President Obama was reaching to younger voters during the October 18 interview with comedian Jon Stewart.
Between the jokes and laughs the conversation did enter a serious realm with some discussion of the Benghazi attack on the American consulate that resulted in the deaths of the ambassador, fellow diplomat and two former Navy SEALs. The attack initially blamed on a spontaneous protest about an anti-Islam movie made in California by the Obama administration. (For a look at what many college students think about the Benghazi attack click here.)
The first news story I saw about this conversation came from the United Kingdom but was quickly followed by conservative blogs and websites criticizing the president’s comments.
From the Mail Online: Stewart asked, “Is part of the investigation helping the communication between these divisions? ‘Not just what happened in Benghazi, but what happened within. Because I would say, even you would admit, it was not the optimal response, at least to the American people, as far as all of us being on the same page.”
Obama responded, “Here’s what I’ll say. If four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal.’
I wondered if the president had been quoted out of context. Did the president mean his administration’s response was not optimal? Was it just a poor choice of words? Was the ‘it’s’ referring to the Americans or to the earlier ‘response’? Was it necessary to parse words? So I watched the video clip listening closely to the sentence structure. I invite you to watch:
I watched it several times. It seems that Obama took Stewart’s ‘optimal’ word but then he changed the subject, interjecting the loss of four Americans instead of his administration’s response. Is that what he meant?
UPDATE: Townhall posted a clip from Andrea Mitchell’s program about this issue. It’s worth watching:
Obama supporters will say it was either a slip, a misspeak, or the context was wrong. While it could be possible I was reminded of Obama’s 60 Minutes interview which aired on September 23. The interview took place on September 12, the day after the attack on the Benghazi consulate. It had already been reported that there were several deaths in the attack. While talking about the Arab Spring and its many challenges President Obama did not directly mention the tragedy in Benghazi, instead he said, “We’re going to have some bumps in the road.”
The families of those who died at the hands of terrorists may think differently.
You can watch the full 60 Minute Interview here.
We expect to hear generals and military strategists talking about collateral damage and acceptable losses…it’s not a pretty thing but it’s part of their planning. But what do the families who have lost their loved ones think when they hear their president speak so impersonally ? Do we want a president who looks at arriving caskets as ‘not optimal circumstances’ or are we looking for a president who has maybe a more emotional response and places a higher value on the life of Americans?
In the end I want my president to always put the lives of Americans above politics, one whose compassion for our heroes and their families will will never be in doubt and one whose comments cannot be misconstrued to hint that the death of any one American is simply ‘not optimal.’