NEW YORK — On his way in to headline Monday night’s gala gathering for Mitt Romney’s top donors, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani threw an opening punch on the Republican nominee’s behalf before Tuesday’s debate — calling the Obama administration’s evolving explanations on the terrorist attack in Libya “a scandal” and framing the president’s record as one of “provocative weakness.”
Giuliani arrived at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum for Monday night’s gala a few minutes after CNN aired an interview with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who told the network that “I take responsibility” for the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Clinton, who spoke to CNN’s Elise Labott as she arrived in Peru, stressed that President Obama was not involved in security decisions and said she wanted to “avoid some kind of political 'gotcha'” so close to the November election.
She also rejected Republican accusations that the administration had downplayed the incident — by initially stating that the attack appeared to be a reaction to an anti-Islamic online video before eventually saying it was an act of terrorism. She noted that there was “confusion” as State Department officials tried to determine what happened in the midst of a “long, intense ordeal.”
Giuliani did not directly respond to Clinton’s remarks, but he foreshadowed Romney’s expected line of attack against President Obama at their debate in Hempstead, NY. He attributed the sudden tightening of the race after the first debate to the stark contrast between Romney's “pro-growth policies” and the approach of Obama, “who’s been a failure.”
“You look at the disaster in Libya, you look at all the contradictory stories of this administration,” Giuliani said as he stopped to talk to reporters for a moment in steady rain outside the Intrepid museum. “This is a scandal. It’s not, unfortunately, being uniformly covered that way. But all of their misrepresentation about what happened in Libya is astounding. And it betrays a policy of provocative weakness on the part of President Obama.”
Giuliani advised Romney to explain to the American people during the debate how he would have handled the situation in Libya differently: “That he will, from the very moment of something like this – as a policy I followed on Sept 11 — tell the truth to the American people.”
He argued that the Obama administration had given “10 days of what appeared to be total misrepresentations” – an allegation that Obama aides have uniformly rejected, noting that there were conflicting intelligence reports in the midst of a rapidly evolving situation.
“It creates a situation where America looks weak; it creates a situation where the American people don’t have confidence. And it emboldens our enemies when they see that we’re not able to face reality,” Giuliani said. “I would advise anyone in that position, you’ve got to be truthful from the very, very beginning. You can’t participate in all of these cover-ups, all of these misrepresentations. Gov. Romney is a leader by nature, and Gov. Romney understands that.”
Giuliani was one of the keynote speakers at a dinner hosted by the Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee that launched a three-day retreat for Romney’s top donors in Manhattan. About 1,000 of the campaign’s top donors are expected to partake in panels Tuesday with Romney aides at the Waldorf Astoria hotel and join a debate-watching party at the Roseland Theater.
The Romney campaign announced Monday that it had raised $170 million in September, surprisingly close to the $181 million that Obama raised over the same period. Though it came in second place, donors heading into the Intrepid museum said they were thrilled by the numbers after a particularly rough month for Romney before his strong showing in the Oct. 3 debate.
Among those touting those figures was none other than Donald Trump, another of the night’s headliners. “Big numbers. They are big numbers,” he said. “We have a great candidate. They are big numbers.”
Trump, who plans to tweet live during the debate, said he wasn’t expecting Obama to do any better than he did at the first debate, but he didn’t have any advice for Romney.
The Republican candidate, Trump said, should “just be the way he is. He’ll do fine.”