Democrats & Republicans trade accusations over Libya; Ambassador Stevens’s father says Benghazi deaths should not be politicized
The political bickering over Libya intensified on Sunday as Democrats and Republicans traded accusations and blame for the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi.
Vice President Joe Biden’s statement – “We weren’t told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again” – dominated the Sunday morning news shows.
Biden’s statement was made in response to a question about the Obama administration’s handling of the Libya attack and the apparently “weak” security at the Benghazi consulate during last Thursday’s vice presidential debate. His assertion contradicted the earlier sworn testimonies of senior State Department officials who admitted to rejecting the Tripoli Embassy’s requests for additional security in the months prior to the assault that killed Stevens, Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and security personnel Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
Republicans pounced on Biden’s denial, using it to fuel a conspiracy theory that the Obama administration is engaged in a “cover-up” to hide its failures in the Middle East.
“The Vice President directly contradicted the sworn testimony of State Department officials. He’s doubling down on denial,” said Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
In recent weeks, Republicans have criticized the administration for providing conflicting accounts since the Sep. 11, 2012 attack. The administration initially attributed the deadly assault to a “spontaneous” demonstration against the controversial “Innocence of Muslims” YouTube video. As media and eyewitness accounts confirmed that no demonstration took place outside the consulate prior to the attack, the administration acknowledged that the “complex” attack was an act of “terrorism”.
“[The Libya attack is] exhibit A of a failed foreign policy,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on CBS Face the Nation. “They’re trying to sell something the intel and facts on their brand will not justify.”
David Axelrod, senior advisor to the Obama campaign, defended Biden’s remarks, explaining that the Vice President was referring to what the White House knew about the Benghazi consulate’s security requests prior to the attack.
“I think the Vice President was talking about what the White House knew. There are embassies all over the world and installations all over the world and these requests go to the security professionals at the State Department. And there’s no doubt that some of these matters went into the security department at the State – security agency at the State Department, but it didn’t come to the White House and that’s what the Vice President was responding to,” said Axelrod on Fox News.
Axelrod said that the administration’s focus is on completing FBI’s investigation and apprehending the culprits behind the attack. He also noted that the State Department is conducting an accountability review on what went wrong and what adjustments are needed to improve diplomatic security.
“There’s nobody on this planet who’s more concerned and more interested in getting to the bottom of this than the President of the United States. He feels personal responsibility for every representative he sends around the world. He knew Chris Stevens. He admired Chris Stevens,” said Axelrod.
Responding to criticisms from the Romney campaign, Axelrod slammed the Republican presidential nominee for politicizing the deaths in Libya.
“There’s no doubt that he’s working hard to exploit this issue,” said Axelrod, who referenced the now-infamous 47% video in which Romney also told his supporters that he would “work to find a way to take advantage” of any national security crisis that “presents itself” before the election. “[Romney] was waiting for a crisis, waiting for an incident to jump in on national security and he did. He jumped in right away the day of these attacks, with half information, in a way that was denounced by both Republicans and Democrats.”
Stevens’s father, Jan Stevens, told Bloomberg News on Sunday that the Ambassador’s death should not be turned into a political issue.
“It would really be abhorrent to make this into a campaign issue,” said the 77-year-old Stevens. “The security matters are being adequately investigated…We don’t pretend to be experts in security. It has to be objectively examined. That’s where it belongs. It does not belong in the campaign arena.”
The Stevens family will hold a memorial service at the San Francisco City Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 4 p.m. The family has set up a J. Christopher Stevens Fund to “to support activities that build bridges between the people of the United States and the Middle East.” For more information or to donate, please visit RememberingChrisStevens.com.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee announced on Friday that it will conduct a “bipartisan inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the terrorist attack” in Benghazi. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held its first hearing on Benghazi attack last week.
- WhatTheFolly.com: VP debate excerpts – Vice President Joe Biden on Libya
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Excerpts from David Axelrod’s Fox News interview on Libya
- WhatTheFolly.com: U.S. Embassy in Tripoli requested but denied additional security prior to Benghazi attack
- WhatTheFolly.com: U.S. counter-terrorism official calls Benghazi consulate assault an ‘opportunistic’ terrorist attack
- WhatTheFolly.com: Commentary: Romney’s pathetic attempt to exploit deaths of U.S. embassy staff for political gain
- FoxNews.com: Dems defend admin’s Libya response, accuse Romney of exploiting issue
- Bloomberg.com: Libyan Ambassador’s Death Not a Political Issue, Says Dad
- CBSNews.com: Sen. Graham: Libya is “exhibit A of a failed foreign policy”
- CBSNews.com: Rep. Cummings: Benghazi probe turning into witch-hunt
- MotherJones.com: Full transcript of Mitt Romney’s 47% video
- Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs: Committee plans independent, bipartisan inquiry into Benghazi terrorist attack
- MittRomney.com: Vice President Biden doubled down on denial