On Libya, The Mother of All Rope-a-Dopes from President Obama

If you're curious, yes, I borrowed part of the title from Liberal Librarian here. At the debate on Tuesday night, Mitt Romney thought he was moving in for the kill, and he got spanked hard on Libya. Not only was he check mated by the President when he decided to nitpick on whether or not the President said the words 'act of terror' describing the attacks in Benghazi the day after they happened, moderator Candy Crowley chimed in and set the record straight, on a direct quote from the President's statement in the Rose Garden.

Jon Stewart provided the most hilarious take on this exhange:



Pause the video and watch the president's face and his eyes when he knows he's got Romney on the ropes. The President knew this was going to happen. You could see it in his eyes. It is almost as though he re-asserted the fact that he did call it an act of terror in the Rose Garden precisely to elicit that response from Romney.

Mr. Romney wasn't watching the president in action throughout his statements, but unfortunately for Romney, the President was watching him. The President knew Mitt Romney is at best an uninformed lightweight, especially on foreign policy, and that almost the entirety of his - and to be honest, the Republican party's - critic of the President's foreign policy rested on: words. Think about this: the whole of their beef with the Obama foreign policy has been (inaccurately) that Obama talks too gently to our supposed enemies, and he doesn't grovel enough to the governments of our allies (well, just one ally: Israel).

The conservative critic of Obama's foreign policy is based on what they think the President says: Obama's tour to the middle east was an "apology tour," he isn't using enough threatening words against Iran, he's not giving Israel enough props (a country whose president and Defense Minister agree that President Obama is the best ally of Israel ever when it comes to security), etc. etc. etc.

So President Obama knew the only place Romney could bring the attack from: he was going to say that the president said the wrong things. Romney signaled early that he'd go that way by opening his Libya attack with a cherry-picked version of statements from administration officials and then by accusing them of playing politics. The President was also pretty sure that Romney moved himself into the conservative fact-free bubble where what Fox thinks the President said and what the President actually said are one and the same. And so he came back strong, whipped Romney for it, and laid out on the table what the President knew Romney did not know: that the President had in fact referred to the Benghazi attack as an act of terror on the day after.

This is where I part ways with Jon Stewart. He thinks Romney, in his zeal to nitpick with words, walked into a trap that wasn't really set. I think that the President knew that Romney could do nothing but nitpick with words, and he carefully laid out that subtle trap. Subtle to everyone else, but enough for Romney to take the bait.

And boy did Romney ever. He thought he had the President where he wanted him, and was comfortably moving in to check mate. At that moment, with three simple words, Obama obliterated Romney: Get the transcript. Boom.

Bitch and moan as the right wing might with indignation at a moderator daring to set the facts straight, there's no unringing of this bell. And this doesn't end here, either. That is the most replayed part of this debate, and it connects this debate nicely with the next debate coming up Monday, which will be entirely about foreign policy. Mitt Romney has been rattled, and there isn't enough time to recover in time for Monday.