By Jonathan Easley - 10/17/12 11:28 AM EDT
Vice President Joe Biden ripped Mitt Romney over Libya, saying the GOP challenger was exposed at Tuesday night’s debate for trying to “politicize the tragedy.”
“It became so clear to the American people how Gov. Romney and his campaign continue to try and politicize the tragedy,” Biden said Wednesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “Their strategy seems to be to try to make it appear that the president didn’t know or didn’t care or was lying. The fact is the president was clear — we are going to get to the bottom of this; the whole world will know it.”
“A few days later I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families,” Obama said, visibly irritated and turning to address Romney directly. “The idea that anybody on my team, the secretary of State, the U.N. ambassador, would play politics or mislead when we lost four of our own is offensive ... that’s not what I do as president, that’s not what I do as commander in chief.”
Biden called this the most “powerful moment” of the debate.
“I think when he looked at Gov. Romney and made that assertion and said, 'Don’t question me on this in terms of my character,' I thought it was a powerful moment,” Biden said.
Romney and congressional Republicans for weeks have been lambasting the president for taking too long to qualify the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that left four Americans dead on Sept. 11 as a result of terrorism.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice and many senior administration officials initially blamed the assault as being sparked by anger over an anti-Islam video. The administration later said intelligence suggested it was a planned attack.
During the debate Romney pressed Obama, charging the president with not labeling the assault an act of terrorism for two weeks.
Obama said he had called it an "act of terror" during remarks the next day in the Rose Garden.
Romney seized on the president’s answer and pressed him on it repeatedly, apparently believing he’d caught the president in a lie.
“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?” Romney said. “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.”
"Get the transcript," Obama replied.
Crowley then broke in, saying: “He did, in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terror … ”
“Can you say that a little louder, Candy?” Obama shouted.
The transcript of Obama’s remarks the day after the Libya attack shows he used the phrase "act of terror" during his remarks, although ambiguously.
“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,” said Obama on Sept. 12. “Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done."
Romney supporters, though, contend that Obama had discussed the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks earlier in the Rose Garden remarks and that the reference to “acts of terror” was not about Benghazi.
Romney running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday defended the GOP attacks on Obama over Libya.
"It was a passing comment about acts of terror in general — it was not a claim that this was a terrorist attack," Ryan said on ABC's "Good Morning America. "Nobody believes that that Rose Garden speech from the president was suggesting that that [individual act] was an act of terror."
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), though, also blasted Romney and charged him with politicizing the issue on Wednesday.
"The bottom line is this: The president called it an act of terror, and Mitt Romney last night tried to tell him he didn’t, and Candy Crowley had to hold him accountable for that," Kerry said Wednesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"Don’t play games with national security. Before anybody knew the facts, Mitt Romney was politicizing the issue ... you don’t do that if you’re running for president. You get the facts. He criticized this administration and accused them of creating this event before he even knew what the full measure of the event was. That’s not presidential; it’s not the leadership we need," Kerry added.
This story was updated at 8:40 a.m.