Rep. Pete King, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, gives Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton credit for stepping up to take “full responsibility” for the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Libya, but he would be more impressed if President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden would also place the onus on themselves.
“I appreciate what Hillary did by coming forward, but the president and the vice president need to do the same,” he told The Washington Times Tuesday. “As secretary of state, she didn’t have any more detailed knowledge than the president and other top administration officials because they have officials who are solely focused on embassy security around the world.”
Republicans have said a lack of security at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, directly led to assault and the killing of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans on the anniversary of 9/11. Mr. Obama and other administration officials initially said the attack sprang from a protest over an anti-Islam film, an explanation they have since discarded, acknowledging the assault as an act of terrorism.
During last Thursday’s debate against Mr. Romney’s running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, Mr. Biden flatly denied that the administration was aware of requests for heightened security at the Benghazi consulate after two previous attacks on the post, including an assassination attempt on Mr. Stevens’ life.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who helped lead a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing last week into the terrorist attack at the post, said he was encouraged by Mrs. Clinton’s mea culpa but said she was still passing the buck in terms of which official at the State Department decided to deny requests for heightened security.
“At least somebody is starting to take some partial — some personal responsibility,” he said.
“What I have a problem with was the second part of what she said. She said security professionals were making those decisions, but the security professionals testified to us that they weren’t able to make those decisions so that’s the concern.”
The Utah Republican said there has been a string of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya leading up to Sept. 11, 2012, and the instability led to the British to shut down their post in Benghazi.
“This is the type of intelligence that would be included in the president’s daily [intelligence] briefing,” he said. “Leading up to the attack, the intelligence community was foreshadowing that this attack was about to happen. It should have been really apparent that this was about to happen — that’s why they were yelling and screaming for more resources.”
Mr. Chaffetz and Mr. King, who were at Hofstra University in New York to attend the second presidential debate, both hoped participants in tonight’s town hall or the moderator, CNN’s Candy Crowley, grill Mr. Obama on Benghazi but worried the more open format may not lend itself to tough follow-up questions.
Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts who ran his own unsuccessful campaign for president in 2004 and help prep Mr. Obama for the debate, said Republicans were politicizing the issue by demanding answers about security lapses in Benghazi and called GOP criticism of the administration’s handling of the attack and shifting statements about its cause a “disgrace.”