response to Obama’s answer to a Libya question:
ROMNEY: Yeah, I -- I certainly do. I certainly do. I -- I think it’s interesting the president just said something which is that on the day after the attack, he went in the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror. You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration.
OBAMA: Please proceed.
ROMNEY: Is that what you’re saying?
OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor.
ROMNEY: I -- I -- 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 -- he did in fact, sir.
So let me -- let me call it an act of terrorism -- (inaudible) --
OBAMA:Can you say that a little louder, Candy? (Laughter, applause.)
CROWLEY: He did call it an act of terror. It did as well take -- it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea of there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.
This one exchange was the main topic in the spin room after the debate.
John Sununu, Romney surrogate and former New Hampshire Governor said, “The moderator and the President were dead wrong.”
“The President threw the world out in his statement at the Rose Garden but never said it was an act of terrorism. And two weeks afterwards the President said, not in a news confereance, not in a passing comment but went to the UN and at the UN, six times blamed it on the video. It was the most dishonest statement I have ever heard by a president in a presidential debate.”
I asked him about the Crowley interruption:
“Candy was wrong and Candy had no business doing that and she didn’t even keep the time right.”
Jen Psaki, an Obama campaign spokesperson, praised Crowley and gave two opposing answers to my questions about the Benghazi attack. She said that Obama called the attack an act of terror, but when I asked why the President kept positioning the attack as a response to the now infamous anti-Muslim you tube movie trailer when the State Department had a video tape that day showing that there was no protest in Benghazi, she answered that “at that point the information was still coming in and no one was really sure what it was.”
Well, if no one was sure what it was, then how did he call it a terrorist attack?
The day after the terror attack in Benghazi, President Obama gave a Rose Garden Speech of 801 words. He mentioned the word terror once near the end of his speech but not in reference to the horrible attack.
During that brief statement, President Obama referred to Benghazi as: An attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi; this outrageous and shocking attack; attack; terrible act. Obama called the people who perpetrated the attack “the killers who attacked our people.” He did not call them terrorists.
In the fourth paragraph of that Rose Garden speech, he alluded to the anti-Muslim video. Obama knew at the time (and we know now) that the video had nothing to do with the attack:
Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.
In the sixth paragraph, Obama used the “T” word in a general way:
No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.
As late as September 20th on Airforce One the Administration was not calling it terrorism:
From the gaggle on Air Force One, en route to Miami, 9/20/2012 [a White House Press Release]:
Q: Can you -- have you called it a terrorist attack before? Have you said that?
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t, but -- I mean, people attacked our embassy. It’s an act of terror by definition.
Q: Yes, I just hadn’t heard you --
MR. CARNEY: It doesn’t have to do with what date it occurred.
Q: No, I just hadn’t heard the White House say that this was an act of terrorism or a terrorist attack.
Words are important, especially for this President. If Obama wanted to call the attack terrorism he would have, but he avoided calling the Benghazi attack “terrorism.” And John Sununu was correct: Candy Crowley was way out of line.
In the end Candy Crowley agreed. Appearing on CNN after the debate, Crowley said:
“I think actually, you know, because right after that, I did turn to Romney and said you were totally correct but they spent two weeks telling us that this was about a tape and that there was this riot outside of the Benghazi consulate, which there wasn’t. So he was right in the main, I just think that he picked the wrong word.”
This issue will be revisited this coming Monday when the two meet up on the third and final debate of 2012. The topic this time will be foreign policy. The format will be a bit different as the two will be sitting next to each other and the moderator across a table.
Jeff Dunetz is the Editor/Publisher of the political blog “The Lid” (www.jeffdunetz.com). Jeff contributes to some of the largest political sites on the internet. Jeff lives on Long Island.