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. Donna

    Mike
    Jan 22, 2002: US Consulate at Kolkata, 5 killed
    Jun 14, 2002: US Consulate at Karachi, 12 killed
    Feb 28, 2002: US Embassy at Islamabad, 2 killed
    Jun 30, 2004: US Embassy at Tashkent, 2 killed
    Dec 6, 2004: US Compound at Saudi Arabia, 9 killed
    Mar 2, 2006: US Consulate at Karachi, 2 killed
    Sep 12, 2006: US Embassy at Syria, 4 killed
    Mar 18, 2008: US Embassy at Yemen, 2 killed
    Jul 9, 2008: US Consulate at Istanbul, 6 killed
    Sep 17, 2008: US Embassy at Yemen, 16 killed
    ======

    How many had suffered previous attacks? NONE
    How many had begged for added security and been denied? NONE
    How many had their security CUT after being attacked? NONE
    How many lasted for 8 hours? NONE
    How many were denied help and aid while being attacked? NONE
    What resemblance do these events bear to Benghazi? NONE

    May 13, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  2. Sara

    I like what John said regarding "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." John is right that, of course, both sides are politically motivated, why should that be a surprise? But more importantly, I am fed up with the worthless defense of "How can you blame Obama, just look at what Bush did" from some Obama-supporters (I say SOME, not ALL). Wrong is wrong. Covering up for being wrong is self-serving. I have enough faith in my fellow Americans to still believe that no one wants to cover up for an unethical President, and I think the truth is slowly evolving.

    May 13, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  3. sly

    "Sly, despite what you might think, State's budget for has not be reduced year/year. There was plenty of funding available for security"
    ====
    WRONG: Read your own leaders statement:

    Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) acknowledged that House Republicans had consciously voted to reduce the funds allocated to the State Department for embassy security since winning the majority in 2010. CNN asked the Utah Republican if he had "voted to cut the funding for embassy security."

    "Absolutely," Chaffetz said. "Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country."

    May 13, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  4. PeteH

    The only people who are "sullying the memory of the four Americans who died" are the ones trying to sweep the whole Benghazi affair under the rug. But no; according to Obama, it's those who are seeking the truth who are doing the "sullying." Once again; go against Obama and be demonized.

    May 13, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  5. Pilot

    Pay no attention to the news reports of my administrations lyling, coverup's and or IRS intimidation. Remember I give you free phones, free healthcare, free housing, and free food, just keep voting Dem!

    May 13, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  6. Xandor Eich

    Obama refused to rescue them for political reasons . It was an CIA operation to track the missing man portable anti aircraft rockets , and to funnel weapons used by the Lybian rebels to the Syrian rebels . somtimes people have to die so secrets can be kept .

    May 13, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  7. larryjacks

    For the sake of national security nobody can talk about Steven's real reason for being in Benghazi. Obama has been shuttling money, communications gear and weapons to Siria's various rebel groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. Liberals, its no different than what Reagan and Ollie North were doing, but now it is OK with you? The reason for the talking point lies – and letting Stevens die was to cover up weapons transfers to Muslim radicals during the election. WE WERE LIED TO FOR POLITICAL REASONS. That Obama is now crying about the 'political circus' is a hoot. What a hypocrite!

    May 13, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  8. PaulCat

    .................W M D's............
    Still waiting on the 1st hearing.

    May 13, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  9. Dave in DC

    Obama and his spin machine are the ones that have turned this into a circus. From the start they knew what this was and they tried to cover it up so he wouldn't lose points at the polls. Just Boston, they knew something was afoot ahead of time, took no steps to mitigate it, and let the chips fall. Then they tried to clean it up. The man and his administration are a joke.

    May 13, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  10. These Pretzels Are Making Me Thirsty

    Just like Obama dishonored the Newtown and Aurora victims by jumping straight into gun control talks?

    May 13, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  11. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    During his testimony, Mr. Hicks rebutted the testimony by Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey that it would have taken 20 hours to get the U.S. military from Italy's Aviano Air Base to Benghazi. According to Mr. Hicks, it would have taken 3 hours. Gee, I witnessed the attacks on the Twin Towers from the banks of the Hudson and after the first plane struck, the US. Air Force was no where in sight to before the second plane struck. And while we were aware of the attacks in NYC, the Air Force was still unable to acramble fighters to intercept the plane enroute to the Pentagon despite our Air Bases being within minutes of these targets simply because carrying out a military operation takes time.

    May 13, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  12. jillib

    Issa and his carnival sideshows are a disgrace to the folks killed in benghazi. shame on him for callously using the death of the diplomats and security personnel for political fodder. If only he would have had a similar level of curiousity regarding bush and the iraq war. 4800 dead Americans, 32000 more maimed in a pointless, unnecessary war. The hypocrisy and cynicism is glaring.

