Republican Senator John McCain laid into President Barack Obama during a heated speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, slamming the administration’s response to the Sept. 11 attacks on U.S. diplomatic personnel in Libya. Calling for the creation of a select committee to investigate the attacks, McCain said that the Senate needs to examine why the U.S. failed to prevent the attacks or stop the assault from escalating after protests began at the consulate in Benghazi. Four members of the U.S. diplomatic corps, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, died in the attacks.
“Four brave Americans died,” McCain said. “It has now been eight weeks, the American people have received nothing but contradictory statements.”
“This President and this administration is either guilty of colossal incompetence or is participating in a cover-up, neither of which is acceptable to the American people.”
McCain’s renewed calls for an investigation into the Benghazi attacks comes as Republicans gear up for a confirmation battle over Susan Rice, the United Nations ambassador who is rumoured to be on the shortlist to replace Hillary Clinton as Obama’s Secretary of State. McCain, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), have all pledged to block Rice’s confirmation.
In his press conference Wednesday, Obama defended Rice, and suggested that he is willing to go to battle over Rice if he wants her.
“If Senator McCain and Senator Graham want to go after somebody they should go after me,” he says. “And I am happy to have that discussion. “When they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me.”
Graham immediately fired back:
“Mr. President, don’t think for one minute I don’t hold you ultimately responsible for Benghazi,” he said in a statement emailed to reporters immediately after the attack. “I think you failed as Commander in Chief before, during, and after the attack.”
“We owe it to the American people and the victims of this attack to have full, fair hearings and accountability be assigned where appropriate. Given what I know now, I have no intention of promoting anyone who is up to their eyeballs in the Benghazi debacle.”
McCain also responded to Obama’s comments about Rice, saying that “if the president thinks we are picking on people, he really doesn’t understand how serious this issue is.”
“If someone carried a message to the American people that had no basis in facts, then that person needs to be held responsible,” he added.
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