Benghazi

Mitt was correct to attack Obama over Libya killings after siding with President . . . as cameras catch Michelle breaking rules by clapping husband

  • Moderator said Romney was incorrect to  question whether the President called the killing of the U.S. ambassador in  Benghazi an ‘act of terror’
  • Crowley claimed she waded in over Libya to  ‘bring clarity’ to debate
  • Later backtracked and admitted Romney ‘was  right in the main’
  • Michelle Obama caught on camera applauding  controversial moment
  • GOP aides say moderator ‘had no business’  interrupting the candidate
  • Obama spoke for three more minutes than  Romney during New York debate
  • Republican extends lead in national polls  released on Wednesday morning

By Louise Boyle and Hugo Gye

PUBLISHED:20:23 EST, 16  October 2012| UPDATED:13:12 EST, 17 October 2012

Candy Crowley admitted that Mitt Romney was  RIGHT to criticise Barack Obama for his response to the attack on the U.S.  consulate in Benghazi just hours after she apparently sided with Obama at a  crucial point in the high drama presidential debate on Tuesday night.

The moderator’s shock intervention, in which  she cut Romney short when he claimed that Obama had failed to say the  attack was the work of terrorists in  the his Rose Garden statement the following day, has been met with  outrage.

However, Crowley appeared to backtrack just a  few hours after she left the GOP candidate exposed on the stage in front of  millions of viewers. She admitted that Romney had been ‘right in the main’ but  added that he had ‘picked the wrong word’.

The row intensified when Michelle Obama was  caught on camera applauding Crowley’s intervention – despite rules banning  members of the audience from clapping or otherwise showing support during the  debate, which has been called the ‘most rancorous’ in history.

The fiery clash came as President Obama  continued to struggle in the polls, with the latest data showing a six-point  lead for Romney, who is also performing strongly in the Democratic-leaning swing  state of Wisconsin.

Scroll down  for footage of the electric clash

Hot seat: Moderator Candy Crowley talks to the audience at Hofstra University on Long Island last night before Barack Obama and Mitt Romney took to the stage for the second presidential debateHot seat: Moderator Candy Crowley talks to the audience  at Hofstra University on Long Island last night before Barack Obama and Mitt  Romney took to the stage for the second presidential debate

At loggerheads: Both candidates talk at once as they disagree over how Obama handled the Benghazi attack

At loggerheads: Both candidates talk at once as they  disagree over how Obama handled the Benghazi attack

No pussyfooting around: Crowley often struggled to control the candidates as they spoke over each other

No pussyfooting around: Crowley often struggled to  control the candidates as they spoke over each other

Not impressed: Mr Obama fixes an angry stare at his opponent

Not impressed: Mr Obama fixes an angry stare at his  opponent

 

A storm of protest has followed the incident.  Top Romney allies said  Crowley ‘had no business’ intervening in the argument,  accusing her of  ‘getting in the game’ rather than being an impartial  observer.

During a question about security at  the  Benghazi compound, where four American officials including  ambassador Chris  Stevens were killed on September 11, Obama said he was  ultimately responsible  as commander-in-chief.

Romney then questioned whether or not Obama  had called the consulate attack an ‘act of terror’ in his Rose Garden address  the following day.

While Obama cut across Romney – saying ‘look  at the transcript’ – Crowley  seemed to back up the President, telling the  Republican governor that  Obama did ‘call it an act of terror’.

THAT CRUNCH EXCHANGE IN  FULL

ROMNEY: 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 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.

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder,  Candy?

CROWLEY: He did call it an act of terror. 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.

Her interjection drew applause from the  audience, led by Mrs Obama, but angered political commentators, who accused  Crowley of stepping in on behalf of the President.

Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro called the  moderator’s reactions a ‘disgrace’ while  his colleague John Nolte said Crowley  ‘lied to save Obama’.

Democratic strategist Joe Trippi told Fox  News the exchange was ‘going to help the President’, adding: ‘There’s a ref, and the ref just threw the  flag.’

Romney advisor Ron  Kaufman continued the sporting metaphor as he said: ‘At different times tonight,  she in fact got into the game, and she wasn’t on the  sidelines.’

And former New Hampshire governor John Sununu  said: ‘Candy was  wrong, and Candy had no business doing that, and Candy didn’t even keep the time  right.’

