Libya is debate’s first question — and question left unanswered


The biggest question left after the foreign policy debate Monday night might  be about the questions left unasked: What happened to Libya?

Republicans have made last month’s deadly consulate attack in Libya a major  point of contention in questioning Obama’s record abroad, and Romney on the  campaign trail has accused Obama of not telling a straight story to the American  people about what happened.

But although moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News raised the topic of the  Sept. 11 attack in Libya in his first question onstage Monday in Boca Raton,  Fla., Romney and then Obama instead responded by broadening the topic to Al  Qaeda, the Arab Spring and the Middle East.

Romney only mentioned Libya once, saying that the attack was carried out  “apparently by, I think we know now, by terrorists of some kind against our  people there.”

He went on to “congratulate (Obama) on taking out Usama bin Laden and going  after the leadership in Al Qaeda. But we can’t kill our way out of this mess.  We’re going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust  strategy.”

Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack  in Benghazi, Libya. The Obama administration has faced criticism for its  changing explanation of the attack, in particular claims that it was a  “spontaneous” outgrowth of protests over an anti-Islam film.

Intelligence officials still are looking at the possibility that the film  played a role in sparking the attack, and it isn’t clear how long the attackers  had been planning the assault on the consulate — though some reports say it may  have come together in a matter of hours.

In the debate, Obama briefly defended his administration’s response to the  attack.

“As I indicated in the last debate, when we received that phone call, I  immediately made sure that, number one, that we did everything we could to  secure those Americans who were still in harm’s way; number two, that we would  investigate exactly what happened, and number three, most importantly, that we  would go after those who killed Americans and we would bring them to justice.  And that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” he said.

Even so, Republicans praised Romney’s performance.

“Governor Romney came in here tonight and showed he was presidential,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said after the debate. “The president was small. … Only  Mitt Romney spoke and acted like a president.”

Joe Trippi, a former campaign manager for Democrat Howard Dean, told Fox News  that Romney’s strategy was “not to let Obama paint him as the reckless guy who’s  going to take us to war.”

“I just want to call this debate the ‘big hug,’” Trippi said, noting examples  in the debate of Romney agreeing with Obama’s foreign policy. “But I think the  president had the edge.”

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