(CNN) – The assault on an American diplomatic post in Libya that left four Americans dead provided surrogates for both presidential candidates with fodder for political attacks Sunday, two days ahead of a critical debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.
On CNN's "State of the Union," Romney adviser Ed Gillespie echoed an attack line the GOP nominee delivered last week, insisting that Vice President Joe Biden's assertions at the vice-presidential debate didn't match congressional testimony from State Department officials.
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"Vice President Biden directly contradicted the sworn testimony of the State Department in the debate the other night. That led to another round of kind of nuancing by the White House," Gillespie said, adding: "There are inconsistencies here, and I think as Americans we deserve to know what really happened going into this attack."
In the debate Thursday, Biden said, "We weren't told they wanted more security" at the diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. State Department officials testified at a congressional hearing on Wednesday that they requested more security but were turned down by headquarters in Washington.
Robert Gibbs, also speaking with CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley on "State of the Union," said those requests were handled by the State Department and not by the president or vice president.
"Security requests at our embassies and consulates and our buildings throughout the world obviously go to the State Department. Those are the people that should be making those decisions," Gibbs said, adding, "Nobody wants to get to the bottom of exactly what happened more than this president and this administration."
Gibbs also rejected the Republican criticism of the Obama administration, saying the president's rivals were seeking political gain from the national tragedy.
"We don't need wing-tipped cowboys or shoot-from-the-hip diplomacy," Gibbs said, pointing to widespread criticism of Romney's initial response to the attack in Libya, as well as a protest at the American Embassy in Cairo that occurred the same day.
The sparring on Sunday came after a week that saw the Libya issue surface on the campaign trail as well as in Congress. At the hearing Wednesday, Republicans insinuated that Obama's administration was responsible for a lack of preparedness ahead of the attack in Benghazi on September 11, which killed four Americans, including the United States ambassador to Libya.
Critics accuse the administration of trying to cover up or play down the attack through initial statements that described it as a spontaneous act, stemming from protests over an anti-Muslim film, rather than a planned terrorist assault.
Gibbs said Sunday that what "everybody has been saying at every moment in this great tragedy has been the best information that we have when we have it available."
"We're learning stuff each and every day about what happened," he continued. "That's what an investigation is supposed to do."
Pressed by Crowley on whether the president was responsible in any way for the United States' situation in Libya, Gibbs said, "The administration is responsible."
"Countries that provide us consulates and missions are responsible also for keeping those people safe and secure," he added.
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Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.
Any time a candidate gets involved in foreign policy issues, it weakens the behind the scenes workings of the State Department. Romney has been the worst, as he is on the attack before the news channels can break the story. This comes from his connections at Fox, which is really the republican news network.
The President doesn't oversee the thousands of embassies. That's for the State Department.
The Republican House DID cut 549 Million in funding for Embassy security all over the world. Tripoli asked for more security. Not Benghazi.
Some of you need to learn to read and listen.
Hello....Nina! Of course Obama will do anything to get reelected. That's why he's going to blame the Libya murders of our great Ambassador and security team on Hillary Clinton. Poor Hillary, she can kiss her 2016 campaign goodbye!
republicans 3000 plus in country–obama 4 in the middle east–
Ed Gillespie is such a no brainer. always stuff his foot in his bad mouth. In the middle of crisis, he and Romney rushed to accuse everyone, shooting indicriminately. That is the lowest point any politician can get. Romney stipud as he was, bla bla in his news conference.
Ed Gillespie and Romney do not have any idea about protocol which is an foreign service code
Neighter Ed Gillespie nor Romney nor Ryan know anything about foreign policy. They should just shut their mouth and let the intellegence community reports as event evolves and new info is given, IN DUE COURSE.
To @ LarryL and @URNOTDAVE:
Thank you both for your service to our coutry. Romney was not a draft dodger. He had his number like millions of others, but his number was never called. He did not run to France and hide, he was never drafted.
The Vietnam Lottery numbers were issued on Dec 1, 1969. Romney did his thirty month mission starting in 1966. He received a deferment during the period of greatest demand and his high lottery number was largely irrelevant. The significant issue isn't his attempts to avoid service in Vietnam – that was a popular pastime in those days. Romney in fact joined an anti-draft protest group while at Stanford in 1965.
What's important is his current saber-rattling and militaristic approach to foreign affairs. He's clearly behaving like a "chicken-hawk" because he wants to prove his conservative credentials to the right-wing base. He plans to expand the defense budget well beyond that requested by the Joint Chiefs of Staff – with promises for high-dollar pork items like naval battle groups and nuclear subs. He now threatens military solutions to problems across the globe – and others would do the fighting and dying. That's the problem!
Of course all you neocons - especially Gillespie - ignore the testimony of the State Department officials that the request for the Marines was for the EMBASSY in Tripoli NOT the CONSULATE in Benghazi. Those Marines would not have been able to save the ambassador because they couldn't have gotten to Benghazi fast enough.
But why let inconvenient facts get in the way of your ranting?
@ Larry L- you know absolutely nothing about the Mormon religion. As a colonel I expect more from you. But judging by how many years you served. You may have lost some common sense over the years and I will cut you a break.
You are correct about my knowledge of Mormonism. I know very little about religious cults. That isn't a part of military training. Sorry to disappoint you...
I'll assume my loss of common sense relates to Romney's use of his religious mission as a means to avoid the draft. Possibly my demented state makes the irony clear only to me. Still, you might research Romney's participation in anti-draft protests while at Stanford in 1965 – the year before he accepted the 30 month mission. He was given a cushy mission in France, rather than Equatorial Africa, the slums of Central or South America, or some other challenging environment. Now he proposes military solutions for diplomatic problems. He wants us to remain longer in Afghanistan. His proposed inflated military budget is good pork for defense contractors. But when the dying starts neither Romney nor his sons will fight. That's the problem and that's why he's a "chicken-hawk".
@sifto: Do some research on the State Department and you'll quickly see that security requests do NOT go up to the President. To blame President Obama for this tragedy is dumb; however, President Obama and the entire State Department are acting to find out exactly what happened so that not only we can bring the perpetrators to justice, but to take necessary steps to ensure this does not happen again.