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Mitt Romney, White House spar over Libya attacks

By Nedra Pickler

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Oct. 12 2012 1:25 p.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney pauses during a town hall meeting at Ariel Corporation, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Evan Vucci, AP

RICHMOND, Va. — Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Friday accused the vice president of "doubling down on denial" over the deadly invasion at the U.S. Consulate in Libya, leaving the White House to defend its handling of the attack that killed its ambassador and three other Americans.

Biden said in a debate Thursday night that "we weren't told" there had been requests for more security at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi ahead of the terrorist attack one month ago.

A State Department official testified before Congress on Wednesday that she had, in fact, refused requests for more security in Benghazi because the department wanted to train Libyans for the task. Another U.S. official testified he had argued unsuccessfully for more security for weeks.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said that when Biden said "we weren't told," Biden meant President Barack Obama and himself. Carney said such security matters are handled by the State Department.

Asked what the president's reaction was when he heard testimony of State Department officials who had pleaded for more security, Carney said Obama "wants to get the bottom of what happened." He said the president is committed "to make sure that what happened in Benghazi never happens again."

Biden's office declined to answer questions about his or Romney's comments and referred reporters to the explanation Carney offered on Friday.

Romney told supporters in swing state Virginia that the White House has more questions to answer about the tragedy.

"The vice president directly contradicted the sworn testimony of State Department officials," Romney said. "He's doubling down on denial. And we need to understand exactly what happened as opposed to just have people brush this aside. When the vice president of the United States directly contradicts the testimony, sworn testimony of State Department officials, American citizens have a right to know just what's going on. And we're going to find out."

Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said Romney was making good on a pledge to use an international crisis to win votes. "So Mitt Romney's continued politicization of the events in Libya comes as no surprise," she said.

Romney said his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, gave Americans answers in the 90-minute debate against Biden, not political attacks. And Romney seemed to suggest he didn't think much of Biden's reaction to many of Ryan's answers, with the vice president responding with dismissive chuckles and eye rolls when his rival was speaking.

"There was one person on stage last night who was thoughtful and respectful and steady and poised, the kind of person you'd want to turn to in a crisis," Romney said to cheers. "And that was the next vice president of the United States, Paul Ryan."

Biden, eager to make up for the president's lackluster performance in his first debate with Romney, played the aggressor throughout the debate that came with less than four weeks to go before Election Day. The president gave his running mate a quick thumbs up for delivering with the energy and feeling lacking in his own performance.

"His passion for making sure that the economy grows for the middle class came through so I'm really proud of him," Obama said after watching the debate aboard Air Force One on the way home after campaigning in battleground Florida.

Ryan came back at the vice president with harsh talking points, a flurry of statistics and a sharp economic warning: In another Obama term, he said, "Watch out, middle class, the tax bill's coming to you."

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