May 13th, 2013
01:10 PM ET
2 years ago

Obama: Benghazi talking points fight a 'side show'

Washington (CNN) – GOP outrage over a changed set of talking points related to September's attack in Benghazi is a political "side show," President Barack Obama argued Monday, asserting the tragedy was being used for political gain by his rivals.

The Republicans who claim Obama's administration was intentionally misleading in the way they characterized the Benghazi attack are ignoring key facts and sullying the memory of the four Americans who died, the president claimed.

"We've got a whole bunch of people in the State Department who consistently say, 'You know what, I'm willing to step up, I'm willing to put myself in harm's way because I think that this mission is important in terms of serving the United States and advancing our interests around the globe.' And so we dishonor them when we turn things like this into a political circus," he said.

Obama was speaking at a press availability alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron, in Washington to discuss next month's G8 summit in Northern Ireland.

Republicans' accusations of an administration-led cover up in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attack were fueled last week by the release of internal e-mails showing top administration officials scrubbing any mention of al Qaeda from talking points given to members of Congress and Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

The unclassified talking points have become a political flashpoint in a long-running battle between the administration and Republicans, who say that officials knew the attack last September 11 was a planned terror operation while they were telling the public it was an act of violence that grew out of a demonstration over a video produced in the United States that insulted Islam.

That was the story that Rice told five days later when she made the rounds of all five Sunday morning television talk shows.

The attack occurred two months before the November election, in which President Barack Obama's campaign often pointed out that it had "decimated" al Qaeda.

Obama noted Monday that he referred broadly to "acts of terror" in a Rose Garden statement the day after the attack, and that Republicans pointing to an administration "cover up" were ignoring stated facts by himself and other officials.

"The whole thing defies logic, and the fact that this keeps getting churned out, frankly has a lot to do with political motivations," Obama said, echoing other Democrats who say the GOP focus on Benghazi is founded in an attempt to discredit former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the leading 2016 Democratic presidential prospect.

Obama also noted the e-mails released last week had been reviewed by members of Congress months ago, and not flagged at the time as indicative of an attempt to conceal the truth.

"They reviewed them several months ago, and concluded that in fact there was nothing afoul in terms of the process we had used, and suddenly three days ago this gets spun up as if there's something new to the story. There's no there there," Obama said.

Over the weekend, Republicans renewed their criticism of the Obama administration for its handling of the Benghazi attack aftermath, claiming an independent review earlier this year didn't cast a wide enough net in seeking answers to still-outstanding questions.

Critics also questioned why Clinton herself wasn't assigned more blame in the report.

"Obviously she was the decision maker at the State Department," Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, said on CBS "Face the Nation," adding she was "surprised" Clinton wasn't probed further.

The co-chair of the review board, former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, defended his work on CNN's "State of the Union," arguing his panel was charged specifically with investigating security decisions, which he said were not made at Clinton's level.

Pickering's report, released late last year, found "systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies" at the State Department in the lead-up to the attack in Benghazi, which left four Americans dead. As a result, four State Department officials were disciplined immediately after the report's release. One resigned, while three others were placed on administrative leave and relieved of their duties.

Pickering, along with the panel's other co-chair, former Admiral Mike Mullen, were formally asked for depositions about their board's practices Monday by Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.


Filed under: Libya • President Obama
soundoff (429 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    I just wonder why Mr. Issa isn't questioning the fact that the President requested $128 million in 2011 & $331 million dollars in 2012 for Embassy security & House Republicans rejected the request. Sec. Clinton said the cuts will be "detrimental to our national security."

    May 13, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  2. America Above Parties

    During Bush's watch, there were half a dozen consulate attacks–not to mention of the biggest elephant in the room–the 911 attack which Bush ignored all the warning befoer and subsequest attacks of Iraq with all madeup stories and lies. Where were those fake outrages by GOP and Faux News.?

    May 13, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  3. Zerubbabel

    Repub Robert Gates, a Sec of Def under W and this POTUS stated that he would have made the same decisions as the admin. He implied that Hicks had a cartoonish view of the military and its capabilities w/his morning after analysis. He stated that he would not have sent specops or a plane into a situation w/o knowing what the threat is and no intel on the ground. What a waste of time and money.

