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. poobeast

    The GOP is so desperate to find something, anything to hang on the Democrats. They have doing everything possible since Obama was elected the first time to ruin his Administration. They have not succeeded. Obama is alive and well with integrity intact. Far more integrity then the GOP ever dreamed of. Every time the GOP plays these games, the look bad. Bad to the American people and bad to the world.

    May 13, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  2. Lew

    This deserves re posting with a shout out to Mike. It is all you need to read today to understand this is nothing but a partisan attack strategy meant only to politicize 4 tragic deaths and the 'outraged' republicans posting here need to move on to the next wingnut conspiracy theory.....
    Jan 22, 2002: US Consulate at Kolkata, 5 killed
    Jun 14, 2002: US Consulate at Karachi, 12 killed
    Feb 28, 2002: US Embassy at Islamabad, 2 killed
    Jun 30, 2004: US Embassy at Tashkent, 2 killed
    Dec 6, 2004: US Compound at Saudi Arabia, 9 killed
    Mar 2, 2006: US Consulate at Karachi, 2 killed
    Sep 12, 2006: US Embassy at Syria, 4 killed
    Mar 18, 2008: US Embassy at Yemen, 2 killed
    Jul 9, 2008: US Consulate at Istanbul, 6 killed
    Sep 17, 2008: US Embassy at Yemen, 16 killed

    This is propoganda by the left as usual. I fact checked this post. (Google Every one of them). NO AMERICANS WERE KILLED. Local Security Forces in the region were killed at these sites, NOT AMERICANS. Big Difference! Our Benghazi compound was stormed and our Americans slaughtered while the President slept, Hillary didnt think it made a "Difference" and her lap dogs were busy covering it up blaming it on a you tube video. I love how you puppets take a dishonest post and blow it up thinking youve won something. Typical NO FACT LIBERALS.

    May 13, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  3. Mark

    The truly disgusting thing is how repubs are trumping up the deaths of four people for their political gain and fear of Hillary. Until Bush, Chaney, Rice, Rumsfeld and the rest of that corrupt administration are in Prison repubs have absolutely no credibility and their games are nothing but political theatrics.

    May 13, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  4. ghostriter

    Have they figured out who changed the talking points on Pat Tillman's death?

    May 13, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  5. Rob

    Obama already used it for political gain. He won the election.

    May 13, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  6. dj

    The sideshow Obama speaks of is actually the 3 ring circus of Clinton, Rice, and himself performing great feats (lies, denial, and deception) under the big top (white house) With Carney acting as the master of ceremonies. ..Biden is the lead clown and doubles as the carnival barker. Polosi is the bearded lady...

    May 13, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  7. um234

    The Obama admin has a 3 ring circus going:


    May 13, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  8. 70%H2O

    Circus? Hicks was demoted to a desk job. Circus, still selling the video story 6 weeks later. Circus? Hillary, Panetta, et al., telling the parents they will prosecute this guy that did the video.

    May 13, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Circus? Mr President, you made this a circus. You lied to the American people. You told us the attacks was the result of a prootest about some video. You are the most powerfull person in the world. Pick up the phone and ask someone on the ground what happened instead of telling stories to keep us sheep at bay so that you could win an election.

    May 13, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  10. critical thinking

    He is such a Liar.

    May 13, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  11. ann

    No matter who is in the white house, any govt flub should receive scrutiny. Just because you like a president doesn't mean it should be allowed to ignore transparency or responsibility. The govt is by the people and for the people. Not by the current administration/party and for the current administration/party. Our govt has checks and balances for a reason.

    May 13, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  12. yogi

    I have to give the GOP credit, for one thing: They have made hypocrisy into an art form, and they really mastered it. After that there is nothing that is positive that can be associated with them: They don't know how to govern, they only can obstruct. They don't believe in evolution, that is why it didn't catch up with them. They love wars, and they would welcome any opportunity to start one, which of course none of them with any justification. Oh, one more credit: They are the biggest circus in the USA with lots of clowns: Boehner, Palin, Trump, Santorum, Gingrich, Graham, McCain, Ryan, Rove, Paul, Coulter, the list goes on and on. The circus is sponsored by two men and therefore it will carry their name: The Koch Brothers!

    May 13, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  13. Dave T

    Interesting because if you watched Robert Gates (Sec of Defense under George W Bush) on CBS Sunday morning, he stated that the Republicans were acting badly and playing politics and that for the most part, the Obama administration handled it correctly.

    May 13, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  14. abmri60

    A whole bunch of people are responsible, it is becoming a vicious circle, there is no way out to keep the truth hidden.

    May 13, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  15. Bozo

    Obama and Hillary made a circus into it from the beginning. He is the Ringmaster.

    May 13, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  16. sly

    Ha ha ha ... no longer is Obama from Mars, as the birthers declared, now President Obama is Hitler?

    Ho ho ho ... my my this is what happens when a black man becomes President in a country full of Republican white racists.

    Thank you President Obama for bringing the vermin out of the woodworks – nothin' more amusing than angry white people who's daddy's used to hang black people every Friday.

    May 13, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  17. Papa Ray

    More lies from this administration. More cover-ups. Can we have the IRS look into their business, into their lies, into their stupidity?

    May 13, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    LOL! Survey results showed that 41% of GOPers/Teatrolls think this is "the biggest scandal in American history."

    Same survey showed that 31% of GOPers/Teatrolls don't know what country Benghazi is in....answers ranged from places like Cuba to North Korea.

    May 13, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  19. Michael Beckley

    This clowns Presidency is a side show.

    May 13, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  20. mark

    BTW : LINDA OPERLE Bush is no longer President , Sorry the truth about our President (who i voted for and now regret ) is hurting you....get over it, he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and is lying to cover his tail! A real man with intregrity would have been honest from the get go and do whats better for the country and not his party! Wake up America before it is too late.

    May 13, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  21. Drstelly2870

    Nice try but keep trying. There were 8 embassy's BOMBED during President Bush's disastrous 2 term and no one said a word against the spoiled PRINCE (nor did he ever offer up any apologies or any TRUTHS to anyone). Let's not even get on the U.S.'s longest running and us finding NO Weapons of Mass Destruction. Talk about somebody that should have been impeached. This situation is like comparing apples to watermelons!!! You Anti-Obama/Anti-American people just get OVER YOURSELF save up your crazy sabotage stories for later....yall have plenty of time to come up with some new ones.... Hilary C. -2016!!!!!

    May 13, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  22. Gene Howell

    With all due respect Mr. President, this so-called "circus" of yours will stop at once once we find the truth about what REALLY happened in Bengahzi and how your administration handled it.

    May 13, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  23. Floyd from Illinois

    This is beyond 'circus' – it's into 'feeding frenzy'.

    Thanks, Cons – we really needed a reminded of what pathetic grandstanders you all are.

    May 13, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  24. ricke1949

    Cover up and lying are acceptable according to the Alinsky game plan.

    May 13, 2013 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  25. um234

    Benghazi is what you get when you have ivory tower eggheads running the show.

    We needed a Commander in chief to step up and provide leadership, but all we got was a Community Organizer.

    Obama is a great politician, and a terrible leader.

    May 13, 2013 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
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