His critics wasted no time in assailing President Barack Obama’s poor choice of words in labeling last month’s deaths of four Americans at a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya as “not optimal” during a Thursday appearance on “The Daily Show.”
Host Jon Stewart was questioning the president about the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, as well as the administration’s bungled responses to the terrorist act.
Obama told Stewart that “four Americans getting killed… is not optimal,” and pushed back on the idea that there was any confusion over the cause of the attacks.
Stewart had initially contended that the way the administration handled the issue was “not the optimal response.”
Obama promised that he would take whatever steps he can to deal with the situation, saying that when “something screws up and you make sure you find out what’s broken and you fix it.”
Sen. John McCain and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire) quickly criticized Obama‘s choice or verbiage in describing the tragic deaths of the four Americans.
“Well, even from someone like the President, who has never known what these kinds of tragedies are about,” said McCain, who had survived several years as a POW following his capture in North Vietnam in 1967, “the service and sacrifice that people make, it’s still just — You know, I can’t even get angry. It’s just so inappropriate. I’m sure that families of those brave Americans are not amused.”
Van Susteren then asked Ayotte to weigh in, characterizing the Obama administration’s actions regarding Libya as being “for lack of a better word, weird.”
Ayotte agreed that it was all “astounding.”
Stewart had also challenged the president on the differences in statements between himself, the administration, and the State Department, suggesting there may have been some confusion. Obama said that at no point was he “confused” about what the right course of action was, insisting the public statements being made were all based on what intelligence they knew at the time.
“When a tragic event like this happens on the other side of the world, immediately a whole bunch of intelligence starts coming in and you try to piece together exactly what happens,” he said. “And what have always tried to do is just get all the facts figure out what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again and we’re still in that process now. But every piece of information that we got as we got it, we laid it out for the American people, and the picture eventually gets fully filled in and we know how to prevent it in the future.”
Obama also admitted in the interview that he still aims to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and ideally wants to “put a legal architecture in place” as well as “congressional help” to reign in the power of the president.