October 17th, 2012
11:22 PM ET
9 years ago

McCain weighs in on war of words over Libya

(CNN) - Sen. John McCain on Wednesday said Mitt Romney missed an opportunity to go after the president over Libya in the second presidential debate.

Asked whether Romney failed to press President Barack Obama on the administration's handling of last month's consulate attack, the Arizona senator said "in a way, he did" on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360."

During the debate, Obama said he referred to the Libya attack as an "act of terror" the day after the violence last month. Romney disputed the claim, sparking a fiery exchange over whether the president used the term.

On Wednesday, some political observers noted Romney spent too much time over the semantics, rather than moving on and asking more questions about the security of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack on the U.S. facility on September 11, 2012.

As it turns out, the president did use the words "acts of terror" in the Rose Garden speech, but opponents point to the fact that some in the administration waffled on calling it a terrorist attack in the following days. Certain officials, instead, cited protests over an anti-Islam film as the trigger of the violence.

McCain, however, sided with those who say the president was not forceful enough in his choice of words after the attack.

"When you look at the president's Rose Garden statement, it really wasn't talking about that act," said the 2008 Republican presidential nominee.

Obama, in fact, used the phrase toward the end of the speech, saying, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation." Critics, however, point to the fact that he mentioned the September 11, 2001, attacks before the phrase in his speech and could have been referring to that disaster, as well.

McCain said Wednesday the president should have fully acknowledged the violence as terrorism from day one.

"We knew within hours that this was a coordinated attack with heavy weapons," McCain said. "It was obvious."

McCain wasn't the only Republican defending Romney on Wednesday. Rep. Peter King of New York also had biting words for the president's response to the Libya attack. On CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront," the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee described the situation as "shameful."

"I'm going to use my words very carefully,” King said. “I think the president's conduct and behavior on this issue has been shameful.”

The congressman argued Obama was four minutes into his Rose Garden speech on September 12 before he mentioned an act of terror. King also noted the 9/11 mention in the speech.

"Is he talking about Benghazi or is he talking about September 11th or all acts of terror?" he said. "The most you could say for him is it's ambiguous."

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Filed under: 2012 • John McCain • Libya • TV-Anderson Cooper 360
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Martha in CF

    Come on McCain. Stop all this nonsense once and for all. You should know better than anyone that you don't spout off on a tragedy such as this until you know the facts. That is NOT what Mitt did. He came out why the attack was underway!!!!
    Also, aren't you the one that wants us also to go into Syria? Possibly Iran? Oh let's also try Pakistan and also go back into Iraq. Enough is enough!!!!!!!

    October 17, 2012 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  2. Mary Ann

    Who cares what Mc Cain has to say,he is the one who unleashed the Palin family on the rest of us.

    October 17, 2012 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  3. Atasha

    Romney choose wrong wording answering/asking the question, Obama choose wrong actions protecting Americans. How can you compare!!!!!

    October 17, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  4. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Does it really matter what we call something? When we don't know all the facts, it is just something that is covered by the fog of war.

    October 17, 2012 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  5. John Williams

    Tonight's show of Acts of Terror vs. Terrorist Attack was less than mature. I expect much more from CNN. Though i am not an Obama supporter, the ridiculous notion that semantics could be used as a tool to influence voters, Obama is clearly against terror and has addressed terror directly several times during his term, Osama, Al Quiada Somali Pirates, Libya, Yemen incident. CNN is resulting to similar news style as FOX news. CNN should still try to hold itself up as real news for adults and not a Jerry Springer version like fox. Has nobody at CNN watched the show "The Newsroom". Terrorism, a gangbanger in East Oakland can be called a terrorist and arrested for terrorism per California 186.20, California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act, STEP Act. Sensationalism is not a good thing CNN.

    October 18, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |

    The coverup continues...........................................

