(CNN) – Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani argued Monday on CNN that President Barack Obama should have known from "common sense" that the U.S. consulate in Libya was at risk prior to last month's deadly attacks in Benghazi.
When pressed further on his point, however, Giuliani engaged in a heated exchange with Soledad O'Brien, anchor of CNN's "Starting Point."
Watch CNN's coverage of Monday's third and final presidential debate starting at 7 p.m. ET on CNN TV, CNN.com and via CNN's apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. Web users can become video editors with our clip-and-share feature that allows them to share favorite debate moments on Facebook and Twitter. Join the discussion on our live blog, and get comprehensive coverage on our debates page. Need other reasons to watch the debate on CNN's platforms? Click here for our list.
- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker
Joining the show live from Boca Raton, the site of Monday night's presidential debate, Giuliani responded to recent reporting that it took more than a week for the administration to change its initial assessment that the violence was a "spontaneous" attack.
"The president should have known based on common sense that an attack like that, an attack in which you're using rocket propelled hand grenades, in which mortars are used...Now all the sudden you get an attack on September 11 and you're scratching your head about it?"
He continued: "If it wasn't a cover-up, then the ineptitude of this administration is startling."
CNN reported Friday that it took the administration "until that next week" after the attack to sort through conflicting accounts and adjust the intelligence assessment. This was after Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice described the attacks as "spontaneous" in Sunday morning interviews, which came from talking points provided by the intelligence community.
"It wasn't until after the points were used in public that people reconciled contradictory information and assessed there probably wasn't a protest around the time of the attack," an intelligence official told CNN last week.
A new report by the Wall Street Journal released Monday showed the administration didn't make its final assessment until September 22 and that Obama was told in his daily intelligence briefing for more than a week that the violence emerged from a spontaneous protest.
Giuliani, however, said that was no excuse for the administration being unprepared for the attack. O'Brien pointed to recent comments made by Matthew Dowd, a former Bush administration official, who used the war in Iraq as an example of how it can take government a long time to make final decisions from intelligence.
"This wasn't two weeks. This was months and months and months of a conversation where we never got the right answer to this," Dowd said on ABC's "This Week."
O'Brien followed up with Giuliani, asking if it was "unfair" to expect the administration to find accurate and final answers within weeks. The former mayor, however, shot back. "We're going to blame this on Bush, too?"
"You got to stop putting words in my mouth, sir," she said. "Seriously, hang on. Let me finish."
"Every time I ask you a question," she continued, "You like to push back as if somehow the question that's being posed to you is unfair. It's not. I'm a journalist. You said some things. I'm trying to get some accurate responses from you. You are welcome to answer. Go ahead."
Giuliani repeated his claim that the media was trying to blame the Benghazi attack on Bush, saying such a premise was "absurd." The former mayor said the current president only has to answer a few questions.
"Did he know about the consulate attacks that took place before Sept. 11, 2012?" he asked, highlighting previous attacks on diplomatic posts in Libya.
O'Brien, however, interrupted, saying Dowd was not trying to link the violence to Bush, but trying to make the point that it can take a while for government to sort through complicated issues involving weapons of mass destruction.
"But," Giuliani fired back, "It doesn't take a long time for the president of the United States to tell us whether or not he was aware that this consulate had been attacked twice before."
O'Brien said Giuliani was not answering her question.
"The point and my question to you is: Does Matthew Dowd have a point? That it could take far longer than two weeks or four weeks before people understand what happened?" she asked.
Giuliani replied: "He has a point about some parts of this incident. He does not have a point about the part of the incident that refers to what was the president's knowledge, did the president take steps to protect our ambassador and the other people there...and why wasn't that information made available for a month?"
O'Brien reminded Giuliani that Dowd did not make those points. "(Matthew) Dowd did not say that."
- Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.