McCain: The White House spin on the Benghazi attack had “political overtones”

posted at 2:01 pm on October 1, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Senator John McCain had already begun accusing the Obama administration of attempting to protect Barack Obama’s re-election chances by attempting to build a false narrative on the sacking of our Benghazi consulate on the anniversary of 9/11 during the week, with a contentious appearance on CBS’ This Morning. Yesterday, McCain went a little further, declaring that the spin coming from UN Ambassador Susan Rice either “willful ignorance or abysmal intelligence,” and said that the effort had clear “political overtones“:

“STATE OF THE UNION” HOST CANDY CROWLEY: Let me turn your attention to overseas, because I know there are some things that concern you, but let me first ask you about Libya, the deaths of those four Americans, including the American ambassador to Libya, on September 11. Friday we got the administration’s sort of definitive statement that this now looks as though it was a pre-planned attack by a terrorist group, and some of whom were at least sympathetic to al-Qaida. Why do you think and are you bothered that it has taken them this long — from September 11 to now — to get to this conclusion?

MCCAIN: I think it interferes with the depiction that the administration is trying to convey that al-Qaida is on the wane, that everything is fine in the Middle East. And the fact —

CROWLEY: You think it’s political?

MCCAIN: I think there are certain political overtones. How else could you trot out our U.N. ambassador to say this was a spontaneous demonstration?

CROWLEY: Maybe they thought that at the time.

MCCAIN: Five days later? That doesn’t pass the smell test. 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.

How obvious was that conclusion?  The New York Times account of the attack makes clear that there never was a demonstration outside of the Benghazi consulate, in a piece that focuses more on misplaced American trust in Libyan security:

There were a total of seven Libyan guards at the edge of compound. Four were unarmed guards who worked for the British security firm Blue Mountain inside the gates, checking visitors’ identification, operating a metal detector and running their bags through an X-ray machine. Three others were armed members of a major local militia that fought in the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi, the February 17 Brigade. The brigade had been responsible for securing the mission from its inception, and in interviews the guards said that they had received additional training for the job of guarding the mission.

There were no more than seven Americans in the compound, including three civilians and four who carried guns, three of the Libyan guards later recalled, speaking on condition of anonymity for their safety. In addition to Mr. Stevens, the Libyans said, the civilians included a familiar figure they identified as “the bald maintenance guy” — Sean Smith, a computer technology specialist, as well as another official visiting from Tripoli whom the Libyans referred to as a “delegate.” The Libyan guards said they believed that Mr. Stevens was alone in the residence at the time of the attack, and the locations of Mr. Smith and the visitor at the time were unclear.

Just before 9:30, the Libyan guards began hearing shouts of “God is great” from outside the walls. They said that they had initially assumed the shouts were from a funeral procession.

An unarmed Blue Mountain guard said he tried to call his superior on his two-way radio and could not reach him. Then he heard American voices through the radio: “Attack, attack!”

Moments later the guards heard gunfire, the blasts of rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and other grenades falling inside the compound. The attackers moved on all three entrances at once in an apparently coordinated assault, backed by truck-mounted artillery.

Five days later, Susan Rice and the Obama administration kept insisting that this was a demonstration that “spun out of control.”  The only thing out of control was the spin itself by that time.


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