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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 15, 2013/ 6 Sivan 5773

The Truth Behind the Rhetoric by Glenn Kessler: Prez's claim he called Benghazi an 'act of terrorism'

By Glenn Kessler




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | “The day after it happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism.”

— President Obama, remarks at a news conference, May 13, 2013

Once again, it appears that we must parse a few presidential words. We went through this question at length during the 2012 election, but perhaps a refresher course is in order.

Notably, during a debate with Republican nominee Mitt Romney, President Obama said that he immediately told the American people that the killing of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Libya “was an act of terror.” But now he says he called it “an act of terrorism.”

Some readers may object to this continuing focus on words, but presidential aides spend a lot of time on words. Words have consequences. Is there a difference between “act of terror” and “act of terrorism”?

The Facts

Immediately after the attack, the president three times used the phrase “act of terror” in public statements:

“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.”

— Obama, Rose Garden, Sept. 12

“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.”

— Obama, campaign event in Las Vegas, Sept. 13

“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.”

— Obama, campaign event in Golden, Colo., Sept. 13

Here’s how we assessed those words back in October:

Note that in all three cases, the language is not as strong as Obama asserted in the debate. Obama declared that he said “that this was an act of terror.” But actually the president spoke in vague terms, usually wrapped in a patriotic fervor. One could presume he was speaking of the incident in Libya, but he did not affirmatively state that the American ambassador died because of an “act of terror.”
Some readers may think we are dancing on the head of pin here. The Fact Checker spent nine years as diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post, and such nuances of phrasing are often very important. A president does not simply utter virtually the same phrase three times in two days about a major international incident without careful thought about the implications of each word.

The Fact Checker noted last week that this was an attack on what essentially was a secret CIA operation, which included rounding up weapons from the very people who may have attacked the facility.

Perhaps Obama, in his mind, thought this then was really “an act of war,” not a traditional terrorist attack, but he had not wanted to say that publicly. Or perhaps, as Republicans suggest, he did not want to spoil his campaign theme that terror groups such as al-Qaeda were on the run by conceding a terrorist attack had occurred on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Whatever the reason, when given repeated opportunities to forthrightly declare this was an “act of terrorism,” the president ducked the question.

For instance, on Sept. 12, immediately after the Rose Garden statement the day after the attack, Obama sat down with Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes and acknowledged he purposely avoided the using the word “terrorism:”

KROFT: “Mr. President, this morning you went out of your way to avoid the use of the word ‘terrorism’ in connection with the Libya attack.”
OBAMA: “Right.”
KROFT: “Do you believe that this was a terrorist attack?”
OBAMA: “Well, it’s too early to know exactly how this came about, what group was involved, but obviously it was an attack on Americans. And we are going to be working with the Libyan government to make sure that we bring these folks to justice, one way or the other.”

(You can view this segment of the interview below. A key question is what the president meant when he said “right.” Was this agreement with Kroft or just verbal acknowledgment? It is a bit in the eye of the beholder, but we lean toward agreement that he avoided using “terrorism.” For unknown reasons, CBS did not release this clip until just two days before the elections, and it attracted little notice at the time because Superstorm Sandy dominated the news.)

Eight days later, on Sept. 20, Obama was asked at a Univision town hall whether Benghazi was a terrorist attack related to al-Qaeda, after White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that “it is self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.”

QUESTION: “We have reports that the White House said today that the attacks in Libya were a terrorist attack. Do you have information indicating that it was Iran, or al-Qaeda was behind organizing the protests?”
OBAMA: “Well, we’re still doing an investigation, and there are going to be different circumstances in different countries. And so I don’t want to speak to something until we have all the information. What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the outrage over the video were used as an excuse by extremists to see if they can also directly harm U.S. interests.”

(It is unclear whether Obama is ducking the “terrorism” question or answering one about al-Qaeda.)

Finally, during an interview on ABC’s “The View” on Sept. 25, Obama appeared to refuse to say it was a terrorist attack:

QUESTION: “It was reported that people just went crazy and wild because of this anti-Muslim movie -- or anti-Muhammad, I guess, movie. But then I heard Hillary Clinton say that it was an act of terrorism. Is it? What do you say?”
OBAMA: “We are still doing an investigation. There is no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn’t just a mob action. Now, we don’t have all the information yet so we are still gathering.”

