(CNN) – Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod played defense Sunday on the administration's handling of the Libya consulate attack that killed four Americans, while Sen. John McCain said the response was marred by "political overtones."
On Friday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence revised its assessment of the attack, saying the administration now believes the event was a deliberate terrorist assault, rather than spontaneous violence spurred by protests against an anti-Muslim film.
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Defending the administration's initial take on the event earlier this month, Axelrod said officials were making judgments based on the intelligence they had at the time.
"That was the original information that that was given to us," Axelrod said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union." "What we don't need is a president or an administration that shoots first and asks questions later."
McCain, however, said earlier on the same program that such an argument "doesn't pass the smell test."
"It was either willful ignorance or abysmal intelligence to think that people come to spontaneous demonstrations with heavy weapons, mortars, and the attack goes on for hours," the Republican senator told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.
He argued the administration's first reading of the events in Libya had "certain political overtones."
"How else could you trot out our U.N. ambassador to say this was a spontaneous demonstration?" McCain said, referring to Ambassador Susan Rice's appearance on Sunday shows a few days after the attack, when she attributed the violence to protests over the film.
Rep. Peter King of New York, who chairs the House homeland security committee, made headlines Friday when he called on Rice to resign.
Axelrod fired back at the congressman, calling his comments "irresponsible."
"To say she should resign - she is one of the most remarkable, splendid public servants we have," Axelrod said. "That's thoroughly irresponsible."
He said the administration’s investigation was still under way.
"At this point, this is what we know, and we are thoroughly investigating. And that's exactly what you should do," he said.
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