May 13th, 2013
01:10 PM ET
12 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. Fred

    Oh what a tangled web we weave when we practice to decieve. It's your own fault Mr. President. Oh boy, I bet this last comment just got me an audit....

    May 13, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  2. Bubba Ray

    Benghazi, the IRS ... I need a bigger tin foil hat.

    May 13, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  3. blakenaustin

    Of course not Mr. Obama. If we make a circus of it, the truth might come out and everyone will know who the lying clown is.

    May 13, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  4. CJ

    Unless they suddenly find out the terrorists were hired by Washington, or that Osama was in the group that killed the Ambassador, there's no reason for this much press to hover around an ambassador's killing. Even the Beirut barracks bombing which killed a couple hundred of US servicemen didn't drum up this much attention.

    GOP fueled press won't let go of this one, especially if it discredits a potential presidential candidate in 2016. Pretty sickening to continue hearing about these men's lives used as cannonfodder for the Republicans. I couldn't believe how much focus was on whether Obama used the words "terrorism" or not in the first 24 hours. Does no one remember how the instant this happened, the GOP jumped at the Administration's throats? Ever since then, they lost credibility to me as being able to pursue this. Were this led by a mixed committee of democrats and republicans, I'd take it seriously.

    May 13, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  5. Ed

    "Side Show"??!! This empty suit thinks the lives of four Americans is a "side show"? WOW, can't get any colder or uncaring than this guy. The only "side show" I see is this president.

    May 13, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  6. ghostriter

    So last night, Rep. Steve King – the same Steve King who thought people would commit suicide rather than pay higher estate taxes – announced that Fast and Furious was “reminiscent” of Watergate. “President Nixon asserted executive privilege then, the president has mirrored that now.” King said it “implies very strongly, if it doesn’t bring a conclusion to us out here that this information… links inside the White House itself.”

    May 13, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  7. Ray E. (Georgia)

    OH WHAT A TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE, WHEN FIRST WE PRACTICE OT DECEIVE. For Obama and the Liberal's, this is just another Bump in the Road. Moreover this is another look at the Obama Adminstation. He sold you on Electing and Re-Electing him. HE SAID, WE ARE THE ONES WE ARE WAITING FOR. Wow, are you kidding. Either Obama is super intellegent, or totally incompatant. Open your eyes.

    May 13, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  8. ghostriter

    Appearing Friday afternoon on Fox News, Michele Bachmann made a striking accusation against the Obama administration, presenting a severe conspiracy surrounding the government’s involvement in the failed Solyndra solar power company.

    “It just stinks on every level. This makes Watergate look like child’s play,” Bachmann declared — referring to the vast criminal network that had been operated out of the Nixon White House and re-election campaign.

    May 13, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  9. Bill

    " President Barack Obama argued Monday, asserting the tragedy was being used for political gain by his rivals."

    No, Mr. President, your LIES are being used for political gain. If you hadn't LIED about the situation, they would have nothing to use.

    The LIES you told FOR POLITICAL GAIN, turned Benghazi into a circus.

    Stop lying.

    May 13, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  10. um234

    Well, now we have 2 verified lies from the Obama Admin:

    1) Talking points from the C IA weren't revised (when in fact they were altered significantly to a completely diff. narrative).

    2) The attack was the result of a Youtube video (when they knew from the beginning that it was an Islamic terrorist group. And even If they weren't sure about who committed the attack or why, as they claim, how come they then peddled this video story so confidently even two weeks after the attack?). Hillary even told the family members of Chris Stevens to their faces that they would punish the YouTube maker, when they already knew there was no evidence of a protest from the drone feed, or from the emails that came from the consulate during the attack, or from anyone else on the ground that night.

    Our commander in chief didn't lift a finger to help Stevens and the others, even as we are learning that there were orders to stand down twice to CIA teams that were ready to go in. And we are learning that there were military assets far closer to Benghazi than the Admin is claiming. Didn't even send in the boy scouts. National Security was the last thing on Obama's mind. Protecting his behind was priority.

    Also, we now know that the heads of ABC News and CBS News both have siblings that work in the White House Foreign Service Dept. So it's becoming real clear why these lies were never investigated and buried by the media, when this story had a stench coming from it from the very beginning. They are lap dogs, not watch dogs, and a real threat to our democracy as we know it.

    And how come we have enough funds to give $60 mill. to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt but not enough to protect a diplomat who we already knew was asking for more protection because he didn't trust the Libyians to protect him sufficiently? Why weren't fund moved to give greater security to those who needed it more. Hell, the British Ambassador was kidnapped in broad daylight there just 2 1/2 months before the attack. Hello, red flag!

