President Obama was actually asked at a White House news conference yesterday whether the controversies currently surrounding his administration placed him in a position to similar to disgraced former President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal. The question demonstrated how eager his enemies are to push the matters of Benghazi and the IRS investigations of the Tea Party to damage the second-term president.
But Obama was not about to sit back and take the attacks without mounting an offensive of his own. He turned the tables yesterday on Republicans who are criticizing the response to last year’s deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, by pushing for increased funding for diplomatic security.
“I want to say to members of Congress in both parties, we need to come together and truly honor the sacrifice of those four courageous Americans and better secure our diplomatic posts around the world,” Obama said at a news conference. “That’s how we learn the lessons of Benghazi.”
According to reports, the State Department is seeking about $1.4 billion for increased security — money that would come primarily from funds that haven’t been spent in Iraq.
While Republicans have been critical of the administration’s actions during the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, Democrats have pointed the finger back at Republicans, noting that they cut $300 million from the administration’s budget request of $2.6 billion for diplomatic and embassy security in 2012.
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said the money was allocated by Congress for extra security in legislation passed this spring.
“It is better management that is required now,” Buck said.
The president also said his administration is increasing intelligence and warning capabilities to better protect diplomats . He said he has directed the Pentagon to ensure that the military “can respond lightning-quick in times of crisis.”
When he was asked in the White House Rose Garden to make a Nixon-Watergate comparison, Obama was not pleased.
“I’ll let you guys engage in those comparisons,” Obama said referring to the president who resigned in disgrace in 1974. “You can go ahead and read the history, I think, and draw your own conclusions.”
To quell the controversy over Benghazi, which seemingly has been ongoing for months, the White House released more than 100 pages of emails on Wednesday that officials say demonstrate that there were no political and election-related considerations made by the White House in deciding how to explain the attacks.
The emails show that White House staff only requested minor edits, but the State Department repeatedly asked for cuts of details that could be used to criticize them.