    May 13, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  4. rob

    @Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    The fact is that the White House reduced $ for security and even though the house rejected these $'s it was part of some other bill and the money was spent in the Senate version of the CR (Continuing Resolution) for you low information Dem Voters.

    May 13, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  5. freedom

    He wishes it was a side show. Men were murdered under his watch and it is directly due to his dereliction of duty. He can't hide from this any longer. The testimonies last week by those in Libya and in the admin. at the time have opened the floodgates to the truth – and it's ugly.

    May 13, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  6. Hammerer

    IRS & Benghazi -- Chicago politcs blowing up in Obama's face.
    More to come!

    May 13, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  7. J'Cincinnati'Redd

    I almost never agree with Obama,but come on guys and girls. this is all about bringing Clinton down. Cause the painful truth is if she runs in 2016, she wins hands down. God bless us all.

    May 13, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  8. Rick McDaniel

    The sideshow, was when Obama and Hillary made a video, apologizing to Pakistan, for a video on YouTube which had nothing to do with Benghazi, in the first place, and then using that video as an excuse to APOLOGIZE for FREE SPEECH in America!

    That was not only a side show.......it was totally outrageous behavior for leaders of this country!

    May 13, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  9. TomInRochNY

    If there was concrete knowledge of Al Quida in this attack the GOP would be bringing that up all over the place. I don't see that happening. Yes, it is a side show, for 2014 and 2016.

    May 13, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  10. rob

    The WH, Dems and the news media desparately want this story to go away. They are circling the wagons around Hillary and collectively will do anything to protect her.

    Fact: Hillary was the Sec of State and as such she was IN CHARGE if the entire department, she even said that the she takes full responcabilty.

    Fact: Requests for more security were repeatedly ignored,

    Fact: Hillary was told the day of the attack that there were no "Demonstrations" taking place and that it was an attack by Militant Islamists with ties to Al-Qaeda.

    Fact: Military assets were available to respond to at the time was a fluid situation and were told to Stand down.

    Where were President Obama and Hillary Clinton while this was going on?????
    Who allowed the "Talking Points" to be altered in such a way as to be called "Useless" by the head of the CIA at the time Gen Petreius??????

    If Hillary was out of the loop with the security situation and the talking points memos being altered then what the hell was she doing and what kind of a leader is she. She is either incompetent or a serial liar. For the sake of the country, we need to find the answers to these questions before she gets any closer to the Presidency.

    May 13, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  11. sonny chapman

    Wasn't there another attack on a US Embassy in CAIRO, EGYPT going on at the same time as Benghazi, Libya attack? Aren't those two fairly close in proximity ? Wasn't the Cairo attack fueled by the Anti-Muslim film ? Could that have factored into the "Fog of War" ? Haven't heard anything about the Cairo Attack in a long time from Repubs.

    May 13, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  12. Bessy

    @ Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    You know the bigots and Republicans don't want to hear the truth. They will agree with anything the Republicans come up with just to bring Obama down. Now they are really getting so worried about Hillary they have included her in their
    " bring down " plan.

    May 13, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    rob wrote:

    The fact is that the White House reduced $ for security and even though the house rejected these $'s it was part of some other bill and the money was spent in the Senate version of the CR (Continuing Resolution) for you low information Dem Voters.
    ---------------–
    The facts are that the White House does not control spending, only the House does. It's mandated in the Constitution. All that the White House and Senate can do is approve or disapprove House budgets. Even when the Senate originates a budget, the House must still vote on it, adding any amendments they wish. Once they pass it, the Senate cannot amend it, but only vote on it. This is why the Senate doesn't originate any budgets with a Tea Party controlled House. It takes away their ability to amend the budgets coming out of the House.

    The State Dep't security spending was reduced in 2011 as part of trillion dollar spending reduction over the next decade.

    May 13, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  14. Bessy

    @ America Above Parties
    Oh yeah ! It's called " selective memory ". Anything goes just to bring Obama down and then move on to Hillary because she scares them re: their hopes for the future.

    May 13, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  15. luke,az

    Republicans have nothing better to do than to perpetuate this issue for political points. They are losing the battle. They should be putting more energy into the gun debate. 3,800 deaths committed by gun violence since Sandy Hook. Republicans are obstructing common sense solutions to this problem. I'm worried more about republicans than I am Al Qaeda.

