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. Matthew Jones

    I read many articles and listened to the all of the major news outlets over the last week. Issa on Fox news this morning was a bumbling double talker. No new information. These "whistle blowers" are only offering their opinion on what they should have done. Lot of Monday Morning Quarterbacking. Political Witch Hunt, nothing more.

    May 13, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  2. BudW

    So much for transparency

    May 13, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Donna wrote:

    Hicks testified he spoke with Hillary Clinton at 2am. The attack started at 9:40pm. They knew it was a terorist attack within 4 hours 20 minutes. And yet they spoke about the video for weeks, even lying face to face to the families of the 4 dead Americans. It make you wonder if Obama and Clinton have a soul. If they could lie, face to face to the families, who knows what lies they are capable of?-
    -----------------------
    So what if they knew it was a terrorist attack 4 hours later. It doesn't mean that it is a good idea to say that publicly, letting the perpetrators know just how much or how little that we know. It wasn't a good idea to leave Tripoli undefended when one site is already under attack. It was probably the move someone was waiting for.

    May 13, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  4. The REAL Truth...

    @Jan – This is the most corrupt administration in history. And while we are speaking of Bush it just came out the leader of Iraq hid his weapons (yes, they were there) in Syria! He hid them there.
    -----------------------–
    Sorry, girlfriend. Wrong. Fux news talking points are not based on fact. FACT: – the worst [and most corrupt] administration in the history of the US was Bush 43's. FACT – there were no WMD's in Iraq..ever!
    There's plenty of smart people in the intelligence community who would have figured out whether they had been moved or not. Oh wait.. how does one move something that doesn't exist. Oh wait.. that would the sheeple who get their info from Fux news – that bastion of foreign-owned independent broadcasting.

    May 13, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  5. kentraco

    Can the lectures, professor. We'll make up our own minds what's important and what isn't, once the facts are out.

    May 13, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    Bold Faced Lier! I can not hear this man talk anymore becuase of all the lies that come out of his mounth. After hearing the many lies during the election season, plus this latest attack he is making on the truth, I can not trust a single words he says. No credibility, no conscience, no self respect to put this story to rest with the truth.

    May 13, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  7. just askin

    i know it will be difficult but could the obama drones please try to talk about benghazi without dragging in every other world event since the beginning of time in order to somehow justify the massive incompetence of the obama administrtion.

    "yeah well abraham lincoln killed hundreds of thousands, and then teddy roosevelt...."

    May 13, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  8. marv

    Someone should let obama know that if he thinks this is a 'SIDE SHOW ' than just wait-the main event
    is about to happen–GO REP ISSA.

    May 13, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  9. Soup

    This "President" confuses me... Just tell the public you lied and defaced this attack for political gain and stop hiding. Election is over, you are the President, take responsibility for your cover up and maybe your followers will respect you more rather than your approval ratings taking a dramatic dive... I mean... dude, Bush is getting better ratings right now.

    May 13, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  10. Thomas

    @John
    The day the attack happened, I walked into work in shock in what the administration was saying and doing, because it was blatantly false. I wondered what arrogance would lead them to believe that they could lie and not get caught, and even more, what arrogance would lead them to believe they could respond so poorly to the attack, almost letting it happen, as if they wanted the ambassador dead. I never wanted to be in Iraq, or afghanistan. I never want to see any soldiers die. I am not a fan of what George Bush did. It is idiotic to try and support Obama in a cover up, and say its fine, because GW did bad things as well. Everyone should stop standing up for the wrong in their own party. This act is was simply inexcuasable, whether Obama was the first, or the only one to do such a thing. The idiotic argument that its ok for my party to be bad because your party is worse is pathetic. John
    The day the attack happened, I walked into work in shock in what the administration was saying and doing, because it was blatantly false. I wondered what arrogance would lead them to believe that they could lie and not get caught, and even more, what arrogance would lead them to believe they could respond so poorly to the attack, almost letting it happen, as if they wanted the ambassador dead. I never wanted to be in Iraq, or afghanistan. I never want to see any soldiers die. I am not a fan of what George Bush did. It is idiotic to try and support Obama in a cover up, and say its fine, because GW did bad things as well. Everyone should stop standing up for the wrong in their own party. This act is was simply inexcuasable, whether Obama was the first, or the only one to do such a thing. The idiotic argument that its ok for my party to be bad because your party is worse is pathetic. Of course Republicans are doing this for political reasons. Just like the Obama administration covered it up for political reasons. Obama knew he had enough of the media in his pocket to keep it quiet when it mattered for an election, and now the media can put it out, because a president can only serve for two terms.

    Just like the Obama administration covered it up for political reasons. Obama knew he had enough of the media in his pocket to keep it quiet when it mattered for an election, and now the media can put it out, because a president can only serve for two terms.
    =========

    Of course Republicans are doing this for political reasons.

    Thank you for your honesty !

    Wouldn't it be nice if the GOP took the time to look into the West Texas fertalizer expolsion ?
    Or did Obama cover that up ?

