The Washington Post

Sharp words over Libya

In one of the sharpest exchanges of the night, President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney clashed over whether the White House misled Americans about the nature of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, with the president bristling at the suggestion that he had withheld critical facts about the incident.

"The suggestion that anyone on my team ... would play politics or mislead is offensive," said Obama, his voice rising. Romney did not directly accuse the president of shading the truth about the attack, but said, "You have to ask yourself why we didn't know" earlier that the storming of the consulate was an act of terrorism and not the spontaneous outgrowth of protests against an anti-Muslim video posted days earlier on YouTube.

Witnesses to the attack would later say that there had been no demonstrations prior to the assault that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens. Romney portrayed the administration's handling of the incident as emblematic of what he said was Obama's flawed Middle East policy, contending the the administration had failed to show leadership in the Syrian conflict and nuclear standoff.

The two then wrangled over whether Obama had referred to the attack as "terrorism" in his first news conference about the incident on Sept. 12. Romney insisted that Obama had not, but both Obama and debate moderator Candy Crowley said that he did. A video of the Sept. 12 statement by the president included the words, "No act of terror will ever shake the resolve of this country."

Joby Warrick joined the Post’s national staff in 1996. He has covered national security, intelligence and the Middle East, and currently writes about the environment.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
The Democrats debate Thursday. Get caught up on the race.
The big questions after New Hampshire, from The Post's Dan Balz
Can Bernie Sanders cut into Hillary Clinton's strength in the minority community and turn his challenge into a genuine threat? And can any of the Republicans consolidate anti-Trump sentiment in the party in time to stop the billionaire developer and reality-TV star, whose unorthodox, nationalistic campaign has shaken the foundations of American politics?
Clinton in New Hampshire: 2008 vs. 2015
Hillary Clinton did about as well in N.H. this year as she did in 2008, percentage-wise. In the state's main counties, Clinton performed on average only about two percentage points worse than she did eight years ago (according to vote totals as of Wednesday morning) -- and in five of the 10 counties, she did as well or better.
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.