Obama Tries to Put Benghazi Back on the Fringe

Obama's remarks were an attempt to knock the issue off the front page and back to the fringe. Instead his approach may add fuel to the fire

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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

British Prime Minister David Cameron listens as President Barack Obama speaks during their joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington on May 13, 2013

President Barack Obama angrily batted away questions on Monday about his Administration’s response to the Benghazi attack, calling the recent furor over edited talking points a “sideshow.”

Less than a week after emotional testimony in the House of Representatives brought the conservative obsession with Benghazi into the mainstream, Obama tried to contain the damage by framing the GOP focus on the attack as politically driven. “We dishonor [the victims] when we turn things like this into a political circus,” Obama said during a peevish joint press conference at the White House with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

A week after the U.S. deputy chief of mission in Libya questioned the Administration’s official account of efforts to help the victims of the Sept. 11, 2012 assault, Obama tried to use his frustration to deflect new revelations that State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland edited intelligence-community talking points in the days after the attack to downplay potential security failures. “Suddenly, three days ago, this gets spun up as if there’s something new to the story,” the President added, saying the talking points reflected what he was being told by intelligence officials. “There’s no ‘there’ there.”

“The whole issue of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow,” Obama said, noting that the Administration called it an act of terrorism almost from the start. “Who executes some sort of cover-up or effort to tamp things down for three days? So the whole thing defies logic.”

In November, White House press secretary Jay Carney said only a small, semantic change had been made to the talking points. With his Administration’s credibility under assault, Obama spent 918 words arguing that the allegations were not to be believed, and accused Republicans of playing politics. “They’ve used it for fundraising,” he said.

Until last week, the focus on the Benghazi attack had been the bailiwick of conservative news outlets and bloggers. Obama’s remarks were an attempt to knock the issue off the front page and back to the fringe. Instead his approach may add fuel to the fire.

Obama’s full remarks on Benghazi:

With respect to Benghazi, we’ve now seen this argument that’s been made by some folks primarily up on Capitol Hill for months now. And I’ve just got to say, here’s what we know. Americans died in Benghazi. What we also know is, clearly they were not in a position where they were adequately protected. The day after it happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism. And what I pledged to the American people was that we would find out what happened, we would make sure that it did not happen again, and we would make sure that we held accountable those who had perpetrated this terrible crime.

And that’s exactly what we’ve been trying to do. And over the last several months, there was a review board headed by two distinguished Americans, Mike Mullen and Tom Pickering, who investigated every element of this.

And what they discovered was some pretty harsh judgments in terms of how we had worked to protect consulates and embassies around the world. They gave us a whole series of recommendations. Those recommendations are being implemented as we speak.

The whole issue of this — of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow. The — what we have been very clear about throughout was that immediately after this event happened, we were not clear who exactly had carried it out, how it had been — how it had occurred, what the motivations where. It happened at the same time as we had seen attacks on U.S. embassies in Cairo as a consequence of this film. And nobody understood exactly what was taking place during the course of those first few days.

And the e-mails that you allude to were provided by us to congressional committees. They reviewed them several months ago, concluded that in fact there was nothing afoul in terms of the process that 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. Keep in mind, by the way, these so-called talking points that were prepared for Susan Rice, five, six days after the event occurred, pretty much matched the assessments that I was receiving at that time in my presidential daily briefing.

And keep in mind that two to three days after Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday shows, using these talking points, which have been the source of all this controversy, I sent up the head of our national counterterrorism center, Matt Olsen — up to Capitol Hill and specifically said it was an act of terrorism and that extremist elements inside of Libya had been involved in it.

So if this was some effort on our part to try to downplay what had happened or tamp it down, that would be a pretty odd thing that three days later, we end up putting out all the information that, in fact, has now served as the basis for everybody recognizing that this was a terrorist attack and that it may have included elements that were planned by extremists inside of Libya. Who executes some sort of cover-up or effort to tamp things down for three days? So the whole thing defies logic.

And the fact that this keeps on getting churned out, frankly, has a lot to do with political motivations. We’ve had folks who have challenged Hillary Clinton’s integrity, Susan Rice’s integrity, Mike Mullen and Tom Pickering’s integrity; it’s a given that mine gets challenged by these same folks. They’ve used it for fundraising and frankly, you know, if anybody out there wants to actually focus on how we make sure something like this does not happen again, I am happy to get their advice and information and counsel.

