September 30th, 2012
11:47 AM ET
6 years ago

Axelrod, McCain spar over Libya attack

(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.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

Filed under: 2012 • David Axelrod • John McCain • Libya • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Fourleaf Tayback

    Hispanics should make sure to watch the UNIVISION bombshell report out tomorrow on Obama's botched FAST AND FURIOUS gun running debacle. Thousands of Mexican citizens were killed by guns sent down to Mexico by OUR OWN ADMINISTRATION. If you are a Latino or Latina...please watch this show tomorrow...along with Obama's breaking his promise of immigration reform and double digit unemployment you may ask yourselves...why am I voting for Obama???

    September 30, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  2. Thomas

    McCain, however, said earlier on the same program that such an argument "doesn't pass the smell test."

    King and McCain never used the smell teat during the GW Bush years . When did they clear there nasal passages ?

    I'll take this Rice to the last Rice any day of the year .

    September 30, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  3. vic , nashville ,tn

    This is terrorist attack, Libyan government fail to protect our consulate in Benghazi those are the facts
    Local government must protect our embassies that is their duty , from June there were 3 to 4 attacks on westerners that was red flag why Libyan government didn’t step up ?

    Spinning this story here in election year smell dead fish

    September 30, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  4. Gurgyl

    I watched face the nation, most of the time neither Newt not that big fat idiot from new jersey were off the path, sounded mentally retarded. Obama12.

    September 30, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  5. myviewis

    Ahhhh, Axelrod, the master of propaganda selling. Didn't Hillary say the FBI was in Benghazi examining the crime scene just for us later to be informed that the FBI never set foot in Benghazi?????

    Thanks to finally getting real reporting from CNN we know the truth of this crime, the murdering of our Ambassador.

    It was a terrorist attack, we all say it from the beginning but this administration refuses to call anything "Terrorist" that happens to public servants, military, etc..... This Obama administration wants to live in Fantasyland, smile away all real life happenings. Maybe they should consider living in Disney where everything is happy.

    Ambassador Susan Rice was ridiculous and embarrassing, thank goodness she never became a reporter.

    September 30, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  6. B.

    McCain is a ex-bomber pilot, and every thing in the news looks like a potential target to bomb!

    The guy is a monomaniac, he knows nothing else but WAR as a solution..

    September 30, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  7. independent

    Political overtones. What he is doing now has political overtones. Ludicrous.

    September 30, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  8. Dean

    Yeah I listen to McCain – he was the guy telling America Palin was ready to be President !!

    September 30, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  9. LEK

    Fourleaf Tayback – what does "FAST AND FURIOUS" has to with this topic? (Axelrod, McCain spar over Libya attack) Once again the "right leaners" try to change the subject and speak to a program that was started under President Bush's administration. Come guy, stick to the topic at hand. Besides, Mitt has lost that segment of voters–too. Try again.

    September 30, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  10. g

    now I know why reagan defunded mental health –it would have destroyed his party

    September 30, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  11. Ray E. (Georgia)

    Axelrod looks bad. He is probably tired of lying for Obama. It will be over in November. Count on it.

    September 30, 2012 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  12. vic , nashville ,tn

    Ambassador, is a dangerous job, they want to protect every one life in the embassy same time they have to go out meet people
    Problem with Obama administration they are more worried about FOX and right wing radio talk shows, yes they will connect the dots to 1979 Tehran, explain to American people
    current congress cut nearly $300 millions from state department budget it may put our embassies in danger

    September 30, 2012 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  13. anonoymous

    I guess McCain isnt better off 4 years later...still upset he lost like it was yesterday. This bitter old man needs to go away and take Newt with him. How anybody can rely on these two proven losers for any kind of advice is beyond me Obama 2012

    September 30, 2012 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  14. BeverlyNC

    If I were McCain I wouldn't be crticizing anyone about handling of a terrorist attack after George Bush sent 4000 of our soldiers to their death by lying to the nation about Iraq. It was a fraud war to steal Iraq's oil. Osama was in Afghanistan but Bush stopped looking for him once he got his "war" in Iraq. He committed international war crimes on torture for which he can still be prosecuted. President Obama has kept America safe, got Osama, has destroyed most of the Al Qaeda leadership, and has gotten the UN to lead efforts in the Arab Spring so the US is not the one always left to police the world with our money and our soldiers alone.
    The investigation is ongoing in Libya and we have "intelligence information" that cannot be shared with the media in order to save lives, catch terrorists, and solve critical issues we may never know about. President Obama has handled EVERY foreign issue with intelligence, smart deliberation, thoughtful consideration before action, and has the respect of ALL the world. Libya has even apologized to the US for the attack and Libyian People held rallies in SUPPORT of the US and in mourning for our Ambassador who they respected. McCain and the Republicans are and have always been war mongers and right before the Election will say anything to criticize our President and second guess his actions. They know nothing for they have no access to what the President and Secretary Clinton do. I trust the President and Hillary who both have done incredible foreign policy work these past few years. McCain needs to retire. War is not the answer anymore.

