President Barack Obama Monday intensified his criticism of the GOP’s investigation into his administration public relations response to the deadly Sept. 11 jihadi attack on the Benghazi diplomatic site.
“We don’t have time to be playing these kind of political games in Washington,” Obama insisted.
“We dishonor the [dead Americans] when we turn things like this into a political circus,” Obama insisted.
Four Americans were killed in the September attacks on the poorly protected U.S. sites in Libya. Administration officials immediately downplayed al-Qaida’s role and suggested the attackers were merely rioters angry about an California-made YouTube video that was critical of Islam.
Obama tried to dismiss the GOP’s recent revelations about the White House’s role in rewriting the CIA’s immediate description of the attack. That rewrite, dubbed the talking points, was used to by Obama’s deputies — including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — to cast blame on the video-maker and to distract attention from the jihadis.
“The whole issue of talking points, frankly throughout this process, has been a sideshow,” Obama complained during a joint press conference with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron.
“This gets spun up as if there is something new to the story. There is no there there,” he claimed.
Obama also accepted some blame for the defeat that killed four Americans. Obama: ‘Whole issue of talking points … a sideshow’
“What we also know is clearly they were not in a position where they were adequately protected,” he said. “The day after it happened, I acknowledged it as an act of terrorism.”
During closed-door talks just after the attack, administration officials heavily revised the CIA’s initial memo, which said that an al-Qaida affiliate in Libya was involved in the attack. The memo went through 12 drafts and was shortened by two-thirds.
The memo was used by administration officials, including U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, to shape the public’s response to the attack, which took place eight weeks before the 2012 election.
Top officials tried to argue that the attack was prompted by Arab anger about an anti-Islamic video produced by an Egyptian living in California.
For example, on Sept. 25, Obama declared during a speech at the United Nations that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
Subsequently, the video-producer was jailed on a probation violation. He’s still in jail.
Obama even cited the video again during the press conference, saying the Benghazi attack happened as the U.S. Consulate was being hit by protesters angry over the video.
The Benghazi attack was a surprise to the administration, which has worked with Islamist political movements, including the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood network, to jointly ward off attacks by violent Islamists, such as al-Qaida and its many local affiliates.
Prior to the September attack, Washington officials had reduced defenses at the Benghazi facility, hired local guards and had trusted the new Libyan government to suppress extremist groups in western Libya.
Libya’s Islamist government had taken power after Obama used airpower to smash Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s regime and military in 2010.
But the Islamist governments face domestic political blockback when they try to suppress Islamist jihadi groups, such as the group that attacked the Benghazi site. Since the attack, the weak Libyan government has been unable to arrest and deport the attackers.
On Sept. 11, in neighboring Egypt, the grounds of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo were also invaded by Islamist protesters. The country’s new Islamist government failed to stop the invasion.
Last week, reporters pressed Carney to explain his claim that administration officials were not responsible for the major rewrite of the talking points.
“I appreciate the question,” he told ABC’s Jonathan Karl May 10. “The things you’re talking about don’t go to the fundamental issues.”
The GOP is trying to politicize the “tragedy,” Carney said, adding that “this is an effort to accuse the administration of hiding something that we could not hide.”
The changes to the CIA’s talking-points “were extremely minimal and non-substantive,” he insisted.