WASHINGTON -- The bombing at the Boston Marathon, the first large-scale attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, was clearly another terrorist attack.
So why wasn't it labeled as such by President Obama in his first public remarks from the White House after the attack had occurred? The White House gave murky legal reasons having to do with future prosecutorial efforts, but this was certainly not a time to mince words.
A White House official, who later talked to reporters on the condition he would remain anonymous, said that this was clearly an "act of terror." The Washington Post noted Tuesday that this was "the same term the president used in the aftermath of the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, in September."
By Tuesday, Obama apparently decided that he could have been more forthcoming in his word choice, since everyone else was calling it an act of terrorism. So at a morning news briefing, he called the bombings what they were: an "act of terror."
"Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror," he said. He wasn't going to make the same mistake twice.
It will be recalled that the Obama administration went to great lengths to avoid calling the Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, including our ambassador, an act of terrorism by terrorists. Instead, the first official explanation was of a "protest" at the U.S. Embassy that somehow got out of hand.
The State Department also peddled that line, then moved away from it. And then U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice went on several TV talk shows, offering the same "protest" explanation, triggering weeks of widespread criticism from GOP leaders in Congress and, eventually, House and Senate hearings.
The White House abandoned that description when it became increasingly clear that the Benghazi attacks were carried out by terrorists.
We do not know whether the premeditated attack near the marathon's finish line -- which killed three people, and maimed and injured more than 140 others -- was the work terrorists from abroad or a domestic extremist group.
But obviously this was the deadly work of terrorists, whoever they may be, and Obama should have said so up front.
His initial reluctance Monday to call the attack an act of terrorism is a sensitive issue in many political quarters, and, no doubt, the reason why the Post called attention to the president's avoidance of the term in its front-page story on Tuesday.