On “The Daily Show” on Thursday, host Jon Stewart grilled United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice about the Obama administration’s response to the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last year.
He began by asking about the explanation she provided for the attacks during appearances on Sunday political talk shows just days after the incident. “I shared the best information that our intelligence community had at the time, and they provided the talking points that I used. And they were wrong in one respect, we learned subsequently, and that is that there wasn’t in fact a protest,” Rice said.
Stewart pressed her to explain why there was so much back-and-forth between government agencies and why no one seemed to have the straight story.
“There’s always confusion when you have a tragedy of that sort,” she said. “The bigger tragedy is that we’ve spent all of these months trying to figure out the origin of some talking points, which were cleared at the highest levels of the intelligence community, and in my opinion not enough time doing the service that we owe to our fallen colleagues.”
Agreeing with Rice’s assertion, Stewart asked why there seemed to be more effort put into ironing out talking points rather than preventing the attack in the first place. As he put it, “Why is there a bureaucratic system in place that is so tenacious with the explanation, yet seemingly abdicates a little bit of responsibility for the initial thing?”
Rice responded, rather indirectly, that the administration had convened an accountability review board and were implementing its recommendations. “That’s what we ought to be focusing on, we ought to be focusing on what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how we get it right,” she said.
Not entirely satisfied with Rice’s answer, Stewart pressed her: “Do you think the bureaucracy is more tenacious and detail-oriented when it comes to the political aspects of their job and less efficacious when it comes to some of the more brass nuts and bolts thing?”
“Folks were doing their very best with what they had,” she replied.
Stewart closed the interview by offering Rice the opportunity to say one thing to “those who still believe there is a secret under this and are pushing for it and are holding things up,” even encouraging her to “talk like a sailor.”
While she passed on that opportunity, she did end with a clear message. “They’re dead wrong. They are in fact doing a disservice to those we lost.”
You can watch the extended interview via “The Daily Show” website.