May 13th, 2013
01:10 PM ET
10 years 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. um234

    "What crime was committed? The administration has an obligation to tell the truth, but is not committed to do so hours after an incident that puts national security at risk."

    The entire Admin was still pitching this protest explanation 2 weeks after, when everyone and their grandma knew it was a terrorist attack.

    May 13, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  2. AboveItAll

    Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right.

    May 13, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  3. Know Your Subject

    Obama does not want to talk about Benghazi now. But he was willing to talk about YouTube videos immediately before the last election and to whine at the UN and apologize to Muslims around the world. Oh, but talking about Benghazi now is political ... because he can't score any political points from the issue.

    May 13, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  4. Ol' Yeller

    Our government spends time chasing Barry Bonds over HGH, why not investigate Benghazi and the IRS? People want to complain and cry unfair treatment, well then lets make it fair starting now! People G.W. Bush was/is not your friend, and I know this is going to surprise you but either is B.H. Obama! They both have their agenda and they can care less about yours so please stop worrying about them. I keep seeing the whole WMD thing posted, just so you know there we so called "investigation" and it's not to complicated to find out about them.

    May 13, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  5. Kevin B

    Any topic that is not "Administration approved" is a side show. That the problem with lying, you just dig yourself deeper and deeper into a hole, and then everyone looks silly. It's not the act itself, it's always the cover-up.

    May 13, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  6. Leo74

    Here is my problem with all this:

    People with common sense think like this:
    If disaster happens, fix it analyze it and find out what you can do to not let it repeat itself.

    Politicians think like this:
    If disaster happens, try to do your very best to pin it on your political opponent and play the blame game as long as it takes to gain politically.

    Has congress done ANYTHING to prevent events like this to happen again? The last I remember was that budgets for embassy protection were reduced. The real circus is that we have people in DC who frankly don't care at all about the lives lost or the prevention of any additional lost lives. ALL they care is their reelection and the people are lining up behind them to encourage their political gameplay.
    Show me the legislation that prevents attacks like this one to ever happen again and I call you concerned about the US.

    May 13, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  7. Joey

    Terrorists dont really exist, its always a false flag to take your guns away right?

    May 13, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  8. The Real Tom Paine


    The GOP NEVER voted in 2010 to cut security. The story says the GOP vote occurred after they obtained the majority in 2010, not that the vote occurred in 2010, nor did it take effect. How do I know that? Because the Democratic Senate has NEVER passed a budget since Obama took office.
    It was adopted as part of the CRs that the government has been forced to pass, since the House is more interested in passing worhtless resolution on repealing the ACA rather than doing its damn job. But, don't let reality intrude on your little narrative of lies.

    May 13, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  9. Joey

    Oh its obvious the same republiclown is making comments.

    May 13, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  10. cobra

    Everyone with any brains knows that Ovomit is a pathological liar, he either lies about most things or is always blaming someone else for the mess. We have had some presidents that probably were not all that competent maybe at times some were not as honest as they should have been but we have never had a perpetual liar like the one polluting the White House at this time.

    May 13, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  11. uHavtaf

    too late

    May 13, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  12. The Real Tom Paine


    You are missing the point Ol' Yeller.
    None of those deaths were covered up for an upcoming election. None were blamed on video's.
    Those assault there was no 8 hours of firefights and denied backup. Who denied extra security?
    Who told our seal teams to stand down?
    This is a cover up, not and unfortunite demostration.
    Obama and Hillary new at real time what was happening and did nothing to help.
    Cover UP!
    So, you send troops in piecemeal into an urban warfare situation at night with no idea where they may be taking fire? Does that sound like a recipe for an even bigger disaster, or a rescue mission? This is not a Tom Clancy novel, it was the real thing. Would you have preferred that?

