October 18th, 2012
06:20 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama talks Libya on 'Daily Show'

(CNN) - President Barack Obama on Thursday defended his administration's handling of the Libya consulate attack, telling Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" that he will ultimately fix any problems involving security for diplomatic posts.

"The government is a big operation and any given time, something screws up," he said in the interview to air Thursday night. "And you make sure that you find out what's broken and you fix it."

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Stewart pressed the president on the aftermath of the terror attack that killed four Americans at a U.S. consulate in Benghazi last month. The administration has faced scrutiny over why the post was not more robustly staffed with security.

The comedian said the administration's response did not play out in an "optimal" way.

"I would say, even you would admit, it was not the optimal response, at least to the American people, as far as all of us being on the same page," Stewart said.

The president replied: "When four Americans get killed, it's not optimal. We're going to fix it. All of it."

That remark sparked tough backlash from Republicans, who said it revealed a flip attitude toward the tragedy.

“Even from someone like the president, who has never known what these kinds of tragedies are about and the service and sacrifice that people make, it’s still just – I can’t even get angry,” McCain said on Fox News. “It’s just so inappropriate. And I’m sure that the families of those brave Americans are not amused.”

In Obama's interview, his second appearance on the show since taking office and sixth overall, Obama said his number one priority was the safety of Americans.

READ MORE: Romney presses Libya attack response after debate

"And they will continue to get that over the next four years of my presidency," he said.

When Stewart asked about "confusion" over the Benghazi attack, the president laid out what he learned from the situation.

"(We) weren't confused about the fact that four Americans had been killed. I wasn't confused about the fact that we needed to ramp up diplomatic security around the world right after it happened. I wasn't confused about the fact that we had to investigate exactly what happened so it gets fixed. And I wasn't confused about the fact that we're going to hunt down whoever did it," the president said.

The show, however, was not without its lighter moments. Stewart joked that he was making a scrapbook and pulled out a pair of photos of the two presidential debates, according to pool reports. In one photo, Obama's wife, Michelle, is looking at the president angrily; in the other photo, she's smiling.

"Do you know which debate was which?" Stewart asked, poking fun at the president's widely panned debate performance at the first showdown earlier this month.

"Cute. Cute Jon," Obama said, smiling.

Filed under: 2012 • Jon Stewart • Libya • President Obama
soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. myviewis

    And yet more promises "We're going to fix it. All of it." and let's not forget " I will heal the planet ". Oh well, at least Obama was comfortable in the comedy central environment where he can really shine and has noone asking him real tuff questions expecting a real answer.

    October 18, 2012 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  2. Paulcat

    Hey Jon Stewart, Tagg Romney wants to hit somebody. What do you think about Tagg joining the army and take his other 4 brothers with him?

    October 18, 2012 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  3. 2020

    When the President of United States takes responsibility telling what he knew about the situation, we take it as he has been truthful in the past 4 years.

    I have absolutely no doubt he will be truthful in the next 4 years, and beyond.

    I won't bet a penny on Romney, never mind $10,000

    October 18, 2012 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  4. Michael

    The last repuglican president had a successful attack on the homeland by terrorist extremist within 1 1/2 years of his election! I just love how the repuglicans and the media is trying to equate the scope and impact of this attack in Bengazi to something large as 9/11 where almost 3,000 American lives were lost! I get the interest and anger, but the politicizing by repuglicans and the media is over the top!

    October 18, 2012 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  5. Mig

    And if you can't fix it, blame Bush or a video.

    October 18, 2012 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  6. Confused

    I'd love for Romney to go on there.

    October 18, 2012 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  7. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Tagg Romney threatened our President stating he would have if the Secret Service weren't around. Tagg Romney should be placed on the same list as other Americans who have threaten the same as well as have a mental evaluation. Tagg's daddy running for president doesn't give him liberty to threaten the Commander in Chief of our brave military men and women in which he, none of his brothers, daddy or any other Romney has ever served.

    October 18, 2012 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  8. Sheon1

    Our President is totally AWESOME!
    4 more years !

    October 18, 2012 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  9. Necronn99

    Obama its a bit too late for you and your attempt at securing your position as a COMPLETE FAILURE. I know you made history for two things i can see .. Frist black Pres and the worst one in history. Congrats.

    October 18, 2012 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  10. tom clements

    Do you know that for weeks we have been watching the same video stream from Benghazi while the commentators are mentioning angry mob. Yes people running around tearing up flags an angry mob. NO THIS WAS AN AL QUEDA CELEBRATION FOR KILLING AMERICANS. This was a celebration of terrorists for two weeks straight on the anniversary of 9/11. Don't you see how disgusting that is?

