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. Anonymous

    "When four Americans get killed, it's not optimal. We're going to fix it. All of it." Yea, Obama, not optimal at all. What a crass response.

    October 18, 2012 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  2. MZ76

    Anyone have the tally on how many talk shows this man has done during his Presidency? 10, 12? It's like some twice a month thing with him. Who is he? A hollywood celebrity or our President? Couldn't make time to meet with any of the smaller Nations at the United Nations General Assembly but sure finds time to plop down into chairs and couches at network talk shows. Talk about twisted priorities. But, hey I'm really not surprised. Any venue where he can let his ego run amok, he'll jump on. Smarmy, greasy, and just plain gross. That big ole phoney toothy grin is like looking into the face of the cheshire cat. And, yep the last four years have played out like some freaky trip scene from Alice in Wonderland. Someone please pinch me so I might awaken from this bad dream

    October 18, 2012 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  3. Hal Atosis

    Are you kidding? Optimal?

    A leftist media toadie shilling for a walking teleprompter.

    October 18, 2012 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  4. justin

    here's how your main page advertises the story. you guys need to proof read.

    "President Barack Obama told Jon Stewart that he will ultimately problems involving security for diplomatic posts will be fixed after . FULL STORY"

    October 18, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  5. Jack

    The Kenyan must go !

    October 18, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  6. Vincent

    "The Daily Show" and "Colbert Report" ..... two of the best shows on TV !!
    Stewart and Colbert use their political satire to poke holes in all the crazy things that happen in politics that news networks will never do. And they go after the networks too 😀

    AWESOME shows !!

    October 18, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  7. Mike

    I'm sure the family's of the deceased are glad the President is discussing the loss of their loved ones with a little humor mixed in.. Way to keep things in perspective.

    October 18, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  8. James AL

    I love the fact that he president takes hs job serously, but doesn't take himself too seriously.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    The ONLY choice worth voting for in this election!

    October 18, 2012 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  9. Marty

    He needs to stay off the T.V. shows and try to run the country.

    October 18, 2012 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  10. Killa


    October 18, 2012 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  11. NorCalMojo

    The Daily Show?

    It's become a cartoon. It really has.

    October 18, 2012 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  12. Mark Neveu

    "Not optimal." – ??? This is one of the most disrespectful, cavalier, self0centered, disgusting remarks I can imagine a leader making about the murders of Americans at the hands of TERRORISTS!

    As an American, I am ashamed that were have a President who said this. I cannot imagine a David Cameron, Angela Merkel, or Francois Hollande EVER making such a horrid statement – not even by mistake.

    Truly we have The Amateur as our President. No wonder the rest of the world has little respect for our diplomatic efforts – North Korea just decided to break an existing agreement, Libya poked us in the eye by not letting the FBI investigators into Benghazi until WEEKS later and then only for a half-day (4 hours!), and Iran is ignoring the "Obama reset" diplomacy. And then there is the debacle of Obama's "Arab Spring", the chickens of which have come home to roost in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Mali, and Syria.

    This President is worse than just a failure, he is an EMBARRASSMENT to the country!

    What a horrid, horrid thing to say! Always referencing himself and the effects on HIM!

    It is a gross understatement to say Obama is the most "non-optimal" President this country has ever suffered.

    October 18, 2012 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  13. hoofleau

    After all he is being interviewed by a comedian. Don't know why he would even consider going on that show. And I proudly stand in the middle of the aisle. God bless America!

    October 18, 2012 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  14. Arbour

    Does this president ever take responsibility for a mistake and admit it? Does he always have to blame everyone else but himself? Leadership begins with taking responsibility and owning the problems whether you caused it or not.

    October 18, 2012 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  15. cooper

    Story about two comedians.

    October 18, 2012 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  16. Adak95

    I love it!!! The “Joke in Chief”, defends his administration’s actions in Libya on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show”. Then again, his term has been a comedy, a tragic comedy.

    October 18, 2012 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  17. Jeremy Clarkson

    Here Stewart comes again to save the day!

    October 18, 2012 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  18. rrd

    When four Americans get killed, it's not optimal.
    Not optimal? Four Americans killed and it's not optimal?

    We're going to fix it. All of it."

    Just like you were going to fix the economy in 3 years?

    October 18, 2012 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  19. Libacryte

    perhaps obama should be asked why the security at the consulate is being out-sourced to rent-a-cops with only flashlights & billy clubs. he should also be asked why they are using cardboard cutouts of armed guards in sentry towers, rather than actual humans in places like Iraq & Afghanistan. Finally, he should be asked why there are no Marine detachments at these embassies (as has always been the case in the past).

    October 18, 2012 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  20. Steve

    Well, that's just great. How many Americans have to die before it becomes "optimal?"

    October 18, 2012 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  21. jim

    What would be an "optimal" number of dead Americans?

    October 18, 2012 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  22. Polish Princess

    Despite the media and Hollywood backing O, he just can't communicate a plan to the American people regarding how it is that he's going to create jobs, decrease the deficit, and empower the middle class. No plan at all. On top of that, his administration's cover-up of the Libya situation is disgraceful. America needs a new leader.

    October 18, 2012 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  23. Ann Tagen

    Say it like it is: You screwed up big time. It is going to stick in the minds of Americans for as long as we live! Whether your democrat or republican. Our U.S. citizens died. Servants of the people. Who entrusted their lives to the care of their own government and commander in chief.

    October 18, 2012 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  24. Chris

    Security needed to be ramped up before this tragic event, when it was requested on multiple occasions by the people working there..

    October 18, 2012 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  25. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    This doofus Romney said he would try to take advantage a tragedy for political purposes in his famous "47%" tape. Now he's trying. It's the first thing he hasn't changed positions on...

    October 18, 2012 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
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