    October 18, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  7. Ekenlor Idi

    Isn't it about time that Senator McCain is told to just sit down and shut up and leak his wounds like every good American does. Why does he think that we have an mandatory obligation to his views? And why do you in CNN and the media keep going to him for comments as though he is even half as thoughtful as Abraham Lincoln? Please CNN, stop this McCain nonsense. He is unable to reconcile himself, a war "hero", to the fact that he was defeated by an "upstart black man named Obama". That hurts him more than anything. Had he been defeated by a white man, it probably wouldn't hurt as much. And in his dotage, he has become a very irresponsible (more irresponsible that John Sununu who constantly belittles and demeans his Lebanese-Arab heritage) flame thrower.

    October 18, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  8. Larry L

    It's been a long time since John McCain behaved in an honorable fashion. He knows in his heart Romney's dishonest and deceitful attack on the handling of this crisis does nothing but make an already complex operational environment more difficult to manage. It was very low-class to intervene with critical comments BEFORE the operation was over. Romney showed America how poorly suited he is to serve as Commander-In-Chief. It's just "Mr. Mission Accomplished 2.0".

    October 18, 2012 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  9. p_anaya75

    He also implicated the trailer movie by saying something to the effect of "degrading another's religion" Also appeared on Letterman, The View with the trailer movie. Never implicating a terrorist attack.

    October 18, 2012 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  10. Luke

    I think John McCain is still bitter about losing the last election. I also believe that it is completely reprehensible to use the deaths of four Americans as an opportunity to take cheapshots for political gain. Romney was a draft dodger who fled to France to avoid military service during the Vietnam conflict- a war that he allegedly supported but was too cowardly to fight in. He let others like myself serve their country. Now he is grandstanding with all this lying bluster about what should have been done or said. This isn't a game of semantics. It's a war on our country and his second guessing is not going to help the matter..

    When Jihadists killed 241 of our Marines in 1983 in Beirut during the Reagan presidency using a massive truck bomb nobody tried to use the incident to blame Reagan or his administration. We all united together to back our country. Romney is a coward and a bully who will say anything, and tell any lie to try and fool voters. No, this Romney is a deceitful person and should never be trusted to be our Commander in Chief.

    A Vietnam veteran who knows a coward when he sees one.

    October 18, 2012 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  11. ladyt

    Erin asks if Rice should be removed from her position at U.N. because of her comments about the the events in Libya that took away precious U.S. diplomatic lives? Well sure she should be removed, just as much as Collin Powell should have been removed for saying there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, just as much as Rumsfeld should have been removed for instigating the 'Bushes' wars, just as much as Romney's candidacy for presidency based on lies and deception. Of course, our elected reps can be misled! Why are we giving credence to this line of questioning and news? Erin, how many politicians in history should resign posthumously over such misteps?

    October 18, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  12. Do it to the Music

    Obama Flip-Flopped on Libya, he was vague and contines to be vague as Terrorism is not a word he likes to say during elections. It's as simple as that, theres no dilemma here at all.

    October 18, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  13. JimB

    Anderson Cooper seems more and more like a GOP operative. He did nothing tonight to expose the right wing media attack on his fellow CNN colleague over Romney's Libya gaffe (amongst many gaffes). Instead he worked overtime to neutralize the effect of Romney's blunder with his guests tonight. He drags out the bitter and hawkish McCain to explain it all to us. He did show that Romney's gaffe about women might hurt him but ended the show with a man who supported the Bush doctrine which took us to war and alienated a great part of the world.

    October 18, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  14. stars

    The reason you guys knew within second is because you planed the attack.

    October 18, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  15. chris

    Seriously? Then why was he at the U.N. talking about the video two weeks later. He said multiple times it was from a spontaneous attack because of the video. The U.N. Ambassador five days after the attack on multiple stations saying it was because of a video. And hillary and carney. Do you obama supporters believe this at all? He never specifically said a terrorist attack caused our ambassador's murder. Act's of terror was a phrase to go back to if cover up failed. And it has

    October 18, 2012 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  16. markhoben

    The President's comments on September 12 were unequivocally in reference to the events the preceding day – they were given just hours after the deaths of the four American were revealed, and nine of the first twelve paragraphs (the four minutes Peter King mentions) referred to Libya and the work of Ambassador Chris Stevens. And of course, the transcript of the President's remarks show he refers to the attack as 'acts of terror'.

    The most you can say for Congressman Peter King is he is stunningly dishonest.

