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. rob

    @ Rudy
    3 things:
    1 The White House is required to submit a budget every year and in its 2011 budget they decreased the security $'s for embasies.
    2 We have been runnuing on CR's since 2009 because the Senate refused to take up and vote on a budget weather it was from the house or their own.
    3. President Obama then signed the CR that included the reduction in the Embassy security spending.

    May 13, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  2. THE TRUTH

    Lets take the 4500, add the 3000 from 9/11, and totally dismiss them, those deaths were on the repubs, so their lives dont matter nearly enough as the 4 from benghazi, total disrespect for the men who laid down their lives, believing they were defending their country from weapons of mass destruction, keep ignoring those deaths, while politisizing benghazi, you have no idea how sick mature adults are of this game. see you in 2014 and 2016

    May 13, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  3. rla

    I suppose the lives lost were a side show in your chicago mind! I also guess you and your progressive administration hope you can spin anything-- NOT!

    May 13, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  4. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    The side show is in the White House.

    May 13, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  5. Dean

    Just when the legacy of his presidency can't seem to get any worse, the bumbling fool opens his mouth.

    May 13, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  6. Anthony in California

    This is going to really hurt his chances of getting re-elected again in 2016... oh wait.

    #AnotherRepublicanFailure

    May 13, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  7. Name willard

    Wow what happened about car bomb three outside hosptial in libya benghazi. We are belived that 4 amercian was dead at us embrassy from terroist againt hillary clinton and presdient obama

    May 13, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  8. Mensaman

    Tell the truth and stop covering up Mr. Obama and it won't be a circus.
    Jay Carney (Benghazi Bob) has lied already. Your silence and dismissal will catch up to you, like it did with Nixon.
    Speak the truth and get it over with so we can save some lives.

    May 13, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  9. Fubarack

    Obama got caught, there would be no circus if they had just told the truth. It's not the GOP's fault that Obama is a liar.

    May 13, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  10. C Howe

    In September 2012, after the Benghazi consulate attack by terrorists, Obama's administration, including the White House and State Department, took a great deal of trouble to concoct a story (with twelve alterations) about a youtube video being the impetus of a street mob attack rather than the pre-planned 9/11 terrorist attack it actually was... Today, Obama has announced that congressional, media, and public interest in getting to the bottom of this widely disseminated lie (by those who knew the truth) is a 'side show'. We can complain about the Bush years all we want, and there is plenty to complain about, but that administration would never have referred to our quest for information about four murders and the burning of a US facility on foreign soil as a 'side show'. How dare we ask for...the truth?! How dare we value it!

    May 13, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  11. ekhphoto

    Gee, let's all play "get the prospective candidate." The senate blow-hards are just trying to sully Hilary before she starts to run. It has very little to do with anything important in the great scheme of things, and is not directly the work of the Pres.

    How I wish the chimpanzees would go back to their forests and leave the civilized folk to govern the nation.

    May 13, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  12. Ed1

    Four Americans are killed and you call this a side show didn't think you could go any lower pretty bad Mr. President and shame on you.

    May 13, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  13. um234

    Once again, BO ducking the real questions. Heaven forgid, he would NEVER use a tragedy for political purposes... oh except for maybe inviting Sandy Hook parents aboard Air Force One for a trip to lobby Congressmen.

    Regardless of whether the Repubs have pure motives or not, THEY ARE ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS THAT MUST BE ANSWERED.

    May 13, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  14. rob

    @ Sniffit
    The fact is reports were being sent to the State dept and i'm sure the WH that there was an attack going on and they did not know where the Ambassador was untill 7 hours later when he TURNED UP DEAD!!!!!!!!
    Who was monitoring the situation real time ???? It seems neither President Obama or Hillary Clinton were.

    May 13, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  15. DC Observer

    The President's remarks are sickening and dishonor those that lost their lives. The Dems have swept this under rug to (1) keep an embarrassing event from undermining the Presidential election; and (2) trying to preserve Hillary's Presidential prospects. In the process, they have disgraced the nation and the memory of those killed. Mr. Obama's comments are totally out of line and make a mockery of his office and the State department. As for Hillary, we know know that she thinks " What does it matter"?

    May 13, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  16. PaulCat

    A side show indeed.
    Keep talking republicans.
    HILLARY "2016 & 2020"

    May 13, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  17. Donna

    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.
    ---

    Even worse, they lied FACE TO FACE to the families of the 4 dead Americans when they arrived home. What kind of cold, cruel political monster does it take to do THAT?!! It is down right scary to think these are the people at the top of our government.

    May 13, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  18. george

    Then COME CLEAN Mr Prez and accept responsibility...something drastically went wrong...I think the key is NO LEADERSHIP...when it comes to Terrorists...plain and simple!!

    May 13, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  19. antibarry

    "Just when the legacy of his presidency can't seem to get any worse, the bumbling fool opens his mouth". I agree but the sad thing is, his lemmings buy into all of his lies.

    May 13, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  20. blake

    @rob
    The GOP voted to cut funding for embassy security, not the White House. Just google "Congress cuts funding for embassy security" and you'll get all the details.

    May 13, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  21. george

    THE "SIDE SHOW" is in fact.....in the White House...someone already said it and I say AMEN!!!

    May 13, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  22. Kevin

    " President Barack Obama argued Monday, asserting the tragedy was being used for political gain by his rivals." Isn't this what he did regarding gun control and the shooting in CT?

    May 13, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  23. Roseydozey

    with all due respect, Mr. President, someone died during this fiasco and it could have been avoided (it seems) and someone needs to take ownership of this.

    May 13, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  24. Derek

    @Dean, Teach the world since they think different than your opinion on how this President's legacy is a bad one.

    May 13, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  25. looknclick

    Just be honest, if you would have an ability to alter the truth for your benefit on global scale, wouldn't you do it once in a while? Especially when your US presidency at stake, and the alteration doesn't seem to be huge.

    May 13, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
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