October 22nd, 2012
11:14 AM ET
1 year ago

Giuliani, O'Brien take part in fiery debate

(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."

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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."

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Filed under: 2012 • Libya • Presidential Debates • Rudy Giuliani
soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. Dan in Chitown

    I used to respect Guiliani for his ability to get out of the way of partisan attacks and focus on what is best for America's national interest. But this is another indication of just plain Obama bashing. Seriously, how much flack would a Democrat have taken around Sept. 11th, 2001 if they were flat out telling the public that there was either a coverup or an inept President just because he was passing along intelligence as it came in after those attacks. To think that we cannot even rally around 4 of our own being killed in Libya without turning this into a political football just shows how far this is from reality. Ugly stuff.

    October 22, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  2. rs

    Gee, Maybe George W. Bush should have read the CIA briefing "Terrorists to attack U.S. with passenger airliners" from August 2001.

    Think it would have changed things?

    Look- diplomatic missions (especially the smaller consulate offices) are both easy targets and hard to defend- it isn't like there is a handy barracks to house a couple of hundred heavily armed marines in. Sure, in retrospect perhaps the consulate should have been pulled back to the more defensible embassy, but really in the case of large civili unrest, or a planned attack, these folks are frontline. This isn't the first time this has happened and it won't be the last-no matter who is President. To ascert otherwise is foolish.
    Yes, Mr. Romney IS a fool.

    October 22, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  3. geckopelli

    Desperation, thy name is spelled GOP.

    October 22, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  4. ConsiderThis, FL

    I watched this exchange (debate) this morning. I'm glad O'Brien stood up to Guiliani the bully. He never misses an opportunity to prosecute the President; as if the President is continually on trial in Guillani's court. What I take issue with the most is why O'Brien has him as a guest on her show in the first place. What credibility does he bring as a political pundit? Remember, he made a complete fool of himself when he ran for the Republican nomination for President. He couldn't even run a campaign but yet he is the President's staunchest critic. If he weren't the Mayor of New York when 911 happened, he wouldn't be on TV at all. He has profited more handsomely than anyone in the world off of 911 and he's still making a living off of that disaster 10 years later. The reality is is that Guiliani is gunning for a job with the romney administration and is too happy to be romney's political hit man. Guilliani always = sleeze.

    October 22, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  5. Anthony in California

    Hey Rudy.. kinda like the intel GWB had about terrorists using planes to attack a major US city.
    Mr. Noun,verb, 9-11 need to shut his trap.

    October 22, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  6. 1twinsfan

    Common sense would tell you that if the WTC plaza is attacked once, it's going to be attacked again.

    October 22, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  7. NikoEsquire

    This man is a real fool. Is he still trying to cash-in on the 9/11 thing? Someone needs to tell him that it's time to move on to more pressing issues these days.

    October 22, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  8. Not this time

    Rudy... a noun and a verb and 9/11. Now he has two to talk about, he is in hog heaven. The man takes great joy in human suffering.

    October 22, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  9. Laverne

    It sickens me who Mitt Romney and his surrogates continue to try and politicize Lybia because Mitt Romney has no foreign policy experience. This man was the Mayor of NY when we got attacked and this country could have easily argued the Bush admin. was at fault for over 3,000 people being killed because Bush and his admin. did not take credible intelligence serious. The country did not blame Bush, but was critical of war in Iraq where the truth did not lead us to weapons of mass destruction like we were told!

    October 22, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  10. pvnr

    I thought this "journalist" was auditioning for MSNBC.

    October 22, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  11. Rudy NYC

    The GOP negative spin machine is disseminating negative and misleading information every on the hour today. Just wait, watch and see. That's how they operate, as they try to coopt public opinion ahead of tonight's debate.

    Guiliani's claim that people are blaming Bush is absurd, because it is disinformation coming out of the right wing. The claim that US was unprepared is misleading because: House GOP cut all embassy budgets by $500 million: local governments are ultimately responsible for security at embassies.

    What Guiliani is advocating means the US should have had "boots in numbers" on the ground in Libya prior to the incidents. Really? Guiliani and the rest of the GOP are confabulating a false reality.

    October 22, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  12. rob

    When O'Brien interviews Republicans she continually throws out the left's talking points and defends the President. You can actually see her getting angrier as Giuliani would not accept the rediclous premis of her arguements. CNN's ratings are horrible because of the blatent liberal leaning of their "Objective" reporting.

    If President Obama loses the election the biggest losers will be News outlets like CNN and the other liberal media that are so out of touch with the country.

    October 22, 2012 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  13. Joe Russo

    Soledad is the best interviewer we have had on CNN recently.

    October 22, 2012 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  14. Jason

    O'brien showed his lying tail. She put him in his place and he still never answer her question. Lie and twist what she said twice and I'm glad O'brien called him out on it.

    October 22, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  15. Kef14

    Simple solution...stop giving Giuliani air time. The guy is in Sarah Palin territory for how valuable his opinion is and how rational and open to alternative points of view his mind is.

    October 22, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  16. Bill from GA

    Giuliani must be so excited.
    He has a NEW 9-11 to talk about!

    October 22, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  17. the situation

    Why argue with the shrill of a human. Mayor Rudy isn't relevant anymore. His foreign policy experience is preaching about 9/11. Though he was one of 2 people on record that would of taken out Bin Laden when he and MItts were running back in 2007-2008. The other person was President Obama. Even MItts said he wouldn't have wasted money to go after Bin Laden.

    October 22, 2012 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  18. jack johnson

    Why not Rudy Giuliani why he didn't have more secutity at the World Trade Center (it was attacked twice before)? You can not forsee all possablile problems!

    October 22, 2012 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  19. plain&simple

    Republicans live with great hindsight. No vision however. Just avoidance and obstruction and delusions. The hope Obama believes in.... is that the majority of America lives in a world of reality. There is uncertainty and you look for answers before spewing nothing but sewage from your mouth!

    October 22, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  20. sonny chapman

    Soledad, how DARE you challenge the Hero of 9-11? I'll bet you even had the nerve to question HOW did 9-11 happen on George W.'s watch.

    October 22, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  21. Curt

    It amazes me that the news media continues to think that what people like Giuliani, Palin and Trump have to say is relevant. They are not experts by any stretch of the imagination. Giuliani's only claim to fame is that he was mayor of New York on 9/11. Didn't know that Giuliani was an expert on foreign affairs. His 15 minutes of fame should have been over along time ago.

    October 22, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  22. Steve in CT

    Big words from the guy who's only claim to fame was that he was the mayor of NYC on 9/11

    October 22, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  23. Dan J

    Why does Soledad Obrien always sem to get into heated exchanges with republicans? Why doesn't she press demorats as hard?

    October 22, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  24. NameEyecu52

    Soledad did not let Guiliani bully her, and an almost deaf person could tell he was twisting up the questions she asked of him....but, I actually stood up and was so proud when Soledad shut Guiliani down when he repeatedly reworded her questions...you go, Soledad!! PS.who dressed your guest, Roland Martin?

    October 22, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  25. freedom

    This man knows what he's talking about !

    October 22, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
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