By now, most of you have seen this exchange between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama about the attack on the diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya in which four Americans were killed on September 11:
Here’s the transcript of that exchange:
CROWLEY: Because we’re — we’re closing in, I want to still get a lot of people in. I want to ask you something, Mr. President, and then have the governor just quickly.
Your secretary of state, as I’m sure you know, has said that she takes full responsibility for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Does the buck stop with your secretary of state as far as what went on here?
OBAMA: Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job. But she works for me. I’m the president and I’m always responsible, and that’s why nobody’s more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I do.
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.
And then a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families.
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.
CROWLEY: Governor, if you want to…
ROMNEY: Yes, I — I…
CROWLEY: … quickly to this please.
ROMNEY: I — I think interesting the president just said something which — 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.
CROWLEY: It — it — it — he did in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terror…
OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?
CROWLEY: He — 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 there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.
The key – and largely unnoticed – part of this exchange was not Candy Crowley’s factcheck of Romney. Rather, it was President Obama’s gentle nudge to “Please proceed, governor.” Having watched that Libya exchange replayed several times on the news over the past two days, I couldn’t help but notice Obama’s poker face as he said this. It reminds me of Napoleon Bonaparte’s famous phrase, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
Obama got the first response to the question, and Romney was clearly chomping at the bit to respond because he and the Republican party view the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attack as a political liability to be exploited. Looking back on it, it seems as if Obama saw where Romney was heading with his attack and rather than cut him off, encouraged him to continue with his train of thought and he played right into Obama’s hands.
Jon Stewart weighed in on it during last night’s Daily Show (scroll to 1:38 in the clip).