May 13th, 2013
01:10 PM ET
11 months 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. holam

    Circus?? The circus was when they were asking for help and denied.

    May 13, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  2. Jean2

    Many many people are still being killed by gun violance, jobs are still needed by Americans, Imigration needs work,regulations and accountability safty inspections. and the recent cuts to services to poor ad elderly people as well mas many domestic issues.
    I a country as larde and important as the USA the people we elect to represent us should be able to do more than just critize and argue ALOL OF THE TIME AND ABOUT EVERY THING. WE NEED A CHANGE!!!!!

    May 13, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  3. K from AZ

    In the 30's Hitler approached governing the same way: to hell with the people, I WILL DECIDE! Thanks AmeriKA for the Fourth Reich!

    May 13, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  4. Cory T

    Nothing will come from this, so look for some other trumped up 'gate' to try to sully the Presidency and stop our nation from moving forward.

    May 13, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    This all comes down to one thing at core:

    The GOP/Teatrolls are DESPERATE to invent a narrative that explains their loss to Obama in 2012 in a manner that let's them off the hook with minorities and with respect to all the other issues and policies that are killing them at the polls and will make them more and more irrelevant as the country turns brown. Ever since 2008, they've been seeking an escape route from admitting that their policies and positions are broken and that more and more Americans are finding them abhorrent and unelectable. They tried "Romney wasn't conservative enough" and they tried "omg look at all that imaginary voter fraud" and now they've latched onto the idea that Obama would somehow have lost to Mittens if people thought Benghazi was al Qaeda or other terrorists.

    Simple fact is that the GOP/Teatrolls don't want to admit to a need to change their ideology and platform, so they need to believe that they lost because of something that someone else did or didn't do...not because of what they themselves did or didn't do. It's classic denial and bargaining behavior. What's more, it's a fool's errand, but please proceed GOPers/Teatrolls...see where it gets you.

    May 13, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "In the 30's Hitler approached governing the same way: to hell with the people, I WILL DECIDE! Thanks AmeriKA for the Fourth Reich!"

    Yeah, he was THE DECIDER, huh?

    May 13, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  7. IpseCogita

    The administration spent a lot of energy trying to make it look like this was all about that ridiculous video when it was very clear from the beginning exactly what it was. That is the very definition of a cover up, there is no reasonable argument that it wasn't a cover up.

    May 13, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  8. LINDA OPERLE

    The GOP is a circus full of clowns. Since the country has no other pressing issues lets waste everyones time with this idiocy. No one cares it doesn't change what happended. Of course we'd all like to have Bush, Cheney & Rove in front of the panel to determine how and why they lied about a war that's been going on for what almost 10 years!! Of course Hyprocrisy can trace its roots back to the GOP who have raised it to an art form.

    May 13, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  9. holam

    oh yeller, yes I agree, both sides have a lot to answer for, but these people that think Obama is the best thing since sliced bread are really delusional. Personally I was glad when Bush was out of office but the sad thing was we had no choice when it came to president, I couldn't believe who we had to choose from.

    May 13, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  10. LINDA OPERLE

    The GOP is a circus full of clowns. Since the country has no other pressing issues lets waste everyones time with this idiocy. No one cares it doesn't change what happended. Of course we'd all like to have Bush, Cheney & Rove in front of the panel to determine how and why they lied about a war that's been going on for what almost 10 years!! Of course Hyprocrisy can trace its roots back to the GOP who have raised it to an art form.

    May 13, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  11. Holdthe Profanityfool

    In the words of Greg Gutfeld and others, "WHO pushed the video?" FOR THREE WEEKS! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

    May 13, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  12. Steve

    The president lied again, today!

    May 13, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  13. juan cruz

    WOW, that dishonesty is breathtaking! Please talk to justice with judge jeanine pirro on benghazi, she has a few questions for you........

    May 13, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  14. Captain Jack

    The last time we heard a President talk like this he used the words "I am not a crook".

    May 13, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  15. Russ St.Onge

    I haven't heard once that the president takes responsibilities under his administration. Go figure.

    May 13, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  16. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    I think they don't want to take responsibility for their mistakes (no surprise there) but I also think a lot of the people screaming "Benghazi!" wouldn't have respected the ambassador's work when he was alive; they would have sneered that he was trying to get the Arabs to sing "Kumbaya" with us.

    May 13, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  17. Disappointed...

    Today Obama states that he came out 3 days after the attack and called in terror act. Umm, 7 Days later Susan Rice was blaming a video and 2 weeks later Obama addressed the UN stating it was a video.
    Even the biggest Obama supporter has to scratch their head at these comments. Something is a miss.

    May 13, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  18. Scott

    Funny how Obama's saying it is being used for political gain....When the statements about Benghazi were first made, it was altered for political gain by his administration....That's like calling the kettle black...

    May 13, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  19. AzPatriot

    Yet he makes a bigger circus out of the gun infringement issue. By pulling children, parents and now police officer's as back props. He's trying to pull the attention away from his negligence, and allowingour citizens to be murdered by his Muslim brothers.

    May 13, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  20. Brian

    So let me ask this of Obama and Clinton and everyone defending them saying they did the right thing by not sending help because the help would have never gotten there on time ~ How did you know how long the 'uprising' was going to last? What if it lasted 24 hours? Or 5 days? At what point would you have sent help? That's the poorest excuse for not sending help to those defenseless guys at the embassy. You let them down. You cost them their lives. You let all Americans down. Is part of this whole mess partisan? Of course. You needed to win an election. You needed a Democrat in the White House. You covered it up to win. Partisan politics at it's absolute worst.

    May 13, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  21. um234

    The consulate in Libya was not even equipped with standard security even though it was situated in one of the most unstable, terrorist ridden countries in the Middle East.

    I don't think that was the Republican's fault. That indicates a serious lack of judgement on someone's part.

    May 13, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  22. mark

    I am sorry i voted for Obama,he lied from day one. He promised a transparent Govt- LIED, Promised to cut spending-LIED, .
    The list goes on and on! Obama, Hillary have dishonored the 4 lives of those that were lost by lyiing to cover it up. He has dishonored our Troops by saying it was a not a terrorist attack. He dishonored the victims at Ft. Hood by saying that was a domestic work place vilonce -LIED Again !! Where is the President? He went to sleep the night of the attack! No truth needs to be edited 12 times....come on people, wake up and see what we voted for! We were duped by his words!

    May 13, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  23. Grumpster

    Too many right wing nuts on here....just amazing they forget how many were killed because BUSH lied about WMD's....and started not one, but two wars. Then he also had far more killed in embassy bombings than anybody else in recent memory. The GOP is the circus.

    May 13, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  24. Thunder King

    In other words, don't call us out on our inaction that led to 4 deaths and that we tried to cover up.

    May 13, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  25. Papa Ray

    Obama, you and your co-hearts in idioticy made this a sideshow and a disaster by lying through your teeth. But you know I might be able to live with that, knowing politicians always lie.
    But...I don't think you and Clinton should be able to get away scott free after not insisting that help be sent (from anywhere) to prevent the murder of four Americans. Hell you even held up the investigation by the FBI, while the wreckage of the place was vandalized and searched by Islamists.
    Shame on all of you. You all need to be in jail thinking about this mess. Pity the parents, families and friends of those who were murdered by your idiocy.

    May 13, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
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