    Thank God for Fox News who has been reporting these inconsistencies from Day 1. Thank God we have the courage of Greg Hicks (a registered Democrat by the way) and the others to tell the truth. This story is not going away anytime soon.

    May 13, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  11. THE TRUTH

    Gop, if this is all you got, your screwed, hey why not ask about the weapons report, you know, the one they used to kill 4500 americans for money, why dont we talk about that, surely a loss pf 4500, is more important than 4.

    May 13, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  12. lomalinda

    If you think for 1 minute that he didn't know about all of this you're kidding yourself. However, don't kid yourself that he will be more than happy to let someone else take the fall. I personally this is impeachment material; add the IRS mess on top of it and let's go for broke and get it over with before 2016

    May 13, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  13. jimmy

    WE should put George Bush in prison for his war crimes. Who cares about 3 people that died in Benghazi. What about the 5 million that died in IraQ.

    May 13, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  14. GP007

    What does editing the explanation of the event have to do with the event itself?

    If it is consistency you desire, where is your outrage when Bush lied to the entire nation on live TV during his state of the union address?

    May 13, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  15. Boo

    I see the phony outrage from the right. Where was your outrage when Bush started a war with Iraq based on lies?

    May 13, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  16. Peter

    Barack Obama's spin is pathetic. The obfuscation by this administration is mind blowing. That they had people inside CNN, ABC, NBC, etc is incredible. There is no doubt in my mind that this administration has been manipulating the voters of The United States of America. Kick them out of office before it's too late. Peter Guild, Quincy, MA.

    May 13, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  17. wade

    Are you kidding me? I want to through up in Obama's face. he is such a liar hypocrite. 4 people are dead. He is a disgrace and Hillary pulled the trigger in a manor of speak.

    May 13, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  18. John Doe

    John McCain, Lindsey Graham, John Boehner and Darryl Issa need to articulate three simple facts about Bengazhi that the public can understand what they are concerned about. They need to say it over and over again and see if it resonates outside the Beltway.
    If not, they will be tagged as political and not doing the country's work, which will discredit them further.

    Between Obama and Clinton, the GOP doesn't have a chance winning a message war. The GOP needs to stop its circular firing squad and moderate or they will lose elections for years to come. The GOP in and of itself is a circus. Far right vs. common sense pragmatists every day.

    May 13, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  19. Joachim

    The Repubs are trying desperately to inject al-Quaeda into the Benghazi tragedy, when those terrorists had nothing to do with it. We're not buying into that red herring business which Bush II used to justify the invasion of Iraq. The Libyan administration is trying to depict that event as a calculated, coordinated attack, because, if it was, they will receive billions of US dollars.

    May 13, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  20. Joke

    Of course, all this could be blamed on Hillary Clinton, the worst Sec. of State ever. But she's planning her bid for the White in 2016, so best to keep this whole Bengazi thing under the rug. Everyone will forget about it by the next election. Good plan.

    May 13, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  21. sly

    Republicans only know how to lose, so rather than do their job to help America, they wallow in the mud for a few years.

    President Obama requested $300 million for the Libyan embassy security, and Republicans rejected it saying "We don't need more security at that embassy'.

    Fools cut off their nose in spite of their face.

    May 13, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  22. maximusvad

    Selective outrage... The way the GOP lost the 2012 election.

    May 13, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  23. lB Colorado

    Ekhphoto – it won't change the event itself, but if the truth came out when it happened, that would have changed a lot of things, I don't Mr. Obama would have re-elected and that my dear is the reason for all of the lies and cover ups. Hillary coward to this administration and this administration used the heavy to keep this until after the election. This is not about Republicans, democrats it is about lies and cover ups. Always always, the truth will be revealed, maybe not today but it will come out and no matter how bad Mr. Obama wants this to go away, his presidency is the one that will be written in the history books as one of the most crooked and corrupt administration – even worse than Bush, if that is actually possible. Transparency – ????? how is that working for you?

    May 13, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  24. Carol

    The Republicans have made a spectacle out of Benghazi. The people who were serving in Benghazi were in a very, very volatile and unpredictable region. So what else is new??? Regardless of preparation or the number of security personnel present at some posts, there is absolutely no way to assure the security of the post or the personnel assigned. The Vienna convention assigns to the host nation the task of protection of foreign diplomats and sometimes the host nation can not guarantee that protection but the choice must be made, be represented or leave.
    Politicizing the deaths at the embassy demeans their sacrifice, and that is what the Republicans have done.

    May 13, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  25. Mike

    Obama, always looking to deny, delay, ignore, and then scream "it is all political" when dirt is dug up on him.

    I have no doubt at all that Obama (and Hillary) knew EXACTLY what was going on that night and chose to ignore it. 4 people died.
    He is a sad excuse for a President.

    May 13, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
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