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Sen. John McCain On Benghazi: ‘There’s Two Movies Been Made About Getting Bin Laden’

During a wide-ranging interview with This Week fill-in host Martha Raddatz, Senator John McCain made, arguably, the most revealing statement about Republican outrage over the September 11 attacks on U.S. diplomatic personnel in Benghazi, Libya that claimed the lives of four Americans. Asked what the recent hearings were supposed to accomplish, given that many of the questions surrounding the attack have already been answered, Sen. McCain complained “What did the President do during this period of time?  There’s two movies been made about getting bin Laden with every tick-tock of every minute.  We still don’t know what the President was doing.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent her Wednesday this week fending off attacks from Republican lawmakers, including Sen. McCain, but to many outside observers, the focus of the Benghazi hearings appeared to be political grandstanding, and political payback against President Obama, via proxy. On Sunday morning’s This Week, Martha Raddatz zeroed in on the phenomenon.

“What were you really trying to accomplish in that?” Raddadtz asked, adding, “You knew a lot of the answers. All the senators knew a lot of the answers because of the Accountability Review Board. So what were you looking for there?”

Sen. McCain responded that “we don’t know a lot of the answers,” and gave several examples.

“We don’t know why the president and the secretary of state ignored the warnings,” Sen. McCain began.

According to the Accountability Review Board, “The Board found that intelligence provided no immediate, specific tactical warning of the September 11 attacks. Known gaps existed in the intelligence community’s understanding of extremist militias in Libya and the potential threat they posed to U.S. interests, although some threats were known to exist.”

“Why didn’t the secretary of state, who said she was, quote, “clear-eyed” about it, not see the — the cable that came on August 15th that said the consulate cannot stand a sustained attack on the consulate?” Sen. McCain continued.

According to the Accountability Review Board, “Communication, cooperation, and coordination among Washington, Tripoli, and Benghazi functioned collegially at the working-level but were constrained by a lack of transparency, responsiveness, and leadership at the senior levels. Among various Department bureaus and personnel in the field, there appeared to be very real confusion over who, ultimately, was responsible and empowered to make decisions based on both policy and security considerations.”

“Why wasn’t Department of Defense assets there? Seven hours that went on?” Sen. McCain asked.

According to the Accountability Review Board, “The Board determined that U.S. personnel on the ground in Benghazi performed with courage and readiness to risk their lives to protect their colleagues, in a near impossible situation. The Board members believe every possible effort was made to rescue and recover Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith.”

“The interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there simply was not enough time for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference.”

Raddatz pointed out that many of these questions, indeed, were answered already, to which Sen. McCain replied “Not satisfactorily.”

What would satisfy Sen. McCain?

“There’s two movies been made about getting bin Laden with every tick-tock of every minute,” Sen. McCain said. “We still don’t know what the President was doing.”

There are legitimate questions to be asked about the attacks in Benghazi, but Sen. McCain’s remark demonstrates that Republican outrage is less about getting a clear picture of the security situation in Libya, and more about replacing this picture in the public’s mind.

Here’s the clip, from ABC News’ This Week with George Stephanopoulos:


Transcript via ABC News “This Week with George Stephanopoulos”:

RADDATZ: I want to move to Benghazi, obviously, the hearings this week. Some very contentious part of those hearings. What were you really trying to accomplish in that? You knew a lot of the answers. All the senators knew a lot of the answers because of the Accountability Review Board. So what were you looking for there?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, we don’t know a lot of the answers. We don’t know why the president and the secretary of state ignored the warnings. Why didn’t the secretary of state, who said she was, quote, “clear-eyed” about it, not see the — the cable that came on August 15th that said the consulate cannot stand a sustained attack on the consulate? Why wasn’t Department of Defense assets there? Seven hours that went on? Two of these people who were killed…

RADDATZ: Some of those questions were answered in the…

MCCAIN: What’s that?

RADDATZ: Some of the questions have come out of the Pentagon and have been answered about why it took so long.

MCCAIN: Actually — actually, not satisfactorily.

RADDATZ: How do you think — how do you…

MCCAIN: Why in the world, on September 11th of all days, with all these warnings, didn’t we have assets there for seven hours to — there are so many questions that — that are unanswered.

RADDATZ: So this is not over in your mind at all? Not over?

MCCAIN: What did the president do during this period of time? There’s two movies been made about getting bin Laden with every tick-tock of every minute. We still don’t know what the president was doing.

But more importantly, Martha…

RADDATZ: Did Secretary…

MCCAIN: More importantly than that — very quickly — is what’s happening all over North Africa? What’s happening in the Middle East? Things are deteriorating in a rapid fashion, and it’s because of a lack of American leadership.

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