    September 30, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  15. imsickofitall

    "What we don't need is a president or an administration that shoots first and asks questions later." amusing... so why didn't the administration just say they didn't know what happened and wait to address the issue once they had all the facts? Instead they rolled out this "it was just the movie" spin that turned out to be total bs. So little hit ler axelrod complains that Romney did exactly what they did (only worse as they lied) and its news. I guarantee within 24 hours they knew it was a coordinated attack but just kept pushing that fake story.

    September 30, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  16. Time for Change

    Obama's response to the attack in Libya is proof of his inability to lead. His only concern was to ensure that his image was intact and to spin the attack into nothing but lies and deceit. Obama, the deceiver, that's what he should be called from now on. He cannot be trusted to tell the truth as he knows it will destroy him.

    September 30, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  17. Jill-IN

    The political overtone I recall is Romney running out in front of the cameras way prematurely in an attempt to make political hay for himself. It was disgusting!

    September 30, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  18. pkrbkr

    this is nothing compared to the complete lies that led us into Iraq......Obama/Biden 2012

    September 30, 2012 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  19. 1608

    Today a woman said she will vote for Mitt...... She also said I wish he would say what he will do as POTUS.
    If that is how people vote I wish they wouldN'T.

    September 30, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  20. ddtrey

    Hmmm, when Bush sent troops into Iraq using the Intel they currently had, the Dems (who actually supported the invasion) turned it back on him when the intel changed. But NOW, it is o.k. to make a stand on current Intel and then back-track on it when it proved false. You liberals never change. You always criticize but end up putting your foot in your mouth.

    September 30, 2012 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  21. McCain is senile

    Maybe Sen McCain missed the part that happened after the attack. When a large group of Libyian people, marched to the compound of the suspected terrorist and chased them into the desert... showing their support for the United States and its leadership. See , Sen McCain seem to be upset that we didn't put boots on the ground to overthrow the government, he would much rather have sacrificed thousands of American lives, vs the 4 killed to this point.

    September 30, 2012 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  22. Brian from Ohio

    Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur and his Libyan Ministry of Defense almost immediately arrested members of the Ansar al-Shariah (‘supporters of the holy law’) group.

    Ambassador Rice's comments were directed towards that Arabic talk show. What Senator McCain should realize about the Democrat support (Hoyer, Kerry and others) had for our U.N. Ambassador, is that she correctly disavowed the anti-Muslim video (unaffiliated with anybody in the US government) at the time. She correctly stated it was the spark for not only violent attacks in Libya and Egypt, but other sympathetic protests, which are still on-going wide spread throughout the world.

    What is not acceptable, is to have Republicans such as Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, inflame religious tensions with rhetoric that's the only serves "political overtones" in our election year. It's NOT NECESSARY.

    My friend, as he likes to say...that's the only Evangelical right wing religious Holy War rhetoric that stinks here. Representative King and others will find no political capital in the blood of J. Christopher Stevens, so this member of Three Amigo posse should learn to quit while he's ahead. Winning the pennant, doesn't mean you've won the World Series. Romney should let the American people decide who will be our President, and until such is that time, there's only one sheriff in town. So get out of the sun Arizona, you are hallucinating.

    This is most irresponsible blameshift I've witnessed since...Hedge Fund Managers began The Big Lie...public debt caused our economic catastrophe, not their private debt.

    September 30, 2012 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  23. batjones

    I think the criticism of the Administration is fair. They have been slow in declaring the attack on the Libyan embassy as a successful plot of terrorism. The simple incident of the attack prove that security was not adequate. We can be tough on the President and Secretary of State and assert that even an attempt that is defeated is a sign of American weakness. We can second guess the President as to what intelligence report 12 hours before the attack was the smoking gun, that should have sparked a request that Congress approve additional funds to reinforce security at each American embassy and consulate and military base in the world. However, the more I hear from Senator McCain turns me off to the extent that I suspect that the Obama Administration is moving in the correct direction.

    I think most media commentators have failed to look at the broader picture. The reason we have an embassy or a consulate in a country is because there are American interests in that country – usually business interests. Imagine our embassies issuing the statements that Mr. Romney proposed before learning that our Ambassador to Libya was assassinated. There is the good chance that the Islamic extremists would by-pass our embassies and start to target American business interests and American private citizens that are working in the hot-spots throughout the Muslim world.

    I find it interesting that Republicans think of America as the concept of a place, and the place must be protected, while Democrats think of America as the concept of a people, and the people must be protected.

    September 30, 2012 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  24. Yeahona

    McCain – I wanna be President and so I'll act as if I know what I'm talking about even though I don't. He's talking about political overtones – his guy made the trip to that well first!

    September 30, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  25. Steve

    McCain is either a moron or willfully ignormant. Has he ever seen those parts of the world? People carry and possess hdeavy weapons like maching guns, RPG's and other odrnance as a matter of daily life. The suggestion that a spontaneous demonstration couldn't involve those types of weapons is absurd. US helicopers have been downed in flight with those kinds of weapons in unplanned spontaneous acts. Certainly they could attack a stationary building the same way.

    It is McCain that is speaking with political overtomes, pretending to be the nonpartisan voice of reason and military wisdom. He is sad clown and it's time to leave the center ring.

    September 30, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
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