Sen. Udall: Libya a ‘legitimate issue,’ but GOP politicized probe

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said that last month’s attack in Libya had been politicized, and said officials and candidates should come together like they did after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Udall, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” said that “any impartial observer” would say that the response to the assault that left four Americans dead at the consulate in Benghazi had been politicized.

“It is a legitimate issue,” Udall said. “But every story leads to political commentary and trying to point fingers. After 9/11, we came together. There were a lot of questions that had to be answered. Let’s operate in that same spirit.” 

The Colorado Democrat also said he thought Mitt Romney, the GOP nominee, would agree with his assessment.

Romney and congressional Republicans have criticized the administration’s handling of the attacks, arguing that officials waited too long to characterize them as a terrorist attack and questioning if security at the compound had been downgraded prior to the assault. 

Romney, though, also faced controversy for his initial criticism of the administration response, when he suggested that the White House’s first reaction was to “sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

Romney’s statement  was based on a message from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo not approved by Washington and made before he learned that four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, had died.

“Gov. Romney himself realizes that his actions and his reaction was unbecoming for a potential commander-in-chief,” Udall said on Sunday.

But Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a key Romney surrogate, said GOP questions about the administration’s handling of the attack were not about politics, but instead the “shocking breakdown” of security in Benghazi.

In the immediate aftermath, administration officials said the Benghazi attack was sparked by spontaneous anger over an anti-Islam video, later acknowledging that the attack was planned and carried out by armed militants.

The White House has said their statements were based on the intelligence available at that time.

Portman said questions also remained about whether Obama had ordered a directive to ensure all measures were taken to protect Americans’ safety in Benghazi.

“It shows a lack of leadership, and it shows a policy in disarray,” Portman said. “And I think it’s perfectly appropriate to ask these questions.”