Roundtable I: Battle Over Benghazi

George Will, Ret. Gen. James Cartwright, Ruth Marcus, and Jonathan Karl.
3:00 | 05/12/13

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Transcript for Roundtable I: Battle Over Benghazi
The fact is we have four dead Americans was kinda a protest it was a because of guys out for a walk -- -- -- -- -- they go kill some Americans. What difference at this point does it make. The committee's labors to uncover what happened prior during and after the attack matter. It matters to me personally. And it matters -- my colleagues. Scenes for him too emotional hearings and on -- Gaza including one this week let's introduce our roundtable. George will. Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus general James Cartwright former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and ABC's chief White House correspondent John Carl. John you broke the story this week of the emails. What's the fallout. Well you know clearly there's a credibility question at the White House has to deal with because this directly contradicts what they have said about this but. You don't want that you mentioned in the interview with senator Reid that the White House has tried to have -- -- wasteful saying that they immediately called it. An act of terror and saying they couldn't do that in these talking points because they could prejudice the investigation. -- the -- problems on both sides of this but there is one very important point here which is in all twelve revisions all of these talking points. Originally drafted by the CIA they need to end by saying that the attack and -- Ghazi. Started as a spontaneous reaction to Cairo that was demonstrably an all out policy truth. And anyway on it took out all the work out how to -- they would say they -- at a time right about how about that. About CIA director David Petraeus. How did he respond. To these talking points and I know you have new information -- that this is fascinating because my world was the deputy director was the woman ultimately. A signed off on this -- Petraeus really saw the final version of the talking points this is the Saturday afternoon. Before a Susan -- appearances on the Sunday shows. He looks at -- and says that there essentially useless and and direct quote from his email he says I would just as -- not use them. But it's their call meaning the White House -- And they got those talking points out there George will. Is this gonna last -- this going to have a lasting effect is an unacceptable way to do business at the White House. Lasting. A week ago mr. Carney whose usefulness to this administration is diminishing rapidly. A week ago he said Ben Ghazi was a long time ago -- that was the -- wars. This is a very live issue because. We now know three things we know that mr. hicks the night of the attack speaking from -- Said. Pretty much what it was an armed insurrection not a movie review conducted with rocket propelled grenades and mortars. Five days later on this program and on -- other Sunday morning programs. The idea of an exceptionally boisterous movie review was still the administration's. Position and then fourteen days after the attack at the UN was the same thing. We started out with three arguments. Was it was security lax and -- -- demonstrably. Could sources of them got their rescue them doubtful. Has the nation been systematically misled certain -- Now we need to select committee in congress because the State Department -- named accountability review board. Neglected to -- and in an interview -- in the secretary's day. You think secretary. Clinton will be back on the hill. And possibly some of her aides Cheryl Mills for example her chief of staff who dressed -- -- hicks after he spoke to congressman without. Lawyer flash minder present. I think it's important to go back to some first principles and George alludes to some of them. The real scandal here is what that accountability review board found. Which is that security was grossly inadequate that they were systemic failures of leadership. The notion that this is an impeachable offense I thought Senator McCain. Was right in saying that that that rhetoric has gone way way too far. That so there's a real scandal and -- manufactured scandal and -- manufactured. I mean that the White House has given the building blocks of the manufacture to its opponent I don't understand. What it with thinking. When they failed to understand. Failed to say act of terror clearly. Failed to get the story straight and then but comments by Jay Carney that I if you -- are demonstrably false. That no single syllable is changed except for this one word not true -- Joseph Cardona ask you some practical questions here. Because one of the things the committee looked out at the review board rather was whether they could've gotten. Assets in -- whether they could have gotten airplanes in -- that you that you heard Senator McCain say why didn't Beijing issued a fighter jets over the area -- to warn them. Was that feasible in if not why not. It probably wasn't feasible. I don't know the exact conditions but. To get an aircraft ready to get crews ready to get -- -- people out you don't just walk appointees and put the keys and provide ordinance for those well -- -- -- -- at least defend themselves. And then to find the route down there get the clearances to go in -- that's that's a day or two of activity. So we've heard a couple of different estimates from a couple of hours that's the flight time to get there. And then we've heard nine to twenty hours to have the aircraft actually make it that's talking about getting ready and getting people actually in position that. Is -- something to be said that they didn't have anything there is any. In in an area like Libya an area that was still hot. And I think that's where the review committee. Mike Mullen and Tom Pickering took a look at in a war that were that. Measures that were available at the embassy itself sufficient. And then were the measures said that of the forces that could come to the aid of some kind of an infraction whether it be and and I -- an explosive device. Or whether it be an attack on the embassy or its people. Those cut its capability. We're set back. In the states in Europe in the northern Italy for aircraft and so the question is where they close enough where they ready enough to do that that's that's worth going back and -- I want to move to Syria. And you heard all the talk about red lines. -- should the president have. Have made a red line with Syria I mean -- is his credibility seriously hurt here he does not. If he does nothing. I do think we should watch that space it's not yet clear that nothing will be done. But it is also clear look every parent knows if you are going to make -- threat. You need to be willing to follow through on it or else you lose credibility not just with the child that you're threatening. But with other kids that you have in your family in this case Iran is watching and so. He said redlining he is now looking for it to some extent the witch's broomstick to switch metaphors to the wizard of as. In terms of absolute proof and chain of custody and everything. But if if the area -- adequate proof. And there is no consequence but then there is a very big loss of credibility -- -- not to say that it's an easy choice because that the consequences are all. Unpleasant something you should've thought of months ago John. -- -- hanging over all of this is the failure in Iraq and this president is not going to go. Getting involved in significant way militarily. In the Middle East in the war over intelligence on WMD I talked to a very senior official in the White House yesterday about this who said. The intelligence that -- chemical weapons was used is -- solid. But you know what it's not as solid as the intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass -- -- -- -- and -- -- let me do you in this. You you you heard John McCain say the military can always find a way not to do something if they don't want to do it and the military clearly does not want. To put up and no flights -- doesn't pick a works well what would that work why wouldn't let John McCain said war. And the question is why do you wanna a no fly zone to do what. A no fly zone in and of itself is probably not going to change the dynamic drastically no fly zone. If you could in place one. And -- you were willing to take the risk of doing it sometimes when you're trying to stop the killing you have more killing and more killing and so they might be able to reduce the amount of offensive there that -- is able to Muster against the rebels that would be potentially what a no fly zone could do. But -- no fly zone might enable and I think this is where senator McCain's going. Getting rid of runways getting rid of air defenses a sector -- that slippery slope if you convince -- -- that there is hope church does that mean. -- -- you're absolutely right that there's an illusion here that a superpower. Can tiptoe on little cat feet into a sectarian civil war and not change the dynamic fundamentally and not become a chief protagonist as soon as we -- -- we are the chief protect us. And we re intervene in in this context the secretary of state mr. Kerry's policy it seems to me is. To get in negotiated transition of power but two problems with -- somehow didn't interest and he doesn't wanna go anywhere and the other side doesn't interest and and the Russians who have to be involved in this aren't interest. So no one's interest to them our policy so we fall back on. The illusion that some surgical. Dining intervention can be kept both surgical and timing and that's dangerous what we noted that George --

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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