Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Friday that he was “a little sad” over President Obama’s comment that the four American deaths at the U.S. Consulate in Libya were “not optimal.”
“The optimal line, of course, is very regrettable and makes me a little sad,” McCain said on "Fox and Friends." “But for him to say that every piece of information they got they laid out to the American people, it’s one of the most disingenuous statements I’ve ever heard.”
The comment was given in response to a statement made by host Jon Stewart, in which Stewart himself asked the president if he agreed the White House’s communication following the event had not been “optimal.”
GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans for weeks have been lambasting the president for taking too long to qualify the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that left four Americans dead on Sept. 11 as a result of terrorism.
“You really don’t have to be a CIA analyst or a station chief to know an attack with mortars and rocket propelled grenades, lasted for eight hours, is not a spontaneous demonstration,” McCain continued. “Frankly, I could see that myself as soon the reports came in and the video came in. There’s two real aspects in this that we need to look at. One is the events leading up to the attack and the intelligence failures there. And then is either a cover-up or is gross incompetence following it.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and many senior administration officials initially blamed the assault as being sparked by anger over a U.S.-made anti-Islam video posted online. The administration later said intelligence suggested it was a planned attack.
McCain also defended Romney's attack on Obama during Tuesday's presidential debate, when the GOP nominee charged the president with not labeling the assault an act of terrorism for two weeks.
“When [Obama] talked about the terrorist attacks in the Rose Garden, clearly he was not talking about that attack,” McCain continued. “But leave that aside — why did he go on 'The View?' Why did he go on Letterman? Why did he go on these other shows saying we don’t know yet? Of course we knew, and it’s really an unacceptable situation and the American people need the information about this, and it’s clear that there’s a lot more layers to this onion.”
During Tuesday’s debate, Obama said he had called it an "act of terror" during remarks the next day in the Rose Garden.
Romney seized on the president’s answer and pressed him on it repeatedly, apparently believing he’d caught the president in a lie.
“You said in the Rose Garden, the day after the attack, it was an act of terror? It was not a spontaneous demonstration? Is that what you're saying?” Romney said. “I want to make sure we get that for the record, because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.”
"Get the transcript," Obama replied.
Moderator Candy Crowley then broke in, saying: “He did, in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terror — ”
“Can you say that a little louder, Candy?” Obama shouted.
The transcript of Obama’s remarks the day after the Libya attack shows he used the phrase "act of terror" during his remarks, although ambiguously.