But the fact of the matter is, these four Americans, as I said, right when it happened, were people I send into the field.

And I’ve been very clear about taking responsibility for the fact that we were not able to prevent their deaths. And we are doing everything we can to make sure we prevent it, in part because there are still diplomats around the world who are in very dangerous, difficult situations. And we don’t have time to be playing these kinds of political games here in Washington. We should be focused on what are we doing to protect them.

And that’s not easy, by the way, and it’s going to require resources and tough judgments and tough calls. And there are a whole bunch of diplomats out there who know that they’re in harm’s way, and there are threat streams that come through every so often with respect to our embassies and our consulates. And that’s not just us, by the way. The British have to deal with the same thing.

And 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 — we dishonor them when, you know, we turn things like this into a political circus. What happened was tragic. It was carried out by extremists inside of Libya. We are out there trying to hunt down the folks who carried this out, and we’re trying to make sure that we fix the system so that it doesn’t happen again.

176 comments
RonNussbeck
RonNussbeck

Barack Obama, now a certified serail liar must now continue to cover up an ever growing bloody mess hiding from questions and even crying at yesterdays Press meeting. Sorry to say I do not feel sorry for him, a liar, cover up artist and most of all unpatriotic sickofiend. Let us all agree to impeach this fake for pretending to care about America and it's people.

RonNussbeck
RonNussbeck

It's painfully clear Obama is a liar who wants to jam the lies down our thoarts but it won't work. Factcheck.org has verifed we have a serial lair for a President, a sick person who needs medical attention. The entire house of cards is falling down around him, the scandals keep coming.

RonNussbeck
RonNussbeck

Sadly America has a serial liar for a President receiving 4 Pinoccihos today from the Washington Post by a Liberal writer for lying to the public and twisting the known facts. Barack Obama is likely sick and needs to be checked by Professionals for knowingly lying to the public and forcing untruths down the throats of the public. Any other person who constently lies like Obama could be considered him to be sick and unfit for duty. If a Military Officer lied like Obama he would be charged with criminal conduct unbecoming an Officer. Let us all do the right thing and have Obama removed from office now.

grape_crush
grape_crush

"

ABC News reported that Rhodes wrote: “We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation. We thus will work through the talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting.” The Weekly Standard reported that Rhodes "responded to the group, explaining that Nuland had raised valid concerns and advising that the issues would be resolved at a meeting of the National Security Council’s Deputies Committee the following morning."

Whoever provided those quotes seemingly invented the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed. While Nuland, particularly, had expressed a desire to remove mentions of specific terrorist groups and CIA warnings about the increasingly dangerous assignment, Rhodes put no emphasis at all in his e-mail on the State Department's concerns.

Previous reporting also misquoted Rhodes as saying the group would work through the talking points at the deputies meeting on Saturday, September 15, when the talking points to Congress were finalized. While the previously written subject line of the e-mail mentions talking points, Rhodes only addresses misinformation in a general sense.

So whoever leaked the inaccurate information earlier this month did so in a way that made it appear that the White House – specifically Rhodes – was more interested in the State Department’s concerns, and more focused on the talking points, than the e-mail actually stated.

"

MarcelloCostarica
MarcelloCostarica

To the tune of Neil Young's song;    "Four dead in Ohio"  


Four dead in Benghazi,,,"Muslim terrorists and Hussein Obama coming, we're finally waking up...This week I heard the whistle blowers, 4 dead in Benghazi...When you get down to it, terrorists had cut them down, should have been covered up better you know...What if you knew them and found them dead in Benghazi, how can you ignore the cover up when you know.....

MarcelloCostarica
MarcelloCostarica

Four dead in Benghazi,,,"Muslim terrorists and Hussein Obama coming, we're finally waking up...This week I heard the whistle blowers, 4 dead in Benghazi...When you get down to it, terrorists had cut them down, should have been covered up better you know...What if you knew them and found them dead in Benghazi, how can you ignore the cover up when you know.....

carolo43
carolo43

I have a lingering question.   If Mr Stevens was as fearful as is claimed, then why did he remain at the consultant that could NOT stand up to a terrorist attack and go to the Embassy that was heavily fortified and heavily guarded?   And nearer to where the Libya troops were?   It was reported Mr Stevens had been outside the very day of the attack and walking and talking with citizens.   I do not believe this is the actions of a man who was in fear of imminent danger.

