President Obama has changed his tune on al-Qaeda. Gone from his stump speeches is the boast that al-Qaeda has been decimated.
This was President Obama speaking in Miami on October 11: “Four years ago, I told you we’d end the war in Iraq, and I did. I said we’d end the war in Afghanistan, and we are. I said we’d refocus on the people who actually attacked us on 9/11—and today, al-Qaeda is on the run and Osama bin Laden is dead.”
Fast-forward to Obama speaking in Mount Vernon, Iowa, on October 17, the day after the second presidential debate: “You know, four years ago I told you we’d end the war in Iraq, and I did. I said we’d end the war in Afghanistan, and we are. I said we’d focus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and we have, and bin Laden is dead.”
Notice, gone is the phrase “and today, al-Qaeda is on the run.” This is no accident.
At Tuesday’s presidential debate, Obama was challenged on the September 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and on the meaning of the word terrorism. The fact that the President’s stump speech has been altered shows that this issue is finally getting under Obama’s skin and that of his advisers.
What the President and his Administration said—or did not say—since September 11 on terrorism has become a matter of deep fascination. But at the heart of the blame-shifting and lawyerly language over the meaning of terrorism are questions about intelligence, security, and policy failure in the Middle East.
The fact that al-Qaeda is in fact alive and getting a foothold in Libya should not have been news to the Administration. Details can be found in a new report from the Library of Congress. This report was completed in August, and the Library of Congress concluded that al-Qaeda has grown in strength in Libya as well as in other Arab countries.
Still, President Obama, Vice President Biden, and their surrogates kept mouthing the line that “al-Qaeda is in the run.” But apparently not any more.