Presidential town hall debate excerpts – President Barack Obama on the U.S. consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Excerpts from the presidential town hall debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on Oct. 16, 2012

Transcript of President Barack Obama’s remarks on the U.S. consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya

Kerry Ladka’s question: This question actually comes from a brain trust of my friends at Global Telecom Supply (ph) in Minneola yesterday. We were sitting around, talking about Libya, and we were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans. Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?

President Barack Obama: Well, let me first of all talk about our diplomats, because they serve all around the world and do an incredible job in a very dangerous situation. And these aren’t just representatives of the United States, they are my representatives. I send them there, oftentimes into harm’s way. I know these folks and I know their families. So nobody is more concerned about their safety and security than I am.

So as soon as we found out that the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team and I gave them three instructions.

Number one, beef up our security and procedures, not just in Libya, but at every embassy and consulate in the region.

Number two, investigate exactly what happened, regardless of where the facts lead us, to make sure folks are held accountable and it doesn’t happen again.

And number three, we are going to find out who did this and we’re going to hunt them down, because one of the things that I’ve said throughout my presidency is when folks mess with Americans, we go after them.

Now Governor Romney had a very different response. While we were still dealing with our diplomats being threatened, Governor Romney put out a press release, trying to make political points, and that’s not how a commander in chief operates. You don’t turn national security into a political issue. Certainly not right when it’s happening. And people — not everybody agrees with some of the decisions I’ve made. But when it comes to our national security, I mean what I say. I said I’d end the war in Libya — in — in Iraq, and I did.

I said that we’d go after al-Qaeda and bin Laden, we have. I said we’d transition out of Afghanistan, and start making sure that Afghans are responsible for their own security, that’s what I’m doing.

And when it comes to this issue, when I say that we are going to find out exactly what happened, everybody will be held accountable.

And I am ultimately responsible for what’s taking place there because these are my folks, and I’m the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home. You know that I mean what I say.



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