    May 13, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  13. Heidi Taylor

    Is everyone finally getting tired of the cover up and the lies. When this admin tries to cover something up it is "shut up stupid American people and listen to me and only me" But, when the smart American people want the truth this admin tells us that we are making a circus out of it. The circus begin when this administration told America that the attack was due to a reaction from a video. American lives were lost because this administration did not allow for them to be helped, they wanted them to die. What is the real cover up, why did these people have to die? What did they know that could not be told? Please America continue to ask for the truth. Do not be lead astray, just because someone in authority says something, it does not make it true.

    May 13, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  14. JLM

    The GOP has yet to tell us what was covered up because they can't find anything! It was an act of terror, we did not provide enough support to those stationed there – period. No one tried to say that wasn't true and any American can see that it is. It is something we need to take lessons from, but unlike the WMD situation that killed thousands – this unfortunate situation killed 4 brave Americans who took this job in Benghazi fully aware of the risks. No cover-up, no mountain – time to learn from it and move on.

    May 13, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  15. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    A judge in the Aurora shooting hearing may allow for James Holmes to enter an insanity pleas. Yes, and Jarred Loughner also dodged the death penalty by claiming he's insane while most of their victims are dead while others are left scarred and crippled for life. Thanks GOPT/D gun lobbyists!

    May 13, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  16. Ari for Peace

    Benghazi is not as important as the Ponzi Scheme in the USA, and the Ponzi Schemers have sealed their fate.

    Some history here... A Ponzi Scheme used to be called a "Rob Peter to Pay Paul Scheme". Maybe we should call it a "Rob People to Pay Paulson Scheme".

    Anyway, it's over... A real tradgedy on the way. This is a real/true National Security Risk, and keeping this concealed to the USA public is a crime and a National Security Risk. To repair the situation requires involvement from people all over the USA. The level of problem solving has to be sufficient to buffer us from the crash or repair the causes of the crash. The ONLY way to solve that is by disclosing the problem to the public and asking for everyone to contribute to problem solving. Assuming there is a higher authority over all of humanity, the people who blocked me on the other thread will have hell to pay because that higher power would not want this covered up. Do the math! The only way to fix this National Security Problem is to disclose the situation optimally and appeal to the public to contribute to softening the fall and/or repairing the cause.

    May 13, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  17. Hans Weissgerber III

    1.) There were major failures by the ranking State Department officials at numerous key opportunities leading up to and following the Benghazi attack. To deny this is like denying the Holocaust or Climate Change.

    2.) Yes, George W Bush completely failed in Iraq – Our troops did not fail – our leadership did. What does that have to do with Secretary Clinton and the Obama Administration's botched handling and cover-up of Behghazi? Connecting these in one discussion is a logical as invading Iraq in response to 9/11 and WMD's.

    3.)Any cover-up by Rice on the Sunday morning talk show circuit, did not influence the outcome of 2012 election. Romney and the GOP blew it on there own.

    4.) The only motivation of the talking points spin and the subsequent stonewalling by the administration is the 2016 Election. The goal was to put put some time between the exit of Secretary Clinton and the truth, in hopes that this major screw up would be forgotten, effectively protecting the viability of Hillary Clinton as a candidate for President in the next election.

    May 13, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  18. Freedom Storm

    Obama: YOU are the one who made Benghazi a circus. ENOUGH of your obfuscation.

    Wasn't your recent rant in Ohio enough to make us puque? You told thousands of young ears to watch out for tyranny "around the corner". The primary methodology of obfuscation is to have eyes taken off the truth, and to redirect the eyes elsewhere. You directed their eyes around the corner, when in fact tyranny was, at that very moment, "in their faces" ... ... they were looking at it ... YOU.

    May 13, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  19. sly

    "Sly quit your lying. NO cuts were made to security by Congress BEFORE Benghazi–NONE. Any cuts including from the Sequester were AFTER the attacks"
    Actually Duke, I am only 'lying' because my Republican Congressman told me the following lie himself:

    "Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) acknowledged that House Republicans had consciously voted to reduce the funds allocated to the State Department for embassy security since winning the majority in 2010. CNN asked the Utah Republican if he had "voted to cut the funding for embassy security."

