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With a Tragedy in Libya, a Veer Back Toward Foreign Policy

Fingers are pointed on the campaign trail as lawmakers call for a probe of al-Qaeda links to the murder of the U.S. ambassador.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

September 12, 2012 - 3:50 pm
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Obama taped an interview for 60 Minutes later in the day in which he said the incident highlighted that “Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later.”

“The situation in Cairo was one in which an embassy that is being threatened by major protests releases a press release saying that the film that had disturbed so many Muslims around the world wasn’t representative of what Americans believe about Islam, in an effort to cool the situation down. It didn’t come from me, it didn’t come from Secretary Clinton; it came from folks on the ground who are potentially in danger,” Obama said in the interview, as read to reporters by White House press secretary Jay Carney at the daily briefing. “And my tendency is to cut folks a little bit of slack when they’re in that circumstance, rather than try to question their judgment from the comfort of a campaign office.”

“At a time of national grief, it is distasteful and undignified to hear a candidate for the White House criticizing President Obama and the actions of diplomats as hostile crowds threaten our embassy,” Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) lashed out in a statement.

The barbs were just as sharp from the right. “This administration has no concept of the Arab Spring,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Fox News. “They’re disengaging and the lack of leadership is about to lead to an explosion in the Middle East.”

“The fact that the host countries have mildly reacted to the attacks of the past 48 hours makes it abundantly clear that this administration’s support for their rise to power is another example of a failure in policy,” said Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.).

Some weren’t eager to play political football, though. “Both the President and Gov. Romney were right in condemning these outrageous attacks on our citizens and our embassies,” tweeted Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).

Sens. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.), ranking members on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced a resolution commending the bravery of the State Department officers and condemning “in the strongest possible terms, the despicable attacks on American diplomats and public servants in Benghazi” and calling “for the perpetrators of such attacks to be brought to justice.”

Obama later called Afghan President Hamid Karzai and discussed the Benghazi attack, “and the presidents discussed the importance of working together to help ensure that the circumstances that led to the violence in Libya and Egypt do not pose a threat to U.S. forces or Afghans,” according to a readout from the White House.

The United Nations Security Council also issued a statement condemning both attacks and “underlined the need to bring perpetrators of these acts to justice” and “reaffirmed that such acts are unjustifiable regardless of their motivations, whenever and by whomsoever committed.”

As reports unfolded that the Libyan attack may have been pre-planned, with the protest as a potential diversion to draw out the ambassador, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) mused about links between the envoy’s slaying and al-Qaeda.

“These murders have the markings of revenge by al Qaeda for the death of the number two leader of the terrorist group, Abu Yahya al-Libi. The Associated Press has reported that the killing in June of al-Libi was the biggest setback to al-Qaeda since the death of Osama Bin Laden,” said Nelson, a member of the Intelligence Committee.

“In light of Monday night’s Internet-video statement by the head of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who urged Libyans to attack Americans to avenge the recent death of al-Libi, I am asking my colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee to immediately investigate what role al Qaeda or its affiliates may have played in the attacks in Libya and Egypt, and to urge appropriate action,” he said. “For the safety of the remaining Americans, we need to secure our embassies in North Africa and around the world – and to stop terrorist-inspired mobs from doing evil deeds.”

“Since these events occurred on September 11th, I call on the Obama administration to investigate what happened and whether these attacks were coordinated,” said Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho). “I appreciate the statements made by the Libyan government concerning these acts and urge them to follow through on pursuing these perpetrators.”

“The perpetrators of this senseless attack must be brought to justice,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). “I, therefore, demand that until the Libyan police hand over suspects to U.S officials, any U.S. foreign aid to the government of Libya be contingent on their full support in this matter.”

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Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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