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. wake up

    Are you people kidding me, this guy throws out a pack of disinformation, gets caught and the media never questions him. I guess the people are not suppose to question her heiness or the king. Thnak God there,s always Bush to blame.

    May 13, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  2. Arizonafun

    Interesting how it is called a political circus side show when the republicans are seeking facts on Benghazi. But, it was not political for the Democrats to change the talking points 22 times during the Presidential elections? The Democrats create the mess and then shout foul when they trip over it

    May 13, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  3. Ruth

    I am sick, and so are many citizens of this country, of this administration getting away with the mudering of four American citizens.They lied about Benghazi from the very beginning.If Americans want to believe that this President did not know about Benghazi since Stevens said they are in danger starting in April of 2012,there is something wrong with them and anyone else that believes this.According to Hillary she said "what difference does it make how this happened" well if her husband when he was President had done HIS job when the TWIN TOWERS was first bombed in 1993,maybe 9/11 would not have happened and 3 embassy's under his watch and the USS Cole would not have happened.Hillary wants to find a way so this does not happen again? Maybe HER husband should be held accountable also...So Mr. Obama,admit you were wrong and lied and I would be glad to see you impeached and so would a lot of other people.

    May 13, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  4. VEW2012

    The whole Benghazi fiasco was because of the GOP being purgatory-bent on cutting spending to the bone for security forces and every other necessity to running a country.

    Quit buying diplomatic security forces from the cheapest contracted bidder, and insist on well- trained and a sufficient number of forces to do the job right. Plus, it should behoove the State Department and Congressional oversight to make sure countries like Libya do not block our having a well-trained diplomatic security team posted to secure our diplomats. The fact is, today we have approximately 900 Diplomatic security agents protecting 275 American embassies and consulates around the world. Which works out to 4 security agents per facility. How is that small number supposed to stand up to a force of 20 terrorist bent on destroying and killing diplomats? The Libyans took away the right for the Benghazi Consulate to have private security forces...and only Embassies but not Consulates have Marines stationed on site.

    May 13, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  5. Ken

    Alan, nice to see you list facts. However you forgot to mention something.. No one called for a meeting on those iincidents. No one felt lied to/misguided. You and I both know if someone in Bush's admin tried.. The Dem's would have pulverized them. So please do not try to make us swallow half the facts. Compare apples to apples. Obama claims this is becoming a circus to water it down or to make us think it is a waste of time. Well ofcourse he is... Any politician would do the same to avoid trouble. If this is a circus, release the emails and allow all the staff to testify to the congress if there is nothing to hide. Make it closed doors if they have to.. As long as the panel is Dems & Rep

    May 13, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  6. Timot28

    So Benghazi is the worst cover-up is US history according to some Republicans? What would the Republicans be doing right now if the Vice President of the previous administration had secretly directed a campaign to take the grief and outrage generated by the worst disaster to ever befall this country – an avoidable tragedy at least partially facilitated by his failure to take reasonable precaution against a known threat – and with a series of lies and deceptions and blatant demagoguery, pervert these emotions and lust for revenge into support for the invasion of a country that had nothing to do with the attack, in order to try out a disastrous geopolitical experiment that has resulted (so far) in the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children, caused worldwide economic instability; and perhaps most importantly, squandered the international sympathy and good will that with a few well chosen words, could have dealt the death blow to a terrorist movement that was on the brink of collapse?

    May 13, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  7. John

    If the people on here are representative of the voting majority, it is no wonder we have complete gridlock in Washington. Not a single person willing to admit both parties lie and cover up anything that may impact their reelection strategy.

    May 13, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  8. Honorable 65

    Sideshow. Sideshow. Yep. And POTUS and Hillary are it !

    May 13, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  9. The Other Bob


    " President Barack Obama argued Monday, asserting the tragedy was being used for political gain by his rivals." Isn't this what he did regarding gun control and the shooting in CT?
    The two situations aren't comparable. The Sandy Hook shooting families were being used, with their own consent, to try to get legislation passed. (I won't argue that the legislation in question would have had the advertised results.) The Benghazi "hearings" were aimed at political rivals for the (apparently) main purpose of discrediting them. See the difference?

