Romney scorches Obama over Libya attack
10/12/2012 12:09:15 AM
Republican nominee Mitt Romney elevated a row over the killing of the US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens into a full blown campaign feud Thursday, prompting a searing response from the Obama camp.
The new fight erupted when top President Barack Obama's aide Stephanie Cutter said on CNN that the September 11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi only became a "political topic" because it was exploited by Romney.
The Republican White House hopeful then made the decision to personally address the issue, as questions fly in Washington over the Obama administration's changing explanations of the attack, and what caused it.
"I think today we got another indication of how President Obama and his campaign fail to grasp the seriousness of the challenges that we face here in America," Romney said at a rally in North Carolina.
The Republican nominee went on to quote Cutter's remarks, before turning them against the president.
"No, President Obama, it's an issue because this is the first time in thirty-three years that a United States Ambassador has been assassinated.
"Mr President, this is an issue because we were attacked successfully by terrorists on the anniversary of 9/11.
"President Obama, this is an issue because Americans wonder why it was it took so long for you and your administration to admit that this was a terrorist attack," Romney said, demanding "serious answers" for the American people.
The Obama campaign swiftly hit back, comparing Romney's remarks to his hasty intervention when the Republican accused the administration of sympathizing with Islamic extremists invading the US embassy in Cairo, on the same night Stevens was killed.
"Mitt Romney will stoop to any level to score cheap political points," said Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith.
"From the time of the attack in Libya, Mitt Romney has stopped at nothing to politicize these events -- and he wasted no time in proving that point in North Carolina today."
"Every time Mitt Romney has tried to prove he's ready to be commander-in-chief, he has failed miserably," Smith said, recalling Romney's gaffe-prone trip abroad earlier this year and other foreign policy comments that drew criticism in the media.
Republicans have struggled to narrow Obama's advantage on security, following the president's assault on Al-Qaeda and operation to kill Osama bin Laden.
They see legitimate questions on Obama's handling of the Libya tragedy and also see a political avenue to score points from the White House just over three weeks before the election.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have also been making life uncomfortable for Obama and the State Department.
A US congressional committee heard from three top officials on Wednesday that the Benghazi consulate had been a sitting target with weak security and requests for extra staffing were denied by officials in Washington.
Republicans accuse Obama of downplaying suspected involvement in the attack by extremists with links to Al-Qaeda, saying he feared undermining his narrative that he is a strong commander-in-chief.
Initially, officials suggested the attack in Benghazi grew out of a protest over an anti-Muslim film made on US soil and carried on YouTube.
They later admitted that there was no protest outside the consulate that night, and the attack which killed three other Americans as well as Stevens was an organized assault.
The White House has insisted there was no intent to mislead, saying that officials, including US envoy to the United Nations Susan Rice, were using the best intelligence available at the time.