And when will the bombing of the Twin Towers basement, the 9-11 bombing, the bombing of the Murray building and the invasion of Iraq be investigated?

Abettervision
Abettervision

Benghazi is nothing compared to the way oddities about the 9?11 attacks were covered up.

Regarding these, an expert body that has been investigating new evidence for the past two years. The 9/11 Consensus Panel, made up of 22 members, including 6 PhD's, 3 attorneys, 4 journalists, and 4 commercial airline pilots and former NASA personnel, has reviewed 32 Points of evidence concerning the official account of 9/11 at www.consensus911.org/the-911-consensus-points/

This Panel uses a medical model in its review of evidence, which requires 2-4 rounds of independent review by the Panelists, who are blind to one another during the process.

The purpose of the 9/11 Consensus Panel is to provide the world with a clear statement, based on expert independent opinion, of some of the best evidence emerging about 9/11.

The Honorary Members are well-known figures in America and Europe, http://www.consensus911.org/honorary-members/

This work is being taken very seriously in Europe. The March-April 2013 issue of the French magazine, Nexus, available on news-stands across France, carried a 12-page article summarizing the 28 Consensus Points that had been developed to date.

@consensus911

john_inc
john_inc

"“We dishonor [the victims] when we turn things like this into a political circus,”

Dude, you already dishonored the victims when you tried to blame a TERRORIST ATTACK on a video by an extreme-right-wing-American.  And then you kept floating that story for six weeks.
How much more could you dishonor them then to suggest that it wasn't a terrorist attack on 9/11 - after you made a speech on 9/11 about how you had decimated the leadership of AQ - and then blame the terrorist attack on a "spontaneous demonstration" that never happened???

And that all of this happened two months previous to the election?
Gosh... if anyone made this into a political circus, it might be the people who decided that a terrorist attack would look bad, and so they might want to edit the reference to AQ out of talking points.

drudown
drudown

@RonNussbeck 

Zzzz.

President is a liar, how?

You mean like Cheney liar (see, e.g., "deficits don't matter") or a Wolfowitz liar (see, e.g., "the oil revenues will pay for the Iraq war").

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@RonNussbeck Four posts repeating the same thing without a single fact to back up your claims? How about we all agree to laugh at you instead.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@RonNussbeck Yes that's exactly it. Speaking of untruths tell us about the time Iraq attacked us on 9/11 and was armed with Nukes?

glennra3
glennra3

@MarcelloCostarica 

Don't sully Neil Young's good name and song writing with your party-before-country fanatical partisan rants.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@MarcelloCostarica How can you ignore the fact that the UN inspectors in Iraq clearly said there were no weapons and we rushed to was any way.?

sgs
sgs

@carolo43 Perhaps the fear began when the attack commenced?

sgs
sgs

@Abettervision  

*What difference does it MAKE!?"

haven't you folks got anything but "BOOOOSH!" ...?

drudown
drudown

@john_inc 

You proffer half-truths and unknowns to critique the Executive branch's reaction to events that were (at the time) still unknown. And from whence comes your purported disdain? Mere talking points. 

If you have something scathing to share, please enlighten us. As it stands, you look like you are just pissing in the wind.

LindaSimmons
LindaSimmons

You know he is a liar that why you had to ask the question. When you can acknowlege that a person has "problems" that is when they can get help. Dont be an enabler.   Obama is a narsacisst and needs to be treated. He is power hungry had not respect for anyone other than getting what he wants. He president needs some real help and should be removed from office.

LindaSimmons
LindaSimmons

People like you are the reason Obama does what he does-he thinks the people are behind him and he wont get caught in his lies. But guess what i am african-amercian and I saw though his con man character like  a cheap suit. I changed from democrat (31 years) to Independent and I voted for Romney. Obama is bad for America which I love-Bad on immigration-Bad to support gay marriage, bad on fixing the economy- . He lies ALL THE TIME as most con men do and he has fooled many. But now with the IRS scandal, Benghazi, and Assoicated Press he is receiving what he has put out in the atmosphere. God is NOT MOCKED WHATEVER A MAN SOWS THAT WILL HE ALSO REAP ! He needs to be impeached !

