Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Republican Media:  No. 36

Can a couple of otherwise fine institutions at least be a little less obviously biased? The following is one of the exchanges, pertaining to Libya, during which Barack Obama sliced and diced Mitt Romney at the debate at Hofstra University in Long Island:

Obama: "The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened -- that this was an act of terror -- and I also said that we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime."

Romney: "I think interesting the president just said something, 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."

Politifact (Tampa Bay Times) and (Annenberg Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania), inarguably two of the leading fact checkers in the political world, took a curious approach to assessing the veracity of Romney's claim.   They noted (as Obama did on Tuesday) that the day after the attack on the American consulate in Libya, the President stood in the Rose Garden and declared "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation."

The two fact-checkers concede Obama the following two days again  used the word "terror" to describe the incident.  On September 13 he asserted in Colorado "I want people around the world to hear me:  To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished. It will not dim the light of the values that we proudly present to the rest of the world.  No act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America."At a fundraiser in Nevada the following day he declared "And we want to send a message all around the world -- anybody who would do us harm:  No act of terror will dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world, and no act of violence will shake the resolve of the United States of America."

In a bizarre turn of events, FactCheck then argues "Romney isn't entirely wrong. Romney claimed Obama refused for two weeks after the Benghazi attack to call it a terrorist attack and, instead, blamed it on a spontaneous demonstration in response to an anti-Muslim video that earlier that day triggered a violent protest in Egypt."  Politifact rates Romney's claim "half true."

Politifact reasons that after September 12, "neither (Obama) nor all the members of his administration spoke consistently on the subject. There were many suggestions that the attack was part of demonstrations over an American-made video that disparaged Islam."  FactCheck maintains "We cannot say if there was a deliberate attempt to mislead the public or whether, as the administration says, the conflicting statements in the weeks after the attack were the result of an evolving investigation. We’ll leave that for readers to decide."

Mitt Romney did not say "there were conflicting statements by the Administration following its original acknowledgement that a terrorist attack had taken place."  Nor did he say "the confusion exhibited by the Administration reflected reluctance by the President to identify the act clearly as one of terrorism."    If he had, those claims could have been evaluated on their own merits.  Or Romney might have argued that greater security had been requested for the consulate, and dared the President to blame the congressional Republicans for having blocked additional security funding and now undergoing a deathbed conversion.

Instead, the former governor said this: "it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror."   The attack began on September 11.  On September 12, in a statement which addressed the situation in Libya and only Libya, the President said "no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation."   Twelve (9/12) minus eleven (9/11) equals one- not 14- except, apparently in the land of some fact-checkers.

In language Politifact would recognize:  "we rate" the claim of Mitt Romney, and of those who believe he was not grossly inaccurate, as "pants on fire."

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