    May 13, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  16. Civilgeek

    The budget cuts the Dems love to throw around were not an issue, from the first hearing:

    Rep. Dana Rohrabacher: “Was there any budget consideration and lack of budget which led you not to increase the number of people in the security force there?”

    Charlene Lamb: No, sir

    Frankly this president by coming out saying this today has disgraced the families who's loved ones died. This deserves an independent and non-partisan investigation (both dems and repubs). The whole situation stinks and the families of those that died and our military personnel who should not be left behind deserve an answer as to why they were left to die and the false narrative propagated.

    May 13, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC

    They're going to start blaming VP Biden next.

    May 13, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    "Fact: Military assets were available to respond to at the time was a fluid situation and were told to Stand down."

    Fact: 4 spec ops officers would have done nothing but get themselves killed if sent in to "rescue" everyone from 30+ armed extremist militants.

    Fact: Scrambling a jet to do a flyover would not have caused all the militants to run home and hide under their beds.

    Do you think this is the freekin movies? Sec. Gates already called these claims cartoonish and the proof is in the fact that you guys consistently and repeatedly cite these ideas/accusations without reference to the rest of the facts that show just how silly your claims are, particularly the chronology and the numbers. You're just repeating the talking point word salad you were fed in hopes you can pollute the public discourse. You want another fact? Here ya go

    FACT: Polls are showing that 49% of the public trusts Clinton on Benghazi, while only 39% trust the GOP. Smoke that slowly so it sets in.

    May 13, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  19. Ferret out the BS

    Issa is the attack dog of the GOP, he went after Governor Gray Davis over budget issues that wasn't his creation, spun it up to where a special election was called, costing millions the state didn't have to spend, and elected Arnold who did no better. We're still in deep do do even though Governor Brown has made progress. But Issa moved up the food chain to the Congress. Issues with talking points aren't worth the effort, it's done, mistakes have been admitted to. This is just an effort to beat a dead horse because of the desire to try to gain some political capital.

    May 13, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  20. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Frankly this president by coming out saying this today has disgraced the families who's loved ones died. This deserves an independent and non-partisan investigation (both dems and repubs). The whole situation stinks and the families of those that died and our military personnel who should not be left behind deserve an answer as to why they were left to die and the false narrative propagated.
    --------------------------------------------–
    So the multiple embassy and consulate attacks under GWB didn't get this much scrutiny and 60+ Americans died in those attacks. No hearings for those? I know, IOKIYAR.

    May 13, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  21. fedup

    We knew and did nothing. It could have been prevented, but we did absolutely nothing. Anoither shining moment for Hilary amd Obama. Who cares if Hilary takes full responsiblity when there is no action for being responsible. Apparently, nobody on this board cares about Americans dying. More emphasis goes in to giving out freebies to the blood sucking leaches and mouchers than anything else. No matere how you spin it. This is on Hilary 100%

    May 13, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  22. Dallas

    The Republicans have nothing else to do so they thought they'd start some more trouble. All this has been asked and answered and you know it. Try doing something for the American people for a change instead of wasting our time and money. You may think we all just fell off the turnip truck, but I assure you we haven't and we know what all this is about! Do the job you were elected to do and stop this crap!

    May 13, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  23. Thomas

    When wiill the Republican party stop blaming Nixon for what happend in Benghazi ?

    ============

    Any kiddy comity run by Issa is a joke . Issa is an antagoninst , obstruckionest .

    If Issa had any soul he would be questioning Rick Perry and John Cornyn over the crimanal alogations regarding the explosion at the West Texas fertalizer plant . As them about the money they took from Enron ,Rick Perry has received at least $212,000 from Enron since 1998, ... Attorney General John Cornyn has received at least $158,000 in similar contributions

    THe GOP is using Benghazi as a politacal okie doky .

    May 13, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  24. bassman

    Pres. Obama want us to forget his comments on The View and 60 Minutes. Pres.Obama would not call it a terrorist attack on 60 Minutes. He is being too cute by half.

    May 13, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  25. UncleDan

    Benghazi is a scandal of epic proportions. Obama, Hillary, Rice, etc. stood in front of the coffins and lied to us all. And all for the purpose of hiding another Obama gunrunning operation.

    May 13, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
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