President Obama's senior campaign adviser David Axelrod on Sunday defended the administration's handling of the consulate attack in Libya, accusing Mitt Romney of trying to “exploit” the issue.
Axelrod echoed White House claims that Obama and Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden: Democrats' spending plan is 'a bigger darn deal' than Obamacare Biden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Biden: Comment that DOJ should prosecute those who defy subpoenas 'not appropriate' MORE were unaware of requests for more security in Libya, where U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed last month at the consulate in Benghazi.
Biden said at last week's debate that the White House wasn't told the diplomats needed more security.
“There is no doubt that some of these matters went into . . . the security agency at the State Department, but it didn’t come to the White House and that is what the vice president was responding to,” Axelrod said on Fox News Sunday.
Asked if Obama takes “personal responsibility” for the level of security at the facility in Benghazi that may have contributed to the Americans’ deaths, he replied: “At the topline level, the president of the United States is responsible for everything that happens on his watch. These were judgments that were made by the security folks at the State Department and of course we are going to review that whole process,” he said.
The White House has been under fire from Republicans over Biden’s claim at last week’s vice presidential debate. “We weren’t told they wanted more security. We did not know they wanted more security there,” Biden said.
Biden's comments though seemed to differ from testimony from State Department officials to a House panel last week claiming they had requested additional security.
"The vice president directly contradicted the sworn testimony of State Department officials," Romney said at a rally in Richmond, Va. on Friday. "He's doubling down on denial, and we need to understand exactly what happened instead of just brush things aside."
The White House says there is no discrepancy between Biden's remarks and the testimony of State Department officials and that the requests for security did not make it up the chain to the top of the administration.
Republicans and the Romney campaign have seized on the deaths in Libya, saying that it underscores that the U.S faces a more dangerous world and that Obama has underplayed the threat to the U.S. from the Arab Spring.
“There is no doubt that he is working hard to exploit this issue,” Axelrod said. "From the beginning of this issue, before any facts were known, he was cravenly trying to exploit it."
Axelrod said Obama is committed to investigating the matter.
“There is nobody on this planet who is more concerned and more interested in getting to the bottom of this than the President of the United States. He feels personally responsibility for every representative he sends around the world,” he said.
“The first order of business is to bring to justice those who committed this heinous act and secondly find out what went wrong and what adjustments need to be made to further secure our diplomats around the world,” he said.