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. Hayden

    Obama can't accuse the Republicans of using Benghazi for political gain when he did the EXACT same thing with Newtown.

    May 13, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  2. John

    Obama, in a press conference today, said that the administration released information 3 days after the attack that indicated that they knew it was a terrorist attack and that this was the information that the republicans are now using against him to claim a coverup. This article says that Susan Rice was doing the Sunday show rounds claiming that it was the video 5 days after the attack. So the big question seems to be why send Susan Rice out to tell the American public that a video caused the attack on day 5 when, by your own admission, you knew that it was a terrorist attack on day 3? I guess the answer for most people was best summed up by Sec. of State Clinton, "What does it matter?" I guess it doesn't matter unless you happen to be a family member of Ambassador Stevens or the other Americans killed that day.

    May 13, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  3. DavM

    Obama targets republicans using the IRS and leaves Americans to die,this guy should be impeached.

    May 13, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  4. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    So let me see if I get this right... So Ambassador Stevens and the other three Americans would still alive today had Susan Rice said on national TV, yes we are certain for sure that al-Qaeda carried out those attacks? And how many hearing did we have regarding the worst terrorist attacks on our homeland on 9/11? How many hearings did we have on the illegitimate Iarqi wars, on the missing WMDs and on the Afghan war that is still ongoing because that war was deliberately and rescklessly abandoned and prolonged by GWB and the GOP for the invasion of Iraq?

    Teapublicans like to say don't blame Bush cause he's no longer in office. Well, neither is Mrs. Clinton. But if they're continuing to politicize the Benghazi tragedy because there's a hunch that Mrs. Clinton may run for office in 2016, then just remember GWB NEVER withdrew his name from his re-election bid despite having 9/11/01, the Iraqi war and the missing WMDs on his resume. Furthermore, even his opponent John Kerry didn't bother to bring up 9/11/01 or the iraqi war or the missing WMDs during their debates...which constitute some the biggest blunders and worst war crimes atrocities in world history. Shame shame shame on you teapublicans!

    May 13, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  5. JoBeth

    You are so right Boo. To use this tradegy for polical gain is shameful!

    May 13, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "I see the phony outrage from the right."

    Indeed. You can tell it's phony from the way they waffle about and mix the talking points together as if they're not even all that sure themselves what it is they're so poutraged about...they just know they're poutraged and gosh darn it they gotta scream and yell about it.

    May 13, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  7. just askin

    so after 8 months we still don't know at what level hillary clinton and obama were involved in the goings on during the 8 hours our people were under attack and being killed. not one word. not one picture from the situation room after we have seen dozens of them after the boston bombings. i guess the picture of obama sleeping in his bed or jetting off to his las vegas fund raiser just wouldn't have the same affect, especially 7 weeks before his election.

    it is funny to now see the lsm wake up after 4 years and start dogging obama because they have finally realized they have been lied to and played for fools.

    May 13, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  8. Mark

    Nine people were killed by a car bomb today in Benghazi. Don't hold your breath waiting for the House to investigate these latest lives lost.

    May 13, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  9. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    I love how you righties like to call people liars but fail to acknowledge the biggest lie of the last decade: WMD. Just where are those weapons? Where's the yellow cake uranium Saddam supposedly had? 4,500 American soldiers are dead based on a lie. Over 1,000,000 Iraqis dead based on a lie. War crimes were committed by the Executive Branch and by soldiers behind this lie.

    May 13, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  10. TimLB

    The difference between obama and Bush is Bush didn't try to cover up and lie about his mistakes. Obama is clearly using the emotions of a tragedy to make people think it's wrong to investigate what happen at Benghazi, more than likely to help cliton become president in 2016 so she can continue pushing the progressive liberal agenda. If the truth came out that cliton ignore the dangerous situation in Libya to save face, it would hurt her chances of becoming president because who would want someone like that to be president...besides liberals.

    May 13, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  11. dplandry

    This liar is again caught in a lie yet he tells us and the media not to make a circus out of it??? I can't remember a president lacking in basic morals and decency in my lifetime!!

    May 13, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  12. Bob

    The Republkicans are an embarrassment. There is no scandal here, other than the political posturing of Issa and the Right Wing extremists.

