Questions on Vice President Joe Biden’s comments about the Benghazi embassy attack in his debate last night, specifically that “we weren’t told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again,” dominated the daily briefing by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today.
“He was speaking directly for himself and for the president. He meant the White House,” Carney said, deflecting notions that “we” meant the entire administration. “Those are things that are handled by security personnel at the State Department. So that, I think — it is very clear if you look at it in context in terms of what the vice president was responding to,” he said.
But Carney refused to go deeper into the subject, declining to say whether Obama or Biden were specifically aware of these requests through their daily security briefings leading up to the Sept 11 anniversary, the day of the Benghazi attack.
Carney then quickly pivoted the discussion to the political side, arguing that Biden’s opponent in the debate, Republican vice presidential nominee Congressman Paul Ryan, politicized the incident by questioning the evolving statements made by administration officials in the wake of the attack.
“I think the attack by — and what has largely been a political attack by Republicans, in this case by Congressman Ryan, was to try to suggest that the president and the White House was responsible for assessing security in a diplomatic facility in Benghazi,” Carney said. “So I think, going back to last night’s debate, the lack of understanding about how this works may explain why Congressman Ryan consistently supported and authored budgets that slashed spending for diplomatic security, and he now takes a different position on these matters in the aftermath, which is clearly part of an effort to politicize what should not be politicized.”
Carney returned to this refrain during his briefing adding, “this president fights to make sure that embassy security and diplomatic security is adequately funded, make sure that that funding is restored when efforts on Capitol Hill are made, principally by House Republicans, including Congressman Ryan, to slash it in order to cut taxes for the wealthiest 2 percent in this country.”
Attempts by reporters to nail down when exactly or if President Obama or Vice President Biden were aware of the security requests were met with responses including “I cannot get into the specific details of a classified briefing and a classified document” or “what has always been the case is that we have been very transparent about what we know and made clear that, as hours and days and weeks have passed by and more facts have come to light and more has been revealed through the investigations under way, that, you know, we have gained a clearer picture of what happened and what did not happen. And we’ve been very transparent about that.”
Carney continued making the same points he has for weeks: “I can tell you absolutely that there was no actionable intelligence that suggested there would be a — an attack at the Benghazi facility, absolutely, categorically. That is a fact.” And, “the president wants to get to the bottom of what happened.”