    May 13, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  11. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Hey teapublicans, if you really care about the American people, why did you laugh at he families of the Sandy Hook victims when the gun legislation was voted down and claimed that republicans won? Why did you all laugh at Congresswoman Giffords when she asked to find common ground on the legislation? Why did you laugh at the families of the victims of Tucson, Aurora and Oak Creek and those affected by gun violence across America? Yea, concerned you're NOT! Please go enjoy your assault weapons!

    May 13, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  12. Fran

    CNN calls all of this a "running battle between Republicains and administration". CNN should do more than quite Obama on this. CNN should be getting to the truth of this and run real stories on Benghazu.

    May 13, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  13. Donna

    Rudy NYC
    Donna wrote:
    Hicks testified he spoke with Hillary Clinton at 2am. The attack started at 9:40pm. They knew it was a terorist attack within 4 hours 20 minutes. And yet they spoke about the video for weeks, even lying face to face to the families of the 4 dead Americans. It make you wonder if Obama and Clinton have a soul. If they could lie, face to face to the families, who knows what lies they are capable of?-
    -------–
    So what if they knew it was a terrorist attack 4 hours later. It doesn't mean that it is a good idea to say that publicly,
    ===============

    Especially if you're a president that is 7 weeks away from an election and your primary campaign slogan is "GM is alive, Bin Laden is dead." and saying that AQ has been desimated and worse, you have a big fund raiser to run off to while these poor Americans are being attacked, dying, trying to hold out until the cavalry arrives, only to find out, nobody cared enough to even try to save them.

    May 13, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  14. Ol' Yeller

    Amazing. TFA! What do all you losers do all day? Watch the faux news in the a.m., listen to rush mid morning, and then maybe whack it to ann coulter's picture right before lunch? Then you get on the CNN blog and regurgitate your distorted view of the world you learned from clowns who are getting rich off your hatred? I got an idea... get a job, a hobby, off yourself... something. Jeeze Louise.... this whining, crying, pathetic discourse you put forth as comments is ridiculous.
    It must be sad to be you....

    May 13, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  15. The REAL Truth...

    The lack of intelligence displayed by the uninformed right wing sheeple looking to hang anything on Obama is totally laughable. Sure, Obama told the IRS to hold up Teapug tax-exempt organization requests. Just like Solyndra and FastnFurious, this is more trumped up garbage. Solyndra applied for DOE funding during Dubya reign. If was approved under Obama. Fast and Furious was a continuation of Project Gunrunner, again started under Bush.
    The cross-checking of 501(c)3 and the huge volume of TeaPug associations requesting it was probably business as usual. Were there some IRS folks taking it a politics? Maybe? But the sheeple are so desperate to hang anything they can on Obama.. right.. Obama knew all about it.. sure...

    May 13, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  16. Honor Above All Else

    It makes little difference what your political affiliation or leaning – these Americans gave their lives serving this country and the beliefs we stand for which include truth and justice. Collectively we owe their memories, their families, and all those who serve now and will serve in the future the knowledge that the United States will honor those same beliefs – truth and justice. Not by some of us selectively but by all who call this country home.

    May 13, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  17. Boo

    The right is just beating this dead horse for POLITICAL REASONS. They are a bunch of LYING HYPOCRITES.....ALL OF THEM. Noone will ever convince me they really give a hoot about what happened and why it happened.

    May 13, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  18. Mary

    It's funny how everyone forgets about the embassy attacks during the Bush years. It's obvious the Rethuglicans have no other talking points but ones that are coming out of their asses. Maybe if they wouldn't have voted against the money funded to the embassies we wouldn't have this issue.

    May 13, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  19. Angela

    We dishonored those people who step up when we allowed the body of one of them to be drug through the streets.

    May 13, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  20. Boo

    And to the poster "Donna" – did you show this much outrage during the Iraq War when it was discovered the war was started on a basis of ALL LIES? I think not.

    May 13, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    Impeach Obama!

    May 13, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  22. ohmygoodness

    Stop LYING! This is a blatant coverup. It's sickening that half the people of this nation blindly believe anything you say. People DIED that day. And you are not ACCOUNTABLE? You put your jammies on and went to bed.

    May 13, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  23. Alan

    I respectfully disagree with the President. This was a side show when the Republicans tried to bring it up at your 2nd debate and were corrected by the CNN correspondent at that time. It's gone way past being a side show to being more important to the Republicans than creating a jobs bill, funding the government for more than 5 months at a time or even Immigration or Gun Law reform. As House Reps like Issa 'Wait" for the Senate to lead them, he has nothing more to do than go on Fox and lie yet again to the American Public.

    May 13, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  24. HomeBoy

    Fact is that the president and the scty of state lied to the public for selfish gain politically. They could care less about the 4 dead. The president is and always will be an empty suit looking for personal gain.

    May 13, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  25. blaze562

    Don't make a circus out of Benghazi, LOL What is he even talking about? We already have the head Chimp in office and some clowns. It's already a circus, has been for the last 4 years.

    May 13, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
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