WASHINGTON -- The Obama campaign faced yet another tough morning of questioning Sunday over last month's attacks on the U.S. consulate in Libya, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Much of the handwringing focused on Vice President Joe Biden's eyebrow-raising statement during Thursday night's debate, where he seemed to deny that the Obama administration was aware of requests for additional security in Benghazi.
"We weren't told they wanted more security there," Biden said. "We did not know they wanted more security again."
The claim contradicted testimony from State Department officials a day earlier, saying they made repeated requests for 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,” David Axelrod, senior adviser to the Obama campaign, said on "Fox News Sunday."
Axelrod then argued that Mitt Romney has politicized the issue and is now trying to “exploit” the tragedy for his own gain.
“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."
The Republican presidential nominee has slammed the Obama campaign in recent days over accusations that he is using Libya to score political points, arguing instead that the president is not treating the crisis as a “serious issue.”
Axelrod refuted that charge Sunday, insisting that the president has pledged to bring the attackers to justice.
“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," Axelrod said. “He feels personally responsibility for every representative he sends around the world.”
“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 added.
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, appearing on ABC's "This Week," insisted that during the debate, his father was referring only to himself and President Barack Obama, whom the administration has maintained were not informed of the need for additional security at the consulate.
Biden hit back against criticism of the Obama administration’s response to the attacks, calling it “especially outrageous” for GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan to politicize the issue when he proposed cutting up to $300 million from U.S. embassy security in his budget plan. (A senior State Department official testified that budgetary concerns played no role in the decision not to enhance security in Benghazi.)
“You know, I've served with and know and have personal friends who in the Foreign Service as we speak," Biden said Sunday. "And the idea that Romney and Ryan are suggesting that the president of the United States doesn't take seriously the security of our diplomats and Foreign Service officers around the world, I find absolutely outrageous, especially outrageous coming from the congressman, who in his budget proposed to cut diplomatic security by $200 million to $300 million.”
Biden’s dig at Ryan’s budget plan echoed a similar claim made by his father during the vice-presidential debate.
“The congressman here cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million below what we asked for,” Joe Biden said Thursday. “So much for the embassy security piece.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney also took a thinly veiled shot at Ryan’s budget when fielding questions on Libya Friday.
"What is the case is that the president sets his priorities in his budgets, and the president has set levels of funding for diplomatic security in his budgets that have been routinely slashed by Republicans, especially in the House," Carney said during his daily briefing. "So I find it rich that charges are made about concern over diplomatic security by those who routinely slash funding for diplomatic security in order to pay for tax cuts.”