RonNussbeck
RonNussbeck

Wow, this is about Obama, if you want to live in the past don't post on current events!! As a Democrat I want the truth, Obama received 4 Pinoccihos today from a liberal writer at the Washington Post for bold face lying to the Ameriacn public. This is not about Democrat or Republican, this is about the blood on Obama's hands that won't wash off from Benghazi. Surely you want the truth, if Obama is a bad guy I won't support him and he has proven to be a liar.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@sgs @carolo43 At which point it would have been to late to save him, since he was dying in minutes of the initial attack.

john_inc
john_inc

@drudown@john_inc
If you're going to accuse me of "half-truths", shouldn't you tell me what they are?
It was not "uknown" to the executive branch that it was a terrorist attack.  They were told the very first day.

http://www.factcheck.org/2012/10/benghazi-timeline/

"6:07 p.m.: The State Department’s Operations Center sends an email to the White House, Pentagon, FBI and other government agencies that said Ansar al-Sharia has claimed credit for the attack on its Facebook and Twitter accounts. (The existence of the email was not disclosed until Reuters reported it on Oct. 24.)"

Read and educate yourself.  You blame my facts on talking points.  If so, please point out who I'm getting them from.  Fact Check?

hallofrecord
hallofrecord

@drudown @john_inc "whence" is "from where" hence "from whence" is "from from where."  But... with regard to "pissing in the wind," one should actually listen to the accumulating and damning testimonies showing either massive corruption or massive ineptitude through the highest levels of the Obama administration.

... and speaking of corruption, how's that IRS working for you?

billorights
billorights

@drudown @john_inc 

Here's a scathing, full-truth for you:

According to the testimony provided to Congress last week, a Special Forces team was ready to go, but was told to stand down.

It wouldn't matter whether the administration is Republican or Democrat, this is simply unacceptable.

Ultimately, the fools here are those who obstruct, obfuscate and distract from this investigation, arguing that it is motivated by politics.

If you haven't noticed, this administration is more motivated by politics than any we have seen since the Nixon administration.

drudown
drudown

@LindaSimmons 

Maybe you can humor us with specific instances of actual falsehoods that our President disseminated? Otherwise you are just asking the People to assume facts NOT in evidence. 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@LindaSimmons Gee sounds like you just described every member of the GOP Congress. When will we be removing them from office?

drudown
drudown

@john_inc @drudown @RonNussbeck

No, John, I am not. Although, as paradoxical as it may seem to others, I always looked up to Cheney when growing up.

But I digress. Earlier you asked: "how much more could you dishonor them then to suggest that it wasn't a terrorist attack on 9/11 - after you made a speech on 9/11 about how you had decimated the leadership of AQ - and then blame the terrorist attack on a "spontaneous demonstration" that never happened???"

The answer is simple. The prior GOP administration "dishonored" the victims by falsely blaming Iraq for what Saudi nationals planned and effectuated. Speaking of men having men's babies...wouldn't that inquiry better be directed to the Bush clan and their Saudi puppeteer? I fancy.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@LindaSimmons Actually people like me are the reason the GOP can't lie its was back to power, so that they can start even more wars and crash our economy yet again.

drudown
drudown

@mantisdragon91 @RonNussbeck 

Mantis, what's more likely true than not true? That Ron is not really a democrat or that someone refusing to let go of (ahem) Benghazi is estopped from imploring others to "not live in the past"? So classic.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@RonNussbeck Do you even know what happened in Benghazi? Describe the sequence of the two attacks?  If you actually knew the truth you would not be here making these silly statements.

drudown
drudown

@sgs @mantisdragon91 @Abettervision

For someone that claims President Obama is so "awful" in office, perhaps you'd like to compare his performance with his GOP predecessor? President Obama killed Bin Laden (unlike the GOP predecessor); President Obama had reduced the annual deficit (unlike the GOP predecessor); President Obama reduced long term Health Costs (unlike the GOP predecessor); President Obama is trying to bring jobs home via tax incentives (unlike the GOP predecessor); President Obama is tougher on immigration (unlike the GOP predecessor) FACTS are FACTS

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/23/us/advocates-push-obama-to-halt-aggressive-deportation-efforts.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1& 

drudown
drudown

@john_inc @drudown 

And spare me the straw man arguments. I don't think there ANYTHING wrong with NOT calling the terrorist attack a terrorist attack because NO PREJUDICE WHATSOEVER occurred to the People. 

