September 30th, 2012
11:47 AM ET
10 years ago

Axelrod, McCain spar over Libya attack

(CNN) - Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod played defense Sunday on the administration's handling of the Libya consulate attack that killed four Americans, while Sen. John McCain said the response was marred by "political overtones."

On Friday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence revised its assessment of the attack, saying the administration now believes the event was a deliberate terrorist assault, rather than spontaneous violence spurred by protests against an anti-Muslim film.

- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

- Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.

Defending the administration's initial take on the event earlier this month, Axelrod said officials were making judgments based on the intelligence they had at the time.

"That was the original information that that was given to us," Axelrod said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union." "What we don't need is a president or an administration that shoots first and asks questions later."

McCain, however, said earlier on the same program that such an argument "doesn't pass the smell test."

"It was either willful ignorance or abysmal intelligence to think that people come to spontaneous demonstrations with heavy weapons, mortars, and the attack goes on for hours," the Republican senator told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.

He argued the administration's first reading of the events in Libya had "certain political overtones."

"How else could you trot out our U.N. ambassador to say this was a spontaneous demonstration?" McCain said, referring to Ambassador Susan Rice's appearance on Sunday shows a few days after the attack, when she attributed the violence to protests over the film.

Rep. Peter King of New York, who chairs the House homeland security committee, made headlines Friday when he called on Rice to resign.

Axelrod fired back at the congressman, calling his comments "irresponsible."

"To say she should resign - she is one of the most remarkable, splendid public servants we have," Axelrod said. "That's thoroughly irresponsible."

He said the administration’s investigation was still under way.

"At this point, this is what we know, and we are thoroughly investigating. And that's exactly what you should do," he said.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

Filed under: 2012 • David Axelrod • John McCain • Libya • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Bayley0402

    Why, oh why, do these news sites think that what John Mccain has to say is in any way important to any of us? He is an old war monger whose answer to everything is "attack."

    September 30, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  2. Emmittkitty

    I lost all respect for McCain when he chose a grossly unqualified candidate for VP. If his decision making was that poor on a matter that had huge implications for this country, I doubt he has much integrity when discussing Libya. There was a time I thought better of more. He is self-serving and war happy.

    September 30, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  3. lisasc

    I want to know who instructed Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice to mislead the American people. That's the real question.

    September 30, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  4. warren

    mccain is still bitter. You dont have what takes to be president. Obama won get over it!

    September 30, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  5. nobama

    If it was an ongoing investigation should that not have been Ms Rice's answer on all of the morning shows. Having her answer the way she did, the Administration had a victim to throw under the bus and was doing nothing short lying to the American people to protect the Pres. Shameful

    September 30, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  6. Geordie

    The President and his administration are elected public servants , they might at times have to withhold certain information , but never ever should they be allowed to spin a story to avoid acknowledgement of true facts.
    Americans lost their lives while serving their country , they deserve better and calling this incident a ' bump in the road ' shows how callous and self absorbed Obama is , never mind this tragedy just do anything to win the next election.
    What disgusting behavior.!!!

    September 30, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  7. overby

    It's absolutely confounding how Obama can be leading the polls after all the lies he and his Chicago thug cronies are spewing out. It'll be a sad day for America if he gets another term to put the final nail in the coffin....

    September 30, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  8. chris

    "we have vetted the rebels and we find them to be good democracy seeking people. they are not AL-QAEDA! they are doctors and lawyers and bankers who want freedom from the repressive gadaffi regime,only the CRITICS are calling them AL-QAEDA"

    jOHHNY BOY McCAIN March 2011.......

    and please remember folks that good ol johnny boy was the FIRST american govt official to arrive in benghazi to lie FOR the al-qaeda rebels! McCain,just as obama and hillary,KNEW that thye rebels were al-qaeda from the very beginning! McCain knew all about IBRAHIM BIN QUMU before we dropped our first bomb on libya!

    sure obama is responsible,but johhny boy McCain was the first person to in libya lying for the al-qaeda rebels. this is what you get when you WILLINGLY side with terrorist! this will be obama's watergate!

    September 30, 2012 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  9. Rachni

    Axelrod, another sick liar that also knew the attack was premeditated and had nothing to do with the film. Biggest dirtbags in the US, lying about the cause of death of 4 americans, Nixon was a criminal, but at least no one died, here people die and they lie about why and how they died. Disgraceful cretins.

    September 30, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  10. clm

    The more i hear from the honorable Sen. McCain, the more he sounds like a bitter loser presidential candidate and even worse a war hawk when most of America is done with fighting wars no one can win until the people in the area want peace more than they want war.

    September 30, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  11. Corwin7

    P. S. If you republicans are so superior then why is Mitt Romney the best candidate you have to offer? Could it be that liberals are right and your just groveling little toady peons for the corporate 1% that own you body and soul? that was the case then Faux "fair and balanced" news would have told you so right? ROFL!

    September 30, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  12. Sagebrush Shorty

    Abysmal is putting it mildly. Is there anyone who even approaches competency in this administration? Their view and opinion on the Libya murders flip-flop more than Obama's politics.

    September 30, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  13. guest

    Another election year mindless political debate. What difference does it make whether the killing was done by a mob or by a bunch of terrorists. Either way, President Obama said the U.S. will identify the killers and deal with them. I guess Senator McCain would prefer to bomb Benghazi. That's sure to win the hearts and minds of the Libyans, just like we've won the minds and hearts of Iraqis and Afghans by killing thousands of civilians.

    September 30, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  14. annieball62

    anyone who wanted an instant answer to the libya problem is living in the fantasy world of TV drama. it takes an extensive investigation to find out what happened not a Romney shoot first, ask later, screw up the answer then "oh well, thats not correct, my bad"

    September 30, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
1 2