However, top Romney  aide Eric Fehrnstrom insisted he was relaxed about the controversial  intervention, saying: ‘I don’t complain about the refs – I think Candy was  dandy.’

The shock moment came  in the middle of what CBS News anchor Scott Pelley described as  ‘the most rancorous presidential  debate ever’, adding: ‘We have never seen  anything like that in presidential history. They turned every  question from the  audience into an attack on the other.’

Crowley often struggled to control the  candidates as they spoke over each other amid angry exchanges.

The pair bordered on being physically  aggressive, coming toe-to-toe and  looming over each other as they gesticulated  at each other.

Obama’s in-your-face performance was a major  improvement on his display in Denver, and viewers rated him the  winner by a  seven-point margin in a CNN poll – 46 per cent, compared to 39 per cent for the  challenger.

But Romney scored a number of points, especially on the economy, and in the CNN poll only 38 per cent felt  Obama had  a clear plan for the country while 50 per cent thought Romney  had one.

In another poll by CBS, 37 per cent of those surveyed said Obama won with Romney trailing at 30  per  cent.

Obama’s much better showing might not be  enough to halt his slide in the national polls, which has seen  Romney gain  around five points nationally and take a narrow but clear  lead.

The Gallup tracking poll on Wednesday gave  the Republican a lead of six points as he took 51 per cent of the vote, with 45  per cent for Obama, while he was just one point behind in Wisconsin, where the  incumbent has until now held on to a large lead.

Early reports indicated that the debate on  Long Island had pulled in a smaller audience than the first event in Denver,  with around six per cent fewer tuning in.

Crowley's interjection angered political commentators, who said she had stepped in on behalf of the PresidentCrowley’s interjection angered political commentators,  who said she had stepped in on behalf of the President

Rule-breaking: Michelle Obama can be seen clapping in the bottom right corner of this imageRule-breaking: Michelle Obama can be seen clapping in  the bottom right corner of this image

Obama at one point said it was  ‘offensive’  of Romney to suggest that his administration’s response to  the Libya consulate  attack was politically motivated.

Obama said: ‘The  day after the attack,  Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden, and I told  the American people and the  world that we are going to find out exactly  what happened, that this was an act  of terror.’

Romney then questioned the veracity of  Obama’s remarks. He said: ‘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.’

While Romney continued to question Obama’s  claims, Crowley interjected: ‘He [Obama] did in fact, sir.’

Obama then said: ‘Can you say that a little  louder, Candy?’ to laughter and applause from the audience.

Then rather belatedly, Crowley told Romney:  ‘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.’

The exchange was the only point during the  debate when Crowley sought to correct one of the candidates on a point of  fact.

Barack ObamaBarack Obama

The morning after: Obama leaves the White House on  Wednesday morning after the debate

Happy? Romney walks up to his campaign plane at the airport in Ronkonkoma, New York on WednesdayHappy? Romney walks up to his campaign plane at the  airport in Ronkonkoma, New York on Wednesday

YOU DECIDE: TRANSCRIPT OF  OBAMA’S ROSE GARDEN SPEECH

Last night’s  second presidential debate reignited the controversy over Obama’s words  following the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.

The following  day, he made this speech from the White House Rose Garden:

‘Of course, yesterday was already a painful  day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks. We  mourned with the families who were lost on that day. I visited the graves of  troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hallowed  grounds of Arlington Cemetery, and had the opportunity to say thank you and  visit some of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed.

‘And then last night, we learned the news of  this attack in Benghazi.

‘As Americans, let us never, ever forget that  our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight  for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases, lay down their lives for it. Our  country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of  those both civilian and military who represent us around the globe.

‘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.

‘Today we mourn four more Americans who  represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in  our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act.  And make  no mistake, justice will be done.’

A number of audience members could  clearly  be heard applauding the line. Nearly all the applause came from  the higher  levels of the auditorium, not from the debate participants.

But one person within the inner circle did  participate in the illicit  ovation – Mrs Obama was caught on camera clapping  during the heated  back-and-forth.

The  First Lady was given three tickets to  the debate and allowed to sit  among the participants who were involved with  questioning the  candidates.

The moderator later appeared to backtrack on  her own comments, saying ‘it  was just the natural thing to come out of me’ but  admitting that the  substance of Romney’s assertion was correct.

