Ocala Star-Banner, Doug Engle, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, responding to President Barack Obama's description of the response to a deadly attack in Libya as "not optimal," on Friday accused the White House of stonewalling in the face of mounting questions about its response. Obama promised to provide answers.
"If four Americans get killed, it's not optimal," the president said Thursday during an appearance on "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central. "We're going to fix it."
Obama's GOP rival, Mitt Romney, has been criticizing the administration for saying the attack was a spontaneous mob reaction to an anti-Muslim video on YouTube when they now acknowledge it was a terrorist attack. U.S. officials told The Associated Press that the CIA station chief in Libya reported to Washington within 24 hours of the attack to say there was evidence it was carried out by militants, although it's unclear who received that information right away.
Ryan told "The Charlie Sykes Show" on Milwaukee radio station WTMJ that the White House's story "continues to shift."
"They refuse to answer the basic questions about what happened," Ryan said. "And so his response has been inconsistent, it's been misleading. And more than a month later we still have more questions than answers."
The Wisconsin congressman said he hopes a congressional investigation and Monday night's presidential debate, with its focus on foreign policy, will provide answers.
"That's why you have these investigations in Congress, to find out what exactly happened and why the stonewalling and why blaming (the) YouTube video for two weeks," he said. "The reason we need to get to the bottom of this is so we can prevent something like this from happening again."
Ryan and Romney have been using the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks to criticize Obama's overall foreign policy record.
"The Benghazi thing would be a tragedy in and of itself if it was an isolated incident," Ryan said on WTMJ. "The problem is it's not simply an isolated incident but a picture of a broader story of the absolute unraveling of the Obama administration's foreign policy. Go around the world and you see policy failure after policy failure, and that is something that they just can't defend."
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."
"What happens, during the course of a presidency, is that the government is a big operation and any given time something screws up," Obama said on "The Daily Show." ''And you make sure that you find out what's broken and you fix it."
Asked if the White House had become aware of the CIA cable and when, spokesman Tommy Vietor declined comment "on what, if true, would be an internal and classified CIA cable."
After "The Daily Show" interview, Obama headed to New York's Waldorf Astoria hotel, where he sat one seat away from Romney at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, an annual gala that has drawn political leaders and other notables since the end of World War II. The event was a comedic pause in a contest that has drawn increasingly nasty and close.
On Friday, it was back to campaigning in Florida and Virginia, two of just a handful of states that will decide the Nov. 6 election, now less than three weeks away.
Obama planned a speech at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., rallying college students in the northern part of the state. Romney was headed to Daytona Beach, Fla., for a rally with Ryan.
Romney made a play for moderate voters in a new ad Friday that featured video of him at the first presidential debate talking about how he would bring both parties together in Washington to help the economy.
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