    May 13, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  13. diane

    Desperate repubs. Let them keep screaming an yelling benghazi. The americans with brains have Moved on to jobs immigration and a budget.

    May 13, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  14. Argyle

    Given the stock market is near an all time high, we aren't inserting ourselves into new wars, and things are all around much better than in the Bush years, the GOP needs to continue dredging up faux drama as there is nothing better to go on.

    May 13, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |

    You mean the intel report cheney forced the cia to write, why did three top positions retire with "no comment" when asked about the intel report? tell me please

    May 13, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  16. just sayin

    @rob: The White House doesnt determine the budget for the state deparment or anything else. CONGRESS controls the purse.

    Federal contract records show the department in May spent $108,000 on Chevy Volt charging stations for the American Embassy in Vienna. It apparently was part of a broader program to make diplomatic posts more energy efficient, and the upgrades and electric cars were on full display at a gala a few days after that contract was signed.

    but the state dept. decided how to spend the money. security for americans in danger? no. electric cars? yes.

    May 13, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  17. bryan

    thank you c howe I don't see how anyone can argue with what you say.

    May 13, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  18. AG

    Obama just wants this to end because it goes all the way to the top, the reason he hid it in the first place during the election. He and Hillary both are lying sacks of sh!t, we deserve better and the four dead americans deserve way better

    May 13, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  19. widow

    no pres... you are dishonoring them by taking almost a year and still no answers..constantly covering up things and blaming republicans for using this for political gain.. You use more talking points for political gain than pretty much anyone else in politics.. like the BS gun control laws you tried to pass that wouldn't have stopped one of the mass murders that has happened recently or show they could save even a single life. The transparency you promised voters your administration would show has been non existent!!! You have a health care bill that years after it was passed you say it is going to cost taxpayers an additional 250-300 billion all while insurance companies are saying to expect a 20-30% increase in cost when you promised cost was going to be reduced.. Too bad soo many are soo intelligent and voted for big government obama instead of a guy who actually has experience in boosting the economy and worked a bipartisan health care bill into the Mass system. Only an idiot would have voted for obama.. someone who doesn't do their research and just listens to what they are told.. like most workers they would rather be handed work than actually create something on there own.

    May 13, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  20. Marcia

    Why aren't we investigating what the American ambassador was doing in Benghazi -NOT an embassy but a CIA operation and NEVER meant to be defended by Marines-and who VETOED increased security just a month before the attakc-let's investigate why they vetoed-and that was the Repubs led by Paul Ryan-why isn't Ryan being investigated for his NO vote??-there are more questions here than talking points.

    May 13, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  21. AmericaWeeps

    Sorry Mr President, you are coming off as someone that wants to be the Ringmaster when the target is Republicans. How many times have you played the Partisan card? Who did you blame for the sequester, for example? Now all of a sudden it's not the proper thing to do??

    Republicans and Democrats are killing this country because all they care about is their own stupid party.

    May 13, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  22. Doushus

    Mr. President, as an American Citizen and with all due respect to the authority invested by the American public into your administration, where are your priorities? There is talk of sideshows and casting blame from your administration. Not responsibility, not leadership, or any means whatsoever of standing up to partisan politics and being a man of the people. Where is the focus on jobs for americans? Where are YOUR priorities? Simple, the money granted to you by international investors.

    May 13, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  23. roger

    Obama considers anything that is negative about his administration a "side show". There is NO and I repeat NO accountability in his government. None.

    May 13, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  24. 2 Km N of G Zero

    The proof is in the prediction: the day after the November 8, 2016 presidential election, the GOP will cease caring about 4 dead Americans or Benghazi.

    May 13, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  25. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    What I find outrageous is how Mr. Hicks overstepped his bounds and questioned Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey assertion that it would have taken 20 hours to scramble jets from Italy's Aviano Air Base enroute to Benghazi. According to Mr. Hicks, in his estimation it would have take at least 3 hours for the U.S. military to get there. Well, after the first Twin Tower was struck on 9/11/01,how long did it take our fighter jets to intercept the plane enroute to the second tower and to the Pentagon? Despite our air bases being just minutes away from the 9/11 tergets, we were unable to get there on time to foil the attacks. More right wing propaganda and divisive garbage.

    May 13, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
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