‘He was right in the main, I just think he  picked the wrong word,’ she said during a post-debate appearance on  CNN.

The audience member who asked the question  which touched off the controversy said he did not feel Obama had answered his  query.

‘I really didn’t think he totally answered  the question satisfactorily as far as I was concerned,’ Kerry Ladka told the  Washington Post.

Ladka, 61, asked who ‘denied enhanced  security’ to the Benghazi consulate – but the President avoided the issue,  instead offering a tribute to U.S. diplomats and an attack on his  opponent.

After the debate, Obama approached Ladka for  a two-minute conversation in which he said he could not answer the question  because ‘releasing the individual names of anyone in the State Department would  really put them at risk’.

The undecided voter told the Post, ‘I  appreciate his private answer more than his public answer’ – though his high  regard for Romney’s business record means he has still not made up his mind how  to vote.

Another questioner, Jeremy Epstein, did  decide whom to vote for during last night’s debate – but has refused to say  which candidate he now supports.

The 20-year-old student paid tribute to both  participants, saying: ‘Mitt Romney’s first answer – I felt like he was staring  into my soul, just right through me, when he was asking me the  question.

‘And then when the President came up, I felt  like he, you know he started up by saying my future’s bright – I feel like they  were both sincere.’

Epstein spoke to the two candidates after the  debate – and argued with Obama over whether he would beat him in a one-on-one  game of basketball.

Carol Goldberg said she had been swayed  towards the President based on his answer to her question about how to keep jobs  from being outsourced overseas.

Obama replied, ‘There  are some jobs that are not going to come back. Because they are low-wage,  low-skill jobs. I want high-wage, high-skill jobs.’

‘I believe that’s true,’ Goldberg told the  Huffington Post. ‘I thought that was a very good answer.’

Embattled: Crowley applauds both candidates as the debate, which was often vicious, got under way
Fighting talk: Romney and Obama clash during the debate, with the President on more aggressive form than the first time they metFighting talk: Romney and Obama clash during the debate,  with the President on more aggressive form than the first time they met

Anger: Romney lost his temper at one point as he ordered the President not to interrupt himAnger: Romney lost his temper at one point as he ordered  the President not to interrupt himDuring his Rose Garden address on  September  12, the day following the attack in Benghazi, Obama said: ‘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.’

While he did therefore establish a link  between the raid and ‘terror’ as a  whole, he did not explicitly say that he  believed it to have been  conducted by terrorists.

And over the next few days, the President  repeatedly linked the attack to  protests against a U.S.-made YouTube video  mocking the Prophet Muhammad  which were sweeping the Muslim world at the  time.

The attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi  was a talking point again during Vice President Joe Biden’s debate last  week.

Biden claimed in the debate with Republican  VP nominee Paul Ryan that ‘we  weren’t told’ about requests for extra security  at the consulate.

TIMELINE OF ADMINISTRATION’S  SHIFTING POSITION ON DEADLY ATTACK

September  11: Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others are killed in an attack on  the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

September  12: Barack Obama makes a statement saying, ‘No acts of terror will ever  shake the resolve of this great nation,’ but does not explicitly label the raid  a terrorist attack.

September  13: White House press secretary Jay Carney blames the assault on a  U.S.-made YouTube video mocking the Prophet Muhammad.

September  16: Susan Rice, American ambassador to the UN, says she believes the  attack ‘began as a spontaneous, not premeditated, response’ to protests over the  video.

September  20: Carney says, ‘It is self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a  terrorist attack.’

September  25: Obama declines to label the attack as terrorism during an appearance  on The View.

October  9: State Department officials insist they never linked the attack to the  video protests.

Relief: The GOP candidate kisses his wife Ann on stage at the end of the evening's proceedingsRelief: The GOP candidate kisses his wife Ann on stage  at the end of the evening’s proceedings

Embrace: The First Couple hugged after the debate, with Mrs Obama, like her counterpart, dressed in pinkEmbrace: The First Couple hugged after the debate, with  Mrs Obama, like her counterpart, dressed in pink

In waiting: Romney, his wife Ann, their son Matt and his wife Laurie sit backstage before the debateIn waiting: Romney with his wife Ann, in a pink brocade  coat over her neon dress, and their son Matt and his wife Laurie sit backstage  before the debateOn Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton  was forced to come to his defence.