That is, UNLIKE LYING about a purported connection between Saddam and 9/11. That's a $4 trillion prejudice to the People. Got the difference, kid?

drudown
drudown

@john_inc @drudown 

You are NOT delineating ANY malfeasance by identifying the "wiggle room" the Executive branch used immediately after a terrorist attack that could materially affect Diplomacy with Libya, its neighbors and the larger region mired in strife. 

Give me an actual corollary where past Administrations had some (as yet) undefined, affirmative duty of full disclosure as to all material facts that touch and concern National Security? That's how utterly native and indefensible your critique is. It operates in the parallel universe where NO OTHER ADMINISTRATION COULD OR WOULD FUNCTION. 

So, get real.

drudown
drudown

@hallofrecord @drudown @john_inc 

Oh please. 

You expect any learned mind in the Corporate world to look askance on the IRS for investigating "charities" that are funneling money to and from special interest groups with an eye towards favorable legislation? See, e.g., Monsanto bill. 

Give me a break. More fabricated controversy.

drudown
drudown

@sgs @mantisdragon91 @billorights @drudown @john_inc 

Taken your analysis to its illogical conclusion, Bush was directly responsible for 3,000 American lives on 9/11.

What, his $4trillion LIE to the Congress that 9/11 and Saddam were inextricably linked isn't more meritorious of public scrutiny over....you still can't even clearly articulate any discernible malfeasance in Benghazi other that (drumroll please) "it happened on his watch", as if, in the end, the POTUS is vicariously liable for any American's death in the hostile place in the world. 

Brilliant logic.

drudown
drudown

@sgs @mantisdragon91 @billorights @drudown @john_inc 

As opposed to...the GOP Congress and elected officials presently in office are somehow alleviated of any culpability in Benghazi, i.e., including the revision to the talking points or influencing the Executive branch to be opaque?

You should start your "scathing" critique with an instance where the State had ACTUAL NOTICE OF IMPENDING HARM.

Say, the FBI memos given to Bush, Cheney and the cabal prior to 9/11. Until you can turn your Benghazi critique equally across the partisan aisle, it is an imageless act.

drudown
drudown

@billorights @drudown @john_inc 

Even, assuming, arguendo, that there was a "Special Forces team ready to go", that hardly means that (1) they could have prevented any of the deaths a long distance away; (2) sending them in was no constrained by other, superseding diplomatic and/or strategic considerations; and/or (3) that the decision wasn't another person in the Pentagon, State Dept. or DOD.

You and your incorrigible ilk keep pointing to "unknowns" as if, in the end, that merits a fiscal waste more properly characterized as a partisan witch hunt. 

How's this: while the 4 Americans are dead (and will always be dead since being murdered in Benghazi), what if the GOP spent as much time (from this moment forward) trying to find the "missing" billions in Iraq and said funds can help pay for our returning Veterans' medical bills, PTSD counseling and job training? Your "path" is a partisan dead end.

Start leading and stop whining over spilled milk.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@sgs @mantisdragon91 @billorights @drudown @john_inc No I produce the  former head of our Military who was a Republican and a long time ally of the Bush family, stating point blank that he would have done the same thing as Obama did in these circumstances. So yet again he said nothing could have been done, what do you know that he doesn't?

sgs
sgs

@mantisdragon91 @sgs @billorights @drudown @john_inc  

You proffer the ridiculous 'republican would have done blah blah' as though that somehow makes any difference or changes anything. Who knows, maybe in your mind it mitigates it somewhat.  You're sure trying to drive that point home for some reason. What difference does it make what he would have done?

 What matter is what was done or not done by those who were in charge. They failed. Live with it.

drip drip drip



sgs
sgs

@mantisdragon91 @sgs @billorights @drudown @john_inc  

NO. The point is that an American ambassador was slaughtered on Hillary and obama's watch. Men died. When they desperately called for help, a stand down order was given. 

Your spin won't change that.

 There WILL BE accountability, no matter how desperately you wish it would all go away.