After day of campaign criticism, Obama gets serious while taping comedic 'Daily Show'
Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press
NEW YORK — President Barack Obama on Thursday rejected criticism that his administration has offered a confused response to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, an accusation made repeatedly by Republican challenger Mitt Romney in their campaign for the White House. Of any breakdown that might have led to the killing of four Americans, Obama declared: "We're going to fix it."
On a campaign day where the politics of comedy were to flavor the presidential race, Comedy Central host Jon Stewart got serious in pressing Obama over the government's changing explanation about the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi. When Stewart suggested that even Obama would concede his administration's coordination and communication had not been "optimal," Obama said: "If four Americans get killed, it's not optimal. We're going to fix it. All of it."
Romney has pointedly questioned Obama's handling of the matter and his honesty about it to voters. Those accusations led to the fiercest conflict of the presidential debate on Tuesday and will surely come to the fore again on Monday in the campaign's final debate.
Appearing in a taping of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," Obama insisted information was shared with the American people as it came in. The attack is under investigation, Obama said, and "the picture eventually gets filled in."
The exchange came on a day when Vice President Joe Biden compared the policies of Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, to a gun pointed at Americans, and after Romney's son said he was tempted to "take a swing" at Obama when the Democrat questions the GOP candidate's honesty.
Ryan, speaking at a campaign stop in Ocala, Fla., before Biden delivered his comments, accused Obama of sending a divisive message.
"He's basically trying to disqualify his opponent with a sea of negativity," Ryan said. "He's trying to divide this country, pitting people against each other. He's trying to win this election by default. You know what? We're not going to let him get away with that."
The sharpness of the barbs is a reflection of just how tight the race is 19 days out. Hard campaign decisions are being made, state by state.
Romney aides said Thursday that no staff had been dispatched to Michigan or Pennsylvania, where they once suggested he would compete aggressively but has not.
The bickering between campaigns was supposed to take a break Thursday night as both candidates address the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a white-tie gala at New York City's Waldorf Astoria Hotel that has been a required stop for politicians since the end of World War II.
The evening's political dinner is named for the four-term Democratic governor of New York who lost the 1928 presidential race to Republican Herbert Hoover. Smith was the first Catholic to run for president and the dinner named for him is organized by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York for the benefit of needy children.
In keeping with tradition, both candidates prepared lighthearted remarks for the event. That was also the case four years ago when Obama and GOP nominee John McCain poked fun at themselves and each other just a day after an intense presidential debate at Hofstra University on Long Island.
As in 2008, this year's dinner follows a confrontational debate, also at Hofstra, lending an air of drama to the pivot from acrimony to humor.
Democrats are pushing the accusation that Romney is being dishonest, taking up Obama's refrain since Tuesday's debate that the GOP nominee is offering "a sketchy deal."
"I don't think they were just sketchy," Biden said at a rally in Las Vegas. "I think they were Etch-a-Sketchy."
Obama and Biden are to campaign together next Tuesday in Ohio after Monday night's final debate.
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