by Daniel Woolls
by Daniel Woolls
WASHINGTON, Sept 30, 2012 (AFP)
Top Republican Senator John McCain on Sunday joined other members of his party in attacking Washington’s shifting explanations of the September 11 assault that killed the US ambassador to
McCain, interviewed on CNN’s “State of the Union” show, hinted at “certain political overtones” in the administration’s initial claim that the assault was part of a spontaneous anti-American demonstration.
His comments were the latest thrust in a what appears to be a coordinated Republican effort to undermine Obama on foreign policy, seen as his strong point and a big weakness for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
UN ambassador Susan Rice on September 15 said the hours-long assault with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades on the US consulate in Benghazi was part of a spontaneous demonstration over an amateurish video that mocked the prophet Mohammed. Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, died in the assault.
But that explanation was revised over the next weeks, and by Friday the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said that the consulate attack was planned and linked to Al-Qaeda, but stressed that “many unanswered questions” remained.
The administration’s initial explanation for the attack was flat wrong, said McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate. “That doesn’t pass the smell test,” he said.
“It was either willful ignorance or abysmal intelligence to think that people come to spontaneous demonstrations with heavy weapons, mortars, and the attack goes on for hours,” he told CNN.
McCain joined Republican Senator Bob Corker and Congressman Pete King in expressing anger over the Libya affair.
King on Friday called on Rice, a member of Obama’s inner circle, to resign, saying that her statements had been “irresponsible.” And on Saturday Corker sent a letter to DNI chief James Clapper demanding “straight answers” on the incident.
Senior Obama adviser David Plouffe, speaking Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said it was “preposterous and really offensive” to suggest the government withheld information on Libya for political reasons.
“We do have an election in 37 days. You know, and we’re happy to have a debate about our approach to terrorism and foreign policy,” Plouffe said on ABC’s “This Week” show.
Senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod, speaking on CNN, said the administration first said the Libya attack stemmed from a spontaneous demonstration because that was the information it had at the time.
Axelrod then referred to Obama’s description of Romney as someone who has a “tendency to shoot first and aim later” when the Republican claimed the administration sympathized with demonstrators who assaulted the US embassy in Cairo the same day of the Libya attack.
“What we don’t need is a president or an administration that shoots first and asks questions later,” Axelrod said.