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Obama denies confusion in Benghazi response on 'Daily Show'

October 18, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • President Obama talks with Jon Stewart during a taping of his appearance on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" in New York.
President Obama talks with Jon Stewart during a taping of his appearance… (Carolyn Kaster / Associated…)

NEW YORK – President Obama rejected the idea that there was “confusion” in his administration’s handling of the attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi while nonetheless vowing to “fix” elements of the response that went wrong.

Obama’s latest comments came Thursday in, of all places, an interview with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s news satire show, “The Daily Show.”

Stewart asked the president whether his administration’s investigation of the Sept. 11 attack that resulted in the deaths of four Americans would include working to improve communication within the administration. He pointed to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s comments in interviews the week after the attack suggesting it was the result of spontaneous demonstrations from an anti-Muslim video, when intelligence officials would describe it as a terrorist act.

“Even you would admit, it was not the optimal response, at least to the American people, as far as all of us being on the same page,” Stewart asked in the interview taped Thursday afternoon at his New York studio.

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"Here’s what I’ll say. If four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal. We’re going to fix it. All of it,” Obama said. “What happens, during the course of a presidency, is that the government is a big operation and any given time something screws up. And you make sure that you find out what’s broken and you fix it.”

The attack was a flashpoint in Tuesday’s presidential debate, when Mitt Romney suggested that there may have been “some misleading” on the part of the Obama administration about the nature of the raid, which the president rejected.

Stewart asked about why there seemed to be confusion in the administration’s response.

“We weren’t confused about the fact that four Americans had been killed. I wasn’t confused about the fact that we needed to ramp up diplomatic security around the world right after it happened. I wasn’t confused about the fact that we had to investigate exactly what happened so it gets fixed. And I wasn’t confused about the fact that we’re going to hunt down whoever did it,” Obama said. "Every piece of information that we get, as we got it we laid it out to the American people. The picture eventually gets fully filled in."

The appearance on “The Daily Show” was Obama’s second as president, the first being just weeks before the 2010 midterm elections. Again, Obama used the forum to make a direct appeal to young voters that are the core of the show’s audience. But he also faced as many tough questions as ones meant get a laugh.

Asked if his campaign was more an affirmative case to voters about his record and plans for a second term, or a negative case against his Republican opponent, Obama said he had “a strong case on both ends.”

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“Part of the president’s job is not only moving forward on things that will work but also preventing things that won’t work,” he said. “When you think about it, it is two sides of the same coin. The question is what kind of vision do you have for this country. What I’ve been fighting for for the last four years, what I intend to fight for for the next four years, is an economy that is based on the free market, rewards individual initiative, rewards people who are starting a business, taking risks, but that also says there are some things we do better together.”

Stewart began the interview by showing Obama two photos taken after the first two debates, one showing the president and first lady stern-faced and seemingly dejected, the other showing a smiling Michelle Obama greeting her husband.

“Do you know which debate was which?” Stewart asked.

“Cute. Cute, Jon,” Obama said, admitting again that his “presentation was not the way it needed to be” in the first debate.

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michael.memoli@latimes.com

Twitter: @mikememoli

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