During Thursday night’s Vice-Presidential debate, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan had a particularly heated exchange over the circumstances surrounding the September 11th attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi. Ryan accused the Obama administration of failing to demonstrate “leadership” by initially blaming the incident on that Innocence of Muslims movie you may have heard about. He also suggested that White House officials had not ensured that the building was properly protected.
Biden dismissed the charges as “malarkey,” and went on to say that the administration had not been told that the Benghazi team had requested additional security. The Romney campaign seized on the statement, using it to accuse the Obama administration of contradicting State Department officials who, earlier this week, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that there had been requests to extend the tour of a 16-member military security team in Libya. (Though it’s unlikely that the team could have prevented the attack, as they were based 400 miles away in Tripoli.)
White House spokesman Jay Carney clarified Biden’s remarks in a Friday statement explaining that decisions about security in Libya were made by midlevel State Department security officials, and did not involve Hillary Clinton. “There was no actionable intelligence regarding the Benghazi facility” that could have prevented the deaths of four Americans there, he said. Carney added that saying otherwise was part of “an effort here to politicize this, to turn this into an issue in the campaign.” Later, Clinton herself told reporters, “There is nobody in the administration motivated by anything other than trying to understand what happened. We do not have all the answers. No one in this administration has ever claimed otherwise.”
Unsurprisingly, the Romney campaign was not satisfied. During a Richmond, Virginia rally on Friday, Romney said that “there are more questions [about Benghazi] that came out of last night because the vice president directly contradicted the sworn testimony of State Department officials.” He added that Obama and Biden were “doubling down on denial, and we need to understand exactly what happened.” Meanwhile, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Ryan repeated much of his language from the debate, telling supporters, “We’re talking about blame. First they blame a YouTube video and a nonexistent riot, then when the country is getting upset about it, they blame Romney-Ryan for getting people upset about it.” A vicious cycle indeed.