So here’s the post-debate spin situation as of 7 am. The main argument will be over whether Obama truly called Benghazi an act of terror on September 12. Yes, it is true that he used the plural form and spoke generally: “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.”
All right then. Acts of terror. There’s a technical point there. He did not say yes, the United States of America officially declares this particular act an act of terror. But what was he referring to when he said acts of terror? Someone spiking the punch bowl in the embassy in Turks and Caicos? No. He was clearly referring to what had happened the night before in Benghazi.
That’ll be good enough for some people and not for others. But ask yourself this. If Bush had used the same language, would commentators on the right be satisfied that he’d called it an act of terror? Of course they would. The administration’s real weakness here has been that Jay Carney continued to say at his gaggles up through September 19 that the administration had no evidence the attack was premeditated. But then, The New York Times’s David Kirkpatrick confirmed that in a story yesterday. We'll see how it all plays out.
And did Candy Crowley “admit” that she was wrong to call Romney out? That’s what some on the right are claiming. But she didn’t exactly. Here. Judge for yourself.
Obviously, there’s a foreign policy debate next week, and this will come up. Until then, I think for the average centrist voter, Obama won the round, but more because Romney really flubbed it. As someone tweeted last night, it was an own goal.
Second, the right will be hitting Crowley hard, on that and other matters, like allegedly stacking the questions. My sense of the questions? Yes, they were, as a whole, more up Obama’s alley than Romney’s.
But that’s likely a function of geography. We heard last night the concerns of swing voters from the New York City area. They’re concerned about guns. It’s a diverse area, so we heard about immigration, from people who appeared to be sympathetic to what we’d call the pro-immigration (pro-McCain-Kennedy) view. It’s expensive, so they’re concerned about taxes and college costs.
If the debate had been held in Roanoke or Pensacola or San Diego, with questions from undecided voters of those regions, I’d imagine we’d have heard matters framed in a way that was more sympathetic to Romney’s world view. And that’s that. So now the commission is in on the vast pro-Obama conspiracy, I guess.
So this is what the right will try to do today—knock down the Benghazi narrative and accuse Crowley of bias. And, I suppose, insist that Romney actually won. My colleague Michelle Goldberg is good on this today, how liberals (including me) acknowledged two weeks ago that Obama blew it, but how conservatives are insisting today that Romney won, and that the only problems were that Obama lied and Crowley cheated and snap polls suck and so on. Amazing. If you spot a conservative who acknowledges that Obama won (and David Brooks doesn’t really count here), please let us know on this comment thread.