Obama on Benghazi: "When Four Americans Are Killed, It's Not Optimal"

Guy Benson

10/19/2012 4:48:00 PM - Guy Benson

The President of the United States, appearing on Comedy Central's The Daily Show last night:

President Barack Obama, during an interview shown on Comedy Central, has responded to a question about his administration's confused communication after the Benghazi attack, by saying: 'If four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal.' Obama was speaking to Jon Stewart of The Daily Show for a programme that was broadcast last night. Stewart, a liberal whose young audience is full of potential voters prized by the Obama campaign, asked the president about his handling of the aftermath of the Benghazi attack. 

Many conservatives were mortified by this seemingly stunning and callous formulation from Obama -- but I'm not sure a pile-on is entirely fair.  Host Jon Stewart framed the question by employing the word "optimal," so the president was just playing off the wording of the question to make his point.  His repeated failures regarding the Benghazi matter notwithstanding, I can't imagine that Obama is unmoved by the murders of four US citizens, including a sitting Ambassador.  He does, however, has a terrible habit of using language that can be construed as dismissive. In an earlier interview, Obama referred to the Libya massacre and other embassy security breaches as "bumps in the road."  This from the greatest orator who ever lived. On the other hand, I'm not especially interested in cutting Obama too much slack here -- after all, this is a guy whose campaign has been hyperventilating about "binders" for three days.  If they think Romney deserves to get beaten up for a trifling phrasing infraction, "not optimal" should count as a veritable rhetoric earthquake.  Even if he was keying off of Stewart's lead, what was Obama thinking?  The mother of one of the Benghazi victims -- whom we've met before -- is disgusted:

The mother of an American diplomat killed during a terrorist raid on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi has hit out at Barack Obama for describing the attack as 'not optimal', saying: 'My son is not very optimal - he is also very dead.' During an interview shown on Comedy Central, Obama responded to a question about his administration's confused communication after the assault by saying: 'If four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal.' Speaking exclusively to MailOnline today, Pat Smith, whose son Sean died in the raid, said: 'It was a disrespectful thing to say and I don't think it's right. 'How can you say somebody being killed is not very optimal? I don't think the President has the right idea of the English language.'  

Meanwhile, ahead of Monday's final, foreign-policy themed debate, the Obama administration's story continues to come apart at the seams.  The CIA has confirmed that it concluded the raid was a premediated terrorist attack within 24 hours, backing up several previous media reports:

The CIA station chief in Libya reported to Washington within 24 hours of last month’s deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate that there was evidence it was carried out by militants, not a spontaneous mob upset about an American-made video ridiculing Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, U.S. officials have told The Associated Press. It is unclear who, if anyone, saw the cable outside the CIA at that point and how high up in the agency the information went. The Obama administration maintained publicly for a week that the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans was a result of the mobs that staged less-deadly protests across the Muslim world around the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on the U.S.  

QED. Despite this information, the White House continued to push the false "spontaneous protest over a video spun out of control" story for over a week.  In the Daily Show interview, Obama claimed that his administration has been fully transparent at every step of the process, keeping the public apprised of the very latest information.  That simply isn't true. The much-talked-about Benghazi exchange at Tuesday's debate centered around the question of whether the White House had misled the American people by obscuring the true nature of the attack.  A new report from McClatchy reaffirms that Mitt Romney was correct:

With images of besieged U.S. missions in the Middle East still leading the evening news, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney became the first official to back away from the earlier declaration that the Benghazi assault was a “complex attack” by extremists. Instead, Carney told reporters, authorities “have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack.” He added that there was no reason to think that the Benghazi attack wasn’t related to the video, given that the clip had sparked protests in many Muslim cities. “The unrest that we’ve seen around the region has been in reaction to a video that Muslims, many Muslims, find offensive,” Carney said. When pressed by reporters who pointed out evidence that the violence in Benghazi was preplanned, Carney said that “news reports” had speculated about the motive. He noted again that “the unrest around the region has been in response to this video.”

Carney then launched into remarks that read like talking points in defense of the U.S. decision to intervene in last year’s uprising against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi: that post-Gadhafi Libya, he said, is “one of the more pro-American countries in the region,” that it’s led by a new government “that has just come out of a revolution,” and that the lack of security capabilities there “is not necessarily reflective of anything except for the remarkable transformation that’s been going on in the region.” By that Sunday, Sept. 16, the evolution of the narrative was complete when Rice, the U.N. ambassador, showed up on all five major morning talk shows to make the most direct public connection yet between the Benghazi assault and the incendiary video.  

Expect this to get hashed out again on Monday evening.