The Benghazi fallout continues
The Obama administration continued to
face criticism this week over its handling of the Sept. 11 attack that killed
U.S. Amb. Christopher Stevens and
three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Contradicting the initial statements
made by senior administration officials, the event is now being described as a
terrorist attack unrelated to the protests over an anti-Islam video that
erupted elsewhere in the Middle East on the same day. At a
dramatic hearing convened by the House Oversight Committee this week, the
former chief security officer for the U.S. Embassy in Libya testified that his
request to extend the deployment of a U.S. military team had been turned down
by the State Department.
In her testimony, Charlene Lamb, a deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of
Diplomatic Security, insisted,
"We had the correct number of assets in Benghazi on the night of
9/11," to which committee chairman Darrell
Issa replied, "That doesn't ring true to the American people."
Democrats, including ranking committee
member Elijah Cummings, criticized
the GOP for politicizing the investigation into the attack, but Barack Obama campaign spokesperson Stephanie Cutter took things a step further on Thursday by arguing
during a CNN interview, "The entire reason that this has become the
political topic it is because of Mitt
Romney and Paul Ryan. It's a big
part of their stump speech and it's reckless and irresponsible."
to take advantage of the gaffe, saying at a rally that night, "No
President Obama, it's an issue because this is the first time in 33 years that
a U.S. ambassador has been assassinated. Mr. President, this is an issue
because we were attacked successfully by terrorists on the anniversary of
Meeting of the running mates
Benghazi also came up on Thursday night
during the one
and only debate between Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden. The vice president insisted
that the White House had not been made aware of the request for more security
from Tripoli. "We weren't told they wanted more security. We did not know
they wanted more security there," he said. Ryan also picked up on Cutter's
remark, saying, "This is becoming more troubling by the day. They first blamed
the YouTube video. Now they're trying to blame the Romney-Ryan ticket for
making this an issue."
Moderator Martha Raddatz, a veteran foreign-affairs correspondent for ABC
news, pressed the candidates on a number of foreign-policy issues, including
Iran's nuclear program, the escalating violence in Syria, and the war in
Afghanistan. "Under a Romney administration, we will have credibility" on
threats to use military force against Iran, Ryan promised, and said, "We
wouldn't refer to Bashar Assad as a reformer when he's killing his own
civilians with his Russian-provided weapons." But he offered few specifics on
how a Romney administration's policies on these issues would differ going
forward. "What would my friend do differently? If you notice, he never answers
the question," Biden quipped.
candidates agreed on a 2014 withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, but
Ryan criticized the Obama administration for announcing its withdrawal plan in
advance. Biden said that U.S. goals in Afghanistan are "almost completed. Now,
all we're doing is putting the Kabul government in a position to be able to
maintain their own security. It's their responsibility, not America's."
no questions about East Asia, Latin America, Africa, Europe, or any country
outside the Islamic world.
Romney speaks out
In a speech
on Monday at the Virginia Military Institute,
Romney referred back to the post-war policies of VMI graduate Gen. George
Marshall -- not
exactly a conservative hero in his day -- in
arguing that Obama has weakened U.S. power through cuts to the military and has
lost control of events in the Middle East. "I know the president hopes
for a safer, freer, and a more prosperous Middle East allied with the United
States," Romney said. "I share this hope. But hope is not a
strategy. We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies in the
Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds, when our defense
spending is being arbitrarily and deeply cut, when we have no trade agenda to
speak of, and the perception of our strategy is not one of partnership, but of
Attack of the RAND PAC
Outside of the presidential race, a political
action committee associated with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has been buying
ads targeting vulnerable Democratic senators over their support for foreign
aid. In the
first ad, targeting West Virginia Sen. Joe
Manchin, the narration states, "While they tear down and burn the American
flag in Egypt and shout ‘death to America, Joe Manchin votes to provide U.S.
taxpayer aid to Egypt." It concludes: "Joe
Manchin works with Barack Obama to send billions of our taxpayer dollars to
countries where radicals storm our embassies, burn our flag and kill our
diplomats." RAND PAC is
also planning to run similar ads against Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham defended Manchin from his Republican colleague's
attacks, saying, "I'm sorry that my colleague Sen.
Rand Paul felt that he needed to get involved and has gotten involved ... I very
much would like to have a Republican president, and I'd very much like to have
a Republican-controlled Senate, but when it comes to foreign policy and matters
of war and national security, I really do try to be bipartisan and I respect
Joe a lot."
The poll picture
Polls this week continued to show Romney
making up ground. While the two candidates are in a dead heat nationally, a new
Bay Times/Bay News 9/Miami Herald poll shows Romney with a 7-point
advantage in Florida, a state that appeared to be trending toward Obama a month
The shift is even starker on foreign
policy. A Fox
News poll released on Wednesday gave Obama a 6-point edge over Romney on
handling of foreign policy, down from a 15-point lead prior to the Benghazi
attack. A new
Zogby analytics poll gives Romney a 48 to 45 percent advantage on national
The latest from FP:
James Traub looks at Biden's
role in shaping the Obama administration's foreign policy.
Jacob Heilbrun wonders when
Republicans decided they had always
loved Harry Truman.
Danielle Petka, Joshua Trevino, and Justin Logan debate who's winning the
battle for Romney's national
Ty McCormick looks at Romney's history
Uri Friedman runs down the best
moments in vice-presidential debate history.
Plus: Follow the latest
from the campaign trail on The Cable and Passport.