9:15 am Oct. 15, 2012
On Sunday morning, just two days before the second presidential debate, and a few days after the lone vice presidential debate, the focus of "Face the Nation" was squarely on Libya.
The show's three guests were each chosen for their ability to discuss the lingering questions about the attack that killed four Americans last month, and the dissection of the debates was relegated to a roundtable in the second half-hour.
The attack in Benghazi, which first registered in the presidential campaign as a blunder for Mitt Romney, has suddenly become a political headache for President Obama.
"Either they're misleading the American people or incredibly incompetent," said Senator Lindsey Graham, who was one of two Republicans to appear on "Face the Nation."
He was joined by House Oversight chair Darrell Issa, whose committee held a hearing this week that kept the attack in the news, after State Department officials testified that they had sought additional funding, a claim that appeared to be contradicted by Vice President Joe Biden during the debate.
"We weren't told they wanted more security there," Biden said. "We did not know they wanted more security again."
Host Bob Schieffer stoked the idea that the administration might be dodging the issue, when he thanked congressman Elijah Cummings, the ranking member on the Oversight Committee, for providing the Democratic perspective.
"We asked the administration to provide someone from the administration to give their take on this story," Schieffer said. "The administration declined."
But the administration was answering the charge on other shows.
Senior adviser David Axelrod endured a long grilling on "Fox News Sunday," saying the request had been made to the State Department, but "it didn’t come to the White House and that is what the vice president was responding to.”
Axelrod tried to remind viewers of Romney's initial response, which was criticized as an ill-timed political attack on the president.
"From the beginning of this issue, before any facts were known, he was cravenly trying to exploit it," Axelrod said.
"We don't need wing-tip cowboys. We don't need shot-from-the-hip diplomacy," another senior adviser, Robert Gibbs added on CNN's "State of the Union."
"When Mitt Romney first responded to what happened in Libya, his own party called him out for insensitivity," Gibbs added.
The president's defenders also tried to shif the focus to budget cuts for diplomatic security forces, passed by the Republican House, which includes vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
The most spirited defense came from Biden's son, Beau.
"The idea that Romney and Ryan are suggesting that the president of the United States doesn't take seriously the security of our diplomats and Foreign Service officers around the world, I find absolutely outrageous, especially outrageous coming from the congressman, who in his budget proposed to cut diplomatic security by $200 million to $300 million," Biden said.
On Monday morning, the New York Times echoed that claim in an editorial.
More by this author:
- Pro-U.F.T. groups hit Wolfson for his past union work, Wolfson hits union supplicants
- Weiner shares Ray Kelly's take on N.S.A. surveillance