    October 18, 2012 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  11. wjmccartan

    Thanks to Jon Stewart, still knows how to make laugh, come on Steven who you going to get to talk Mittens. After he loses, he can at least maybe be the number 2 in your threatdown routine, ah your both great, keep up the good work.

    October 18, 2012 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  12. tom clements

    Do you know that for weeks we have been watching the same video stream from Benghazi while the commentators are mentioning angry mob. Yes people running around tearing up flags an angry mob. NO THIS WAS AN AL Q UEDA CELEBRATION FOR KILLING AMERICANS. This was a celebration of terr orists for two weeks straight on the anniversary of 9/11. Don't you see how disgusting that is?

    October 18, 2012 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  13. butch

    9/12 (The day after the attack.)
    Obama uses the phrase "acts of terror" in a speech, but does not directly call the attack in Libya an act of terror. His exact words were, "No acts of terror will shape the resolve of America."

    White House spokesperson Carney says the U.S. has no evidence that Benghazi attack was planned.

    On five talk shows, Ambassador Wright states the attacks were not "pre-planned".

    Obama appears on the David Letterman Show and says that extremists used the video to attack the embassy.

    White House spokesperson Carney reiterates the belief that the attack was in response to the anti-Muslim film.

    The only mention of terrorism in President Obama's U.N. speech was regarding Iran's role in Syria.

    In this debate vs Romney, Obama referred to his comments made in the 9/12 speech and when he used the term "acts of terror", he meant the attack in Libya were "attacks of terror" and that he always called it that.

    No confusion?

    October 18, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  14. NoweBama2012

    President Romney please come save us. The current president is always busy with his hollywood buddies and his shows.

    October 18, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  15. butch

    Secretary Hillary wears the pant suit in this Administration was she was the first to man-up to being responsible.

    Meanwhile, when this subject was brought up during the 2nd debate, Obama hid behind moderator Candy's skirt.

    When will Obama ever man-up and take responsibility for something?

    October 18, 2012 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  16. Jack

    Most Romney supporters seem to be giving a pass to all the failures... and there were a huge number of them... that led to the 3000+ deaths on 9/11/2001. I didnt blame Bush (or Clinton) or hold it against him during the 2004 election even tho I didnt support him. This time around I dont blame Obama either. But if someone else blames both presidents then I give a nod to his consistency. Anyone that only blames one or the other is a political hack that is trying to use it to achieve their own selfish goal.

    October 18, 2012 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  17. comney 12

    Imagine if Romney called the deaths of four Americans as "not optimal?" The press would have this on every front page. Yet CNN's headline simply states "Obama talks Libya." I will be so happy even Romney wins this election. The media hypocrisy is disgusting.

    October 18, 2012 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  18. disanitnodiscoas

    Obama just wrapped up an interview on the John Stewart show. Obama made an extraordinary response to Stewart's question about the Benghazi massacre -

    Obama responded: "Here's what I’ll say. If four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal."

    October 18, 2012 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  19. John

    It was the fact that Obama lied to the American people, Saying it was the video that prompted a riot/protest when in fact it was a terrorist attack, and he didn't admit that it was a terrorist attack until the debate... 14 days later!...He kept blaming it on the video...He's clueless about protecting Americans overseas, therefore he must go.

    October 18, 2012 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  20. deb

    Love the Daily Show...Love Obama <3

    October 18, 2012 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  21. shuman

    Yeah, just like Obama was going to cut that deficit in half by 2012.

    Instead he enriched his political supporters with deficit spending money taken from our childrens' futures and doubled it!

    October 18, 2012 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  22. SurRy

    Dumbya ignored daily briefings and thousands of American citizens dies in the worst attack on American soil. We were told we were traitors if we questioned why this happened. Bush even refused to testify under oath to the 9-11 commission (so he could lie). Not only was Dumbya reelected, his National Security Adviser on that day was given a promotion!

    October 18, 2012 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  23. Steve

    Poor Libs, Dems, Progressives, Socialists, Marxists, Communists, LGBTs, and all the rest of the moron vote. So sorry your "Messiah" turned out to be a dud. When you tell lie after lie after lie, it starts to add up. Sorry, truth hurts.

    After the last two debates, I don't think anybody would take him on as an intern to run a hot dog stand. He knows nothing about business, money, energy, or economics.

    October 18, 2012 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  24. be smart...vote Romney

    Optimal?!?! This is a disgrace for the commander in chief to speak like this! How is everyone not in rage about this? And way to go with that hard hitting interview Obama on the Daily Show! Those are some tough questions there pal! How about you go on a real news network and deal with the public instead of some hippie college aged show? Is that too much to ask of our President? I guess it is for Mr. Obama!

    October 18, 2012 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  25. john smith

    Greatest President Ever

    October 18, 2012 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
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