Pushing back against Republican criticism of  the Obama administration for its  handling of the situation, Clinton said that  security at all of  America’s diplomatic missions abroad is her job, not that of  the White  House.

She said: ‘I take  responsibility… The  President and the Vice President wouldn’t be  knowledgeable about specific  decisions that are made by security  professionals.’

The Libya question was one moment when  Crowley struggled to rein in the debate on Tuesday night.

She failed to shut down  both Obama and  Romney when they ran over allocated times and attacked  each other in angry  exchanges.

In her opening statement at the town hall  debate in New York,Ms Crowley said:  ‘Because I am the optimistic sort, I’m sure the  candidates will oblige by  keeping their answers concise and on point’.

It was revealed from CNN  timekeeping on the debate, that Obama had spoke for three extra  minutes

The President got 44:04 minutes of speaking  time, while Romney got 40:50.

BARACK OBAMA IN  QUOTES

On the  budget:

‘Governor Romney’s allies in Congress have  held the 98 per cent hostage because they want tax breaks for the top 2 per  cent.’

On Romney’s  economic plan:

‘Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point  plan, he’s got a one-point plan. To make sure that the folks at the top play by  a separate set of rules.’

On Romney’s  investments in China:

‘Governor, you are the last person who is  going to get tough on China.’

On his  pension:

‘I don’t look at my pension, it’s not as big  as yours, so it doesn’t take as long.’

On being defended  by the moderator:

‘Can you say that a little louder,  Candy?’

MITT ROMNEY IN QUOTES

On his  opponent:

‘Thank you, Mr President, for being a part of  this debate.’

On the  deficit:

‘I know what it takes to balance budgets.  I’ve done it my entire life.’

On  interruption:

‘You get your chance in a moment, I’m still  speaking.’

On Obama’s  response to the Libya attack:

‘The President, the day after it happened,  flies to Las Vegas for a political fundraiser.’

On the President’s  rhetoric:

‘He’s great as a speaker, and describing his  plans and vision. That’s wonderful, except we have a record to look  at.’

Pressure to perform: Obama arrives at JFK Airport in New York yesterday afternoonPressure to perform: Obama arrives at JFK Airport in New  York yesterday afternoon
Rose Garden: Obama with Hillary Clinton on September 12, the day after the Libya attacks. He used the phrase 'acts of terror' but Romney last night claimed this was not specifically about the killings in BenghaziRose Garden: Obama with Hillary Clinton on September 12,  the day after the Libya attacks. He used the phrase ‘acts of terror’ but Romney  last night claimed this was not specifically about the killings in Benghazi
Killings: Ambassador Chris Stevens was one of four Americans killed in the Benghazi attack on September 11 (right)Killings: Ambassador Chris Stevens was one of four Americans killed in the Benghazi attack on September 11 (right)

Killings: Ambassador Chris Stevens was one of four  Americans murdered in Benghazi on September 11 (right)

Obama and Romney had both expressed concern  over Crowley’s role ahead of the debate because she was robust in saying  beforehand that she would not shirk from guiding the conversation.

Lawyers for both Democratic and Republican  campaigns complained about comments  the CNN journalist made ahead of the town  hall-style debate at Hofstra  University in Hempstead, New York  tonight.

Her job was to referee the two  presidential  candidates as they answered questions from online viewers  and members of the  audience.

But in an interview, she indicated that she  planned to take a more aggressive  stance than the last moderator Jim Lehrer who  was roundly criticized for a listless performance and letting Obama and Romney  walk all over him.

Where PBS veteran Lehrer said his job was to  stay out of the way, Crowley planned a different set of tactics.

The political correspondent said: ‘Once the  table is kind of set by the town hall questioner, there is then time for me to  say, “Hey, wait a second, what about x, y, z?”‘

Both candidates appeared less than pleased  with her remarks – and they weren’t the only ones.

The Commission on Presidential Debates  has  also complained, saying Crowley’s remarks are vastly different from  the memo  that was signed by lawyers for both campaigns.

‘In managing the two-minute comment  periods,  the moderator will not rephrase the question or open a new  topic,’ the legal  document obtained by Time  says.

Watch the  video of Michelle clapping


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