Regarding the lack of immediate response in the Benghazi attack, she also pointed to a lack of engagement in security after Moammar Gadhafi fell from power. Afraid that this could happen again in places such as Syria, Ayotte warned that it is essential for the administration to maintain security engagement even after the revolution is over.
She maintained, as McCain and Graham have as well, that there were plenty of indicators that Americans in Libya were in danger and should have been granted additional security if not pulled out entirely. “There was no surprise. The British and Red Cross teams had already pulled out after attacks on their teams. The security levels were diminishing and the indicators were all there,” Ayotte argued.
“I am deeply, deeply troubled,” she added.
There were specific signs Ayotte thought the administration should have been quick to respond to. She cited statements from late high-ranking al-Qaeda member Abu Yahya al-Libi encouraging attacks on the U.S. in Libya, plus the facts that the attack occurred on Sept. 11 and the consulate had repeatedly sent requests for increased security.
As a prosecutor of those accused of murder, Ayotte feels particularly strong about bringing justice in this situation as well as taking lessons and learning from the attack.
She expressed frustration with the Accountability Review Board, the State Department group charged with investigating security overseas that just released its report. “They will not fully engage in inter-agency discussions. They will not answer the questions my colleagues and I repeatedly send them,” she said.
Beyond Libya, Ayotte stressed the strategic importance of Syria and President Bashar al-Assad’s strong ties to Iran.
“What we do in Syria is very important in relation to what we are trying to accomplish in Iran,” said Sen. Ayotte.
She supports arming the rebels and possibly a no-fly zone.
In the midst of fiscal cliff negotiations, the defense budget has come under some scrutiny and is facing massive sequestration cuts. Ayotte was quick to point out our defense spending is not at the highest percentage it has ever been. Also given the amount of threats the U.S. currently faces she does not think the defense budget should be on the cutting table.
“The Department of Defense should not take a bullet for us to be able to afford healthcare costs. However, we are $16 trillion in debt so cutting money anywhere is our priority,” argued Ayotte.
There were rumors when Romney went to campaign with Ayotte in New Hampshire that he was putting her name on the short-list as a potential vice-presidential candidate.
Recently at New Hampshire’s Saint Anselm College, Ayotte said her daughter had dreams of becoming the first female president. Later, New Hampshire Public Radio asked Ayotte about her own presidential aspirations.
“I think I’ll be campaigning for Kate Daley, my daughter, for president — that’s it,” she said.