    May 13, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  10. um234

    To paraphrase Dennis Prager: We ought not to judge a person based on their mistakes, but we should judge them on how long they PROLONG their mistakes.

    May 13, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  11. jrzydvl

    ekhphoto – You think this admin are the "civilized" folks ? TYhey do what htey want, when they want, regardless of who they hurt. Then they try brushing it of as irrelevant or bring up Bush. Hilary sullied herself when, in response to the 4 dead, said "what does it matter" ? Where is that liberal compassion ? Where is the sympathy for the families ? This admin has nothing but contempt for the people. And as long as people like you keep acting like sheep, they will never change. For crying out loud, question something they do !!! Even Repubs criticize Bush. No matter what this admon dioes, you put them on a pedestal.

    May 13, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  12. BillyBubba

    No problem the people wont make a circus out of it when you quit doing things illegally..

    May 13, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  13. Peace

    All along this comment thread, the right says Obama lied and the left says Bush already lied..
    People, which politician didnt lie? I thought lying was first and foremost qualification for one to become a politician. It later gets to be called as "Political Stragety"

    May 13, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  14. No support

    I would like to know why the republicans had read these emails months ago and have yet to admit it. You know why they won't fess up... because it would show this is all about politics and not about anything else. But be assured that Issa will be launching an investigation to the investigation to say that Obama covered up the fact that the emails had been seen by Issa months ago, and why is he just now admitting it? LOL, Issa is a clown.

    May 13, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  15. John

    So now the anointed one accuses those of questioning his lying about Benghazi of being clowns. This is one piece of a human being (and I use the term loosely) who would lie and do anything to get in power, and to stay in power.

    May 13, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  16. James PDX

    When was the last time the Republicans made any decision that would save Americans money? Aside from the abominable sequestration they caused, of course.

    May 13, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  17. Skeets

    Obama's and Hillary's people lied, got caught and the president is now trying to make it seem like nothing wrong happened. This is all being done to protect Hillary's presidential run in 2016.

    May 13, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  18. bill

    People died and obama lied.

    May 13, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  19. John

    What an obamination

    May 13, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  20. ETM

    The only thing Republicans are outraged about is that Hillary will be our next President–unless, of course, they can smear and slander her.

    May 13, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  21. Michael A. (Wake Forest, NC)

    The loss of any life is disturbing, but lets keep in mind they the individuals who do these foreign duties are all volunteers and understand the inherent dangers involved and the way this is being handeled by republicans undermines their service. In my opinion, what we have is a group of politicians who are more concerned with trying to bring down a former SOS because they have nothing to offer the American people in the form of jobs, education, living wages, immigration reform, gun regulation, infrastructure improvements, voting or anything else of substance. Stop this mess and get to work on what this country needs you to focus on. Remember... JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!

    May 13, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  22. Jan

    Come on people...this is ALL one big cover up! Yes, Obama is responsible! He knew, he lied. He also knew about IRS. Another cover up. This is the most corrupt administration in history. And while we are speaking of Bush it just came out the leader of Iraq hid his weapons (yes, they were there) in Syria! He hid them there.

    May 13, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  23. Ed

    A circus is an administration that claims they were very concerned about a anti-Mulsim film and the riots it caused yet did not have in place any military assets that could respond within 9 hours to an attack. A circus is claiming they were "confused" and didn't know the cuase of the attack and yet blamed it on a anti-Muslim film. A circus is a U.S. Ambassador and 3 other Americans are dead and nothing was or has been done about it. A circus is the current Obama administration.

    May 13, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  24. Jerry

    OBAMA and his administration is the only "CIRCUS"... We just want the truth on Benghazi, if you screwed up then admit it!!! We lost American lives and we need to know the details so we can fix what they screwed up...

    May 13, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  25. z&hcats

    Two missions for the Republican party: defeated Obama,which proofed it didn't work, and now undermine Hilary Clinton's credential everyday. The Republican party is a doing nothing party but picks on the fights in every single senseless issue party.

    May 13, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
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