In a year full of awesome, nothing was better for me than this exchange during the second debate:
Meet me below the fold as we run through this exchange, blow by exquisite blow.
Also, feel free to discuss your favorite moment of this campaign cycle. Just don't say "Election Night," because that's just too easy.
(Continue reading below the fold.)
President Barack Obama has just finished answering a question about Benghazi:
And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the Secretary of State, our U.N. Ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own, governor, is offensive. That's not what we do. That's not what I do as president, that's not what I do as Commander in Chief.
Candy Crowley kicks it back to Mitt Romney for a rebuttal "quickly."
ROMNEY: I -- I think interesting the president just said something which -- which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.
At this point, Romney turns to look at Obama. Obama nods and says, barely audibly since his mic is resting on his knee:
OBAMA: That's what I said.
Romney is still looking at Obama, and points to him accusingly:
ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror.
The camera closes in on Romney's face as he first pauses for dramatic effect, then raises his eyebrows in mock, condescending, dickish disbelief, as though he's challenging his teenage sons.
Romney thinks he's scoring big points, and presses what he thinks is his advantage:
It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you're saying?
At this point, Obama interrupts Romney.
OBAMA: Please proceed. Please proceed governor.
Obama nods as he says this, further encouraging Romney to continue this line of attack, and just before the camera cuts away from his face and back to Romney, the beginnings of a smile flicker on Obama's face:
Obama knows Romney is walking into a trap. His eyes lock on Romney's, challenging him to, yes, proceed. Romney, still looking at Obama, realizes that something is up and becomes notably suspicious. There's a brief pause as his confidence drains away, then Romney stumbles over the word "I" three times before he finally gets off his next line:
ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
The response from Obama is swift.
OBAMA: Get the transcript.
But more surprisingly, Crowley stammers through her own fact-check:
CROWLEY: It -- it -- it -- he did in fact, sir. So let me -- let me -- call it an act of terror...
Crowley has two competing thoughts here—between "he did in fact, sir, call it an act of terror," and "so let me [move on to the next topic]." It's a confusing mumbly mishmash, but she's engaged and unexpectedly buttressing the president's point. So Obama moves in for the kill:
OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?
The crowd starts laughing, Romney is the butt of the joke.
CROWLEY: He -- he did call it an act of terror.
In that moment, the GOP fantasy that Benghazi would bring down Obama evaporated amidst mocking crowd laughter and applause, and Obama had decisively won the second (very critical) debate.
In fact, Romney was so thoroughly defeated on this issue, that he refused to use it as an attack line during the third debate, supposedly focused on foreign policy.