    "Absolutely," Chaffetz said. "Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country."

    Um ... Duke, your Republican says this was in 2010. Was sequestor really in 2010? Seems more recent to me, but ... I'll trust the leader of the Republican party on this one. Sorry .... truth hurts.

    May 13, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  20. Syd Chaden

    Obama certainly should be upset with the GOP. The GOP continues to force Obama and Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder and whoever the Director of the IRS may turn out to be, to affirm that they didn't know what was going on in their areas of responsibility, but they will "get right on it" and find out. Holder didn't know that his underlings had provided guns to the Mexican drug cartels, which had been used to kill an American Border Patrol agent, but he got right on it. Hillary Clinton didn't know that the US Ambassador to Libya had urgently requested additional security because of the threat of terrorist attacks, before he and three other Americans were killed, but she got right on it. Whoever may be designated to take the fall for the IRS didn't know that the IRS was targeting people and groups because they didn't like their politics obviously didn't know that they were doing that, although the Tea Party and others had been complaining about it for years, but they will certainly get right on it. And, clearly, President Obama had no inkling at all as to what was going on within his Administration, and vigorously denies that he did. Certainly, it is outrageous to suggest that he should have seen to it that his Administration didn't provide guns to the Mexican drug cartels, and that he should have seen to it that his Administration didn't refuse increased security to a Consulate that was threatened with terrorist attacks, and that he should have seen to it that the IRS wasn't singling out his political opponents for investigation. He obviously doesn't think that that is his responsibility. Harry Truman made the famous statement of the responsibility of the US President, "The buck stops here." Not so with Obama, whose mantra is that "The buck stops there, or there, or there, anywhere but here.".

    May 13, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |

    You know this how donna? talk craap all you want, your a pathettic excuse for a person, not interested in the truth, like goerge w. taking 5 times the vacation days as obama, or killing a tousand times as many people, why no mention of the other embassy and consolut attacks, because they dont make obama look bad. you blogers are stupid, iraq not mentioned, or brushed off as happenstance, how do you give yoursself credibility when you ignore 4500 deaths, and focus on four, let me give you the score gop deaths, 4500, democrats 4, and you keep acting as though the war never happened, and well keep voting you out, ok?

    May 13, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  22. mjw

    This attempt to pin something on this Administration is so pathetic it is embarrasing for even a novice like myself. The fact is those who believe there was a cover up will continue to believe it. I heard a Republican called in to C-SPAN this morning to say the President is destalizing the US and the Middle East. If that is not the height of ignorance I don't know what is. So the entire administration of BO are all Kenyan born socialists who are willing to destroy this country. Amazing!!! the President would have won the election anyway because there are more American with common sense and inteligence and understand what is going on. If Hilary Clinton runs in 2016 she will also win. This country cannot and will not accept these radical right wing ideas again and thye do not have a decent moderate candidate that the middle of the road people are willing to support.

    May 13, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  23. Learn to Fish

    Well, since a bunch of people died under GWB we shouldn't care if the Obama administration intentionally lied to the American people leading up to the 2012 election (/sarc)

    May 13, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  24. duke

    You people on the left are incredulous. This administration was warned of the dangers in Benghazi, they refused to send assistance before or during the attack, they lied about what type of attack it was, and that lie impeded the investigation as well as harmed the reputation of a very needed ally in Libya. And they continue that lie today.

    Why did they lie? Because Obama had said Al Queda was on the run and he did not want this attack to be blamed on him during his re-election.

    May 13, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  25. Lynda/Minnesota

    To all my GOPerville friends:

    Feel free to donate to each and every candidate you THINK will bring impeachment hearings against President Obama. Then ask yourselves who is really politicalizing Benghazi (going on four months now).

    And, yeah. I include the media in this dog and pony show.

    May 13, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
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