    May 13, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  13. Ol' Yeller

    This deserves re posting with a shout out to Mike. It is all you need to read today to understand this is nothing but a partisan attack strategy meant only to politicize 4 tragic deaths and the 'outraged' republicans posting here need to move on to the next wingnut conspiracy theory.....
    Jan 22, 2002: US Consulate at Kolkata, 5 killed
    Jun 14, 2002: US Consulate at Karachi, 12 killed
    Feb 28, 2002: US Embassy at Islamabad, 2 killed
    Jun 30, 2004: US Embassy at Tashkent, 2 killed
    Dec 6, 2004: US Compound at Saudi Arabia, 9 killed
    Mar 2, 2006: US Consulate at Karachi, 2 killed
    Sep 12, 2006: US Embassy at Syria, 4 killed
    Mar 18, 2008: US Embassy at Yemen, 2 killed
    Jul 9, 2008: US Consulate at Istanbul, 6 killed
    Sep 17, 2008: US Embassy at Yemen, 16 killed

    Total Deaths: 60
    Outraged Republicans: 0

    May 13, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  14. rob

    WOW Rudy,
    After all the posts here and all the arguements, your left to propose that the President and Hillary decided that this whole charade about the video could be used as a clever ruse. LIE TO THE WHOLE WORLD ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED SO WE DON'T TIP OFF THE TERRORISTS. LMAO

    Did I miss Jay Carney"s press conference today? Sounds like something he might say.

    May 13, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  15. volsocal

    The Momma's Boy in Chief is coming across like a crybaby, again.

    May 13, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    I would take the Republicans alot more serioous if they approached our ecnomics issues with the same vim and vigor, but all they did was sit on their hands, thus the party of NO! Now when they are trying to make an "I GOT YOU' moment out of a tragic incident they have energy to burn. They couldnt get Obama with the birther claim, no inroads with Rev. Wright etc. so when this goes away they will be back to "DO NOTHING" Sour grapes becasue they could'nt keep there promise of One Term.

    May 13, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  17. Regularguy22

    I guess that the buck doesn't stop there! ("There" being senior administrative officials)

    May 13, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  18. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    According to right wing evangelicals, the world would end in 2012 if America ever elected a black President! STILL BREEDING!

    May 13, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  19. Doushus

    Both parties are redundant to the American Public.

    May 13, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  20. Ol' Yeller

    @ Donna-
    Your little added questions at the bottom that you simply answered yourself with no research whatsoever kinda' makes you look a little moronic when even a 5 year old can see that Karachi was attacked on Jun 14, 2002 and then again on Mar 2, 2006. And then Yemen was attacked on Mar 18, 2008 and again on Sep 17, 2008; yet in your little snippy reply you write- "How many had suffered previous attacks? NONE"
    The trouble with partisan zealots illustrated....

    May 13, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  21. VEW2012

    Has anyone bothered to look up Issa's arson record?

    May 13, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  22. ghostriter

    Donna asked:
    "How many had suffered previous attacks? NONE
    How many had begged for added security and been denied? NONE
    How many had their security CUT after being attacked? NONE
    How many lasted for 8 hours? NONE
    How many were denied help and aid while being attacked? NONE
    What resemblance do these events bear to Benghazi? NONE"

    The correct answer to your questions is we don't know. Because no one thought to attempt to politicize those attacks.

    May 13, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  23. ironwolf56

    Reminds me of that movie Liar, Liar. "Objection!" "on what grounds?" "Because it's devastating to my case!"

    May 13, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  24. rob

    PaulCat

    .................W M D's............
    Still waiting on the 1st hearing
    ----------–
    There would not be anyone to hold the hearings because EVERYONE SAID THERE WERE WMD'S IN IRAQ. Including John Kerry, Joe Biden, Bill and Hillary Clinton etc. etc. etc.

    May 13, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  25. Rudy NYC

    Antonio

    Sly, you comment is not only absurd it is reprehensible. Despite what you might think, State's budget for has not be reduced year/year. There was plenty of funding available for security, in fact there was a special forces team in close proximity to the Consulate. It was Hillary who directed them to not come to defend the Ambassador. That, plus the cover-up, is what this whole thing is about.
    ------------------–
    According to Mr. Hicks, he spoke to Hillary Clinton AFTER an- evacuation order had been given. He testified that he told Sec'y Clinton that the ambassador's whereabouts were unknown, and that he was last seen inside of burning building. All of this took place within the first hour of the attack. He spoke to Clinton four hours after the initial wave that burned the building.

    There were not a "special forces team in close proximity", not unless you mean the group of four in Tripoli, which is still a couple of hours away. The GOP take is that the people should have stayed within the overrun compound, instead of fleeing for their lives. Hicks testified that the compound was already overrun by at least 30 attackers when he spoke to Clinton. Sitting around and waiting for a counter-attack would have been most unwise, and would resulted in even more loss of life.

    May 13, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
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