So, given three opportunities to affirmatively agree that the Benghazi attack was a terrorist attack, the president obfuscated or ducked the question.

In fact, as far as we can tell from combing through databases, Monday was the first time the president himself referred to Benghazi as an “act of terrorism.”

Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House national security council, said in the case of “The View,” “the point of the question what about what happened, not what to call it.”

She also noted that President George W. Bush used the phrase “act of terror” while visiting victims of the Sept. 11 attacks in the hospital, and critics such as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) have used that phrasing as well in speaking about terrorist attacks. (She provided citations.) “I don’t really accept the argument that we are somehow unique in that formulation,” she said.

Administration officials repeatedly have insisted that this is a distinction without much difference. “There was an issue about the definition of terrorism,” Carney said on October 10. “This is by definition an act of terror, as the President made clear.”

The Pinocchio Test

During the campaign, the president could just get away with claiming he said “act of terror,” since he did use those words — though not in the way he often claimed. It seemed like a bit of after-the-fact spin, but those were his actual words — to the surprise of Mitt Romney in the debate.

But the president’s claim that he said “act of terrorism” is taking revisionist history too far, given that he repeatedly refused to commit to that phrase when asked directly by reporters in the weeks after the attack. He appears to have gone out of his way to avoid saying it was a terrorist attack, so he has little standing to make that claim now.

Indeed, the initial unedited talking points did not call it an act of terrorism. Instead of pretending the right words were uttered, it would be far better to acknowledge that he was echoing what the intelligence community believed at the time--and that the administration’s phrasing could have been clearer and more forthright from the start.

 

 

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An award-winning journalism career spanning nearly three decades, Glenn Kessler has covered foreign policy, economic policy, the White House, Congress, politics, airline safety and Wall Street. He was The Washington Post's chief State Department reporter for nine years, traveling around the world with three different Secretaries of State. Before that, he covered tax and budget policy for The Washington Post and also served as the newspaper's national business editor. Kessler has long specialized in digging beyond the conventional wisdom, such as when he earned a "laurel" from the Columbia Journalism Review



Previously:

02/21/13: Obama and early childhood education: a rhetorical leap of faith

02/14/13: Fact checking the 2013 State of the Union speech

10/23/11: Fact Checking the Final Debate

07/10/11: Obama's misleading tweet on Romney's taxes

02/21/11: The claim that 98 percent of Catholic women use contraception: a media foul

12/29/11: Ron Paul and Ronald Reagan (Fact Checker biography)

12/08/11: Romney versus Gingrich: a Super PAC's over-the-top ad

12/08/11: Obama's Kansas speech: some suspect facts

11/18/11: The Obama campaign's spin on the Romney tax plan

09/27/11: Obama' strained symbolism at an Ohio River bridge

08/25/11: Obama's claim that GOP is holding up trade deals

08/11/11: Obama's claim that the debt problem can ‘go away’

06/22/11: AARP's misleading ad about balancing the budget

05/24/11: A rare Geppetto for Paul Ryan's assertion on Obama's hidden top marginal tax rate

05/16/11:Obama administration boasting about border security

05/11/11: Kathleen Sebelius's outrageous claim that cancer patients would 'die sooner' under the GOP Medicare plan

05/09/11: A gusher of oil rhetoric

05/04/11: The Obama administration's odd claims on export growth

04/28/11: How effective are sanctions in ‘changing behavior’?

04/14/11: ‘Biggest cuts in U.S. history’? Well, no.

04/08/11: Nancy Pelosi's absurd math on senior citizens losing their meals

04/06/11: Hillary Clinton's uncredible statement on Syria

03/25/11: Libya, Obama and the tragedy in Darfur

03/22/11: Gifts of bogus statistics for the health-care law's birthday

03/21/11: Mitch McConnell's not-so-happy birthday greetings for the health care law

03/10/11: A job-loss statistic produced out of thin air

03/10/17: A budget analogy that earns a Geppetto checkmark

03/10/11: Four pinocchios for the American public on the budget

03/09/11: Obama and the White House's ‘halfway’ fixation with the budget

03/08/11: Foreign policy braggadocio on Libya and AIDS

03/07/11: Democrats keep misleading on claimed budget ‘cuts’

03/01/11: Mike Huckabee is on to something here, but jumped the gun

02/25/11: Harry Reid's illusory $41 billion in budget cuts


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