    October 18, 2012 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  17. Rob Hunt

    This coming from the party that missed the 911 warning signs, went to war for Weapons of Mass Destruction that weren't there, and didn't manage to get US enemy #1 Bin Laden. Obama at least weighs the facts, doesn't ignore intelligence sources, and has the diplomatic tact to work behind the scenes, not in the press. There's no one in the GOP who's qualified to condemn this President. Period.

    October 18, 2012 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  18. wjmccartan

    Are you kidding me this is how far out there you'll go, to try and make something, anything stick. Pack up your snake oil gentlemen and move down the road, the one thing the republicans should fear were the closing statement of the debate, he touched on everything including kids out of high school, finding work. The president all the people in his final remarks and it rang true, those strugglint with life to small business. The whole country was included in his final words. Romney looked exhausted like he had just gone ten rounds and needed desparately to sit down. Watch the footage, he was ready to fall down. Of course the repulicans will scour the nation to come up with anything they can. There is just nothing there but smoke, eat the presidents dust Mittens.

    Lucif One

    October 18, 2012 01:43 am at 1:43 am |
  19. fernace

    In other words, according to the GOTP who desperately want the Black man out of the White House, Obama does everything Wrong, even when he does the right thing! Why in the world would the President start talking about 9/11, an event that happened 11 years ago, while discussing This event!? That makes no sense! He was clearly refering to the Benghazi attack! Also, there were ongoing protests over the video, a great cover for the terrorists, which caused confusion! I realize the GOTP really want control again, but they should all simmer down & start thinking about what They can begin to do to help our recovery, because so far their efforts merit an F-! This particular event has been blown out of proportion, but it really doesn't matter! Obama could broker world peace, make us all millionaires & cure cancer simultaneously & he would still be a pariah in the eyes of the GOTP & its supporters! Why? He's Black! Simple as that!! Obama Nov.6!

    October 18, 2012 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  20. tammyk tammy

    Give it a rest warmongers. Unlike Romney, President Obama knows better than to speak rashly and start pounding the war drum before all the facts are known. Clearly this set of terrorists used the video to encourage Libyians to protest in order to create confusion during their attack. The President has not made any comments that are contrary to this being an act of terror. What was shameful was Romney hysterically attacking the President during a time of crisis before Romney had all of the facts. What is shameful is the Republican's ridiculous notion that the POTUS should be able to personally stop all harm to all Amuricans in every corner of the entire world. We cannot have entire platoons of Marines protecting every embassy around the world since they are busy fighting the wars that were shamefully started by Republicans based on shameful lies to our citizens and our allies.

    October 18, 2012 02:40 am at 2:40 am |
  21. tammyk tammy

    In my previous comment, I forgot to include all of the shameful torture that was shamefully carried out by the previously shameless Republican administration which has shamefully created more terroists and caused many Americans to be ashamed of the actions of our country. SHAME WARMONGERS, SHAME!

    October 18, 2012 02:50 am at 2:50 am |
  22. Thomas

    John , the death toll just went to 19.
    he death toll from a meningitis outbreak linked to contaminated steroids jumped to 19 on Wednesday, while U.S. lawmakers pressed federal health regulators to explain what they knew about the pharmacy that produced the drugs.

    Romney , we need less regulation ..................

    October 18, 2012 03:02 am at 3:02 am |
  23. 2020

    McCain, are you really making a fool of yourself over Romney stupid no fact accusation?

    No acts of terror could deter United States..... do you have language problem? GOP waked and talked with their eyes closed. Romney smashed his face on the wall, that is his own doing. He has no one but himself to blame.

    He should take International affairs 101, from the beginner class.

    Nov 6 Romney is going to lose big, worse than what you did in 2008. That is a consolation price for you though.

    October 18, 2012 03:16 am at 3:16 am |
  24. Uchenna Steve.

    LMAO, funny repubs.

    October 18, 2012 03:31 am at 3:31 am |
  25. Emma in Baltimore

    "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation."
    The "No" part of it makes it pretty clear he's talking about ALL acts of terror.

    October 18, 2012 03:43 am at 3:43 am |
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