GREENVILLE — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham on Monday renewed his criticism of President Barack Obamas handling of the Sept. 11 attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, saying if the administration had told the truth initially it might have affected the outcome of the 2012 election.
Mr. President, quit spinning the American people, and quit stonewalling the Congress, he said.
The attack, which killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, has been linked to al-Qaida, and emails unveiled last week show the State Department and other senior administration officials asked that references to terror groups and prior warnings be deleted from an unclassified memo on talking points about the incident shortly after the attack.
If it had been known by the American people seven weeks before the election the truth about Benghazi, I think it would have made a difference in the election, Graham told reporters at his office in Greenville.
Obama, speaking in Washington, D.C., blamed the Republicans for trying to score political points rather than figuring out how to prevent such attacks from happening again.
Asked by GreenvilleOnline.com what should be done to safeguard against other attacks at diplomatic posts, Graham said, The first thing that needs to happen is somebody needs to be fired for letting this happen. Somebody needs to be held accountable for letting our consulate become a death trap before the attack.
Somebody needs to be held accountable for not having any military assets that could come to their aid for seven and a half hours. And somebody needs to be held accountable for manipulating the American people regarding what actually happened seven weeks before the election.
He said the president should call for help when such an attack happens.
The next time that one of our consulates sends a warning back to Washington (that) we cant defend this place, they should close it or provide reinforcements, Graham said. Thats the way you protect people in the future.
Asked how Benghazi differs from attacks on consulates during the Bush administration, Graham replied, We didnt lose any ambassador during the Bush administration.
And he added, There are more attacks coming. Al-Qaida is not dead. They are alive and well. Look at Boston. Terrorism is on the rise. Al-Qaida is on the march. Youll never convince me that these two guys in Boston had no help from anywhere.
So this idea that bin Laden is dead and the war is over is, I think, a false narrative and a very dangerous narrative.
In his news conference, Obama pushed back, saying his administration officials have been forthcoming about Benghazi.
There is no there, there, he said.
IRS targeting dangerous
Graham also charged that the IRS targeting of conservative groups for scrutiny is a symptom of a culture of political manipulation within an administration that is more focused on politics than on governing.
People in the IRS tried to intimidate those who were trying to give the alternative view to the Obama narrative, and this has to stop, Graham said. This is dangerous.
Obama, in his first public remarks since the story broke last week, called the actions by agency personnel outrageous and said there is no place for it.
You dont want the IRS ever being perceived to be biased, the president said. I have no patience for it. I will not tolerate it.
Graham, who spent most of his pressnews conference talking about Benghazi, said he was glad to hear Obamas comments on the IRS scandal but said it means little unless he takes action against whoever was responsible.
Im glad to hear the president say this was wrong, he said. And again, saying its wrong doesnt mean anything if somebody is not held accountable.
He stopped short of accusing the president of being involved in thwarting tea party groups efforts to organize.
Lois Lerner, the IRS director of exempt organizations, on Friday said the agency made mistakes in the past few years and that employees in the agencys Cincinnati office routinely required conservative organizations seeking non-profit status to undergo more scrutiny.
Multiple conservative groups have said their applications were delayed and returned with lengthy requests for supporting materials, sometimes including website printouts and lists of guest speakers.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on Monday called for Obama to fire acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller.
Some Democrats, including Sen. Max Baucus, on Monday joined Republican calls for a congressional investigation of the IRS.