Two days before the election, CBS posted additional portions of a Sept. 12 "60 Minutes
" interview where President Obama seems to contradict himself on the Benghazi attack. As the Benghazi investigation gets more attention and focus, CBS is once again adding to the Benghazi timeline.
In the interview, according to the latest portions, Obama would not say whether he thought the attack was terrorism. Yet he would later emphasize at a presidential debate that in the Rose Garden the same day, he had declared the attack an act of terror.
That moment was one of the most intense exchanges in the second presidential debate. Romney was on the offensive on what conservatives believed was a serious vulnerability of Obama -- the handling of the Benghazi attack and what he called it from the beginning.
The town hall questioner asked, "Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?"
Obama did not provide a direct answer, but said: "When I say that we are going to find out exactly what happened, everybody will be held accountable, and I am ultimately responsible for what's taking place there, because these are my folks, and I'm the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home, you know that I mean what I say."
Romney pounced, saying, "There were many days that passed before we knew whether this was a spontaneous demonstration or actually whether it was a terrorist attack. And there was no demonstration involved. It was a terrorist attack, and it took a long time for that to be told to the American people."
On rebuttal, Obama seemed rehearsed, but indignant. "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... And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the secretary of state, our U.N. ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive. That's not what we do. That's not what I do as president. That's not what I do as commander in chief."
Governor Romney walked forward and started questioning ...
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. 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.
ROMNEY: This -- the administration -- the administration -- (applause) -- indicated that this was a -- a reaction to a -- to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.
CROWLEY: They did.
ROMNEY: It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group and -- and to suggest -- am I incorrect in that regard? On Sunday the -- your -- your secretary or --
Obama -- who had clearly won the moment (largely thanks to Candy Crowley
) -- clearly wanted to move on from that victorious moment -- and quickly.
OBAMA: Candy --
ROMNEY: Excuse me. The ambassador to the United Nations
went on the Sunday television shows and -- and spoke about how this was a spontaneous reaction.
OBAMA: Candy, I'm -- I'm happy to --
CROWLEY: President, let me -- I --
OBAMA: I'm happy to have a longer conversation about foreign policy.
CROWLEY: I know you -- absolutely. But I want -- I want to move you on.
OBAMA: OK, I'm happy to do that too.
CROWLEY: And also, people can go to the transcripts and --
OBAMA:I just want to make sure that --
CROWLEY: -- figure out what was said and when.
OBAMA:-- you know, all these wonderful folks are going to have a chance to get some -- their questions answered.
Now, we may know why. Soon after that debate exchange, CBS released a previously unseen clip of an interview "60 Minutes
'" Steve Kroft
did with Obama on Sept. 12 -- the day after the Benghazi attack.
The clip added to the previous sound that had been released and seemed to back up the president's claim that he was referring to the Benghazi attack as a terrorist act in the Rose Garden on Sept. 12. Here's what CBS put out Oct. 19, five weeks after the attack.
KROFT: But there are reports that they were very heavily armed with grenades, that doesn’t sound like your normal demonstration.
OBAMA: As I said, we’re still investigating exactly what happened, I don’t want to jump the gun on this. But your right that this is not a situation that was exactly the same as what happened in Egypt. And my suspicion is there are folks involved in this. Who were looking to target Americans from the start. So we’re gonna make sure that our first priority is to get our folks out safe, make sure our embassies are secured around the world and then we are going to go after those folks who carried this out."
After the second debate back and forth, this seemed to back up the president's stance. The only problem? Kroft started his question with "but."
I always thought, it seems that he's following up on a question -- I wonder if there was a question before that question?
This week, we got the CIA timeline of events in which they detail all of the response of the CIA and what they put up the chain of command in the minutes and hours after the attack began. Of all the details of the specific times the CIA contractors respond to the fight, I found this one most interesting:
"1:15 a.m.: CIA reinforcements arrive on a 45-minute flight from Tripoli in a plane they've hastily chartered. The Tripoli team includes four GRS security officers, a CIA case officer and two U.S. military personnel who are on loan to the agency. They don't leave Benghazi airport until 4:30. The delay is caused by negotiations with Libyan authorities over permission to leave the airport, obtaining vehicles, and the need to frame a clear mission plan. The first idea is to go to a Benghazi hospital to recover Stevens, who they correctly suspect is already dead. But the hospital is surrounded by the Al Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Shariah militia that mounted the consulate attack."
So the U.S. Ambassador to Libya
is at the Benghazi hospital and suspected dead. The CIA contractors know that, but they can't get there because the hospital is surrounded by the Al Qaeda-linked group Ansar al Shariah, the "militia that mounted the consulate attack."
This goes up the chain communication at 1:15 a.m. on Sept. 12. The White House
, the Situation Room, and all of those paying attention to intel channels know that the guys on the ground have determined the group that's behind this. It's the Al Qaeda-linked militia that are still fighting and have the hospital surrounded.
About 12 hours later -- before heading to Las Vegas for a campaign event -- Obama sits down for that "60 Minutes
" interview with Steve Kroft