CBS "Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer" - Transcript

Interview

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: Oct. 14, 2012
Location: Unknown

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BOB SCHIEFFER: Good morning. Senator Lindsey Graham is one of the senior Republicans on the Armed Services Committee. And he has been looking into this attack. Senator, welcome to the broadcast. I know you have been investigating this.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-South Carolina/Armed Services Committee) (overlapping): Thank you.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Have you reached any conclusions on why the administration waited so long to acknowledge this was the work of terrorists?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, the facts are there was never a riot. The-- the night in question, September 11th, Ambassador Stevens was being visited by the Turkish ambassador that wasn't the sole around the compound and the coordinated attack lasted for hours with al Qaeda-associated militia. My belief is that that was known by the administration within twenty-four hours and, quite frankly, Susan Rice, on your show on September 16th, the President on the 18th and the 25th, kept talking about an attack inspired by a video. They're trying to sell a narrative, quite frankly, that the Mid East, the wars are receding and al Qaeda has been dismantled, and to admit that our embassy was attacked by al Qaeda operatives and Libya leading from behind didn't work I think undercuts that narrative. They never believed that media would investigate. Congress was out of session, and this caught up with them. I think they've been misleading us, but it finally caught up with them.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, that is a very serious charge that you've just leveled, Senator Graham.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Mm-Hm.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Are you saying that the administration deliberately misled the American people to make it look as if terrorism is-- is not as much of a threat as apparently it is?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Either they're misleading the American people or incredibly incompetent. There was no way with anybody looking at all that you could believe five days after the attack it was based on a riot that never occurred. There was no-- no riot at all. So, to say that, you're either very incompetent or you're misleading. This is the same administration that leaks every detail of classified operations that are successful. Within a week you had three stories about cyber attacks against the Iranian nuclear program, about disrupting the underwear bomber case, about every detail of bin Laden, all over The New York Times, all over the press, showing how strong and effective this administration was. So, yes, they're very political when it comes to foreign policy.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: When something goes bad, they deny, they deceive, and they delay. And the truth is we're not safer. Al Qaeda is alive. Bin Laden may be dead. Al Qaeda is alive and they're counter-attacking throughout the entire region. And the truth is that the foreign policy choices of President Obama is allowing the region to come unraveled.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Where did you get this information that led you to this conclusion? Did you talk to officials there? Did you talk to people in the CIA? Did you talk to people in the administration? How are you so convinced of-- of what you have just stated?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: The intelligence community on the ground in Libya has told Senator Corker and myself that within twenty-four hours, they communicated up to Washington that this was a terrorist attack. The president of Libya on the same date said it was a terrorist attack. The video of the compound shows that there was nobody at the Benghazi consulate. There was never a group to riot. And the evidence is overwhelming, and the idea that it was spawned by a- a video and a riot would be-- hold the administration blameless. They said it was a copycat of Cairo. It wasn't a copycat. It was a sustained attack that lasted for six or eight hours, using heavy weapons which undercuts the idea that al-- al Qaeda has been dismantled and on the run and it certainly undercuts the idea that our policy choices in Libya have not going after the militia, not helping the Libyans training the national army were good choices.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, just to help people understand this, I want to play a part of what Susan Rice, the U.N. Ambassador, said on our broadcast five days after the attack and immediately after the president of Libya said--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Mm-Hm.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --that this was a work of terrorists. They-- here-- here's what she said.

SUSAN RICE (FACE THE NATION): We did not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So, again, what about this, Senator Graham? I mean do you-- I mean should there be questions now to Susan Rice? I mean--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, it's not just Susan Rice. The President of the United States said that it was the result of a video on David Letterman two days later. And the facts are very clear. There was never a riot. There was never a group of people around the embassy. It was a coordinated terrorist attack that took hours. Patrick Kennedy from the State Department briefed congressional staffers the day after the attack saying it was a terrorist attack. The next day after she was on your show, the-- the counterterrorism deputy said it was a terrorist attack and the President after that went on national TV The View and David Letterman talking about we're not sure if this was inspired by a video, a hateful video. The reason they're trying to sell this, if it is true it was an al Qaeda-inspired attack that was coordinated involving heavy weapons that lasted six-to-eight hours and our embassy consulate was so exposed and they had denied numerous requests to reinforce it, is Exhibit A of a failed foreign policy. I have seen this movie before. I went to Iraq in 2004 and everybody told me things are going fine. This is just a few dead-enders. Iraq was falling apart and you couldn't get the truth from the Bush administration. The Mid East is falling apart, and they're trying to spin what happened in Libya because the truth of the matter is al Qaeda is alive and well and counter-attacking.

Iraq, they have been doubling of al Qaeda operatives in Iraq since we left, twenty-five hundred. Iran is flying over Iraqi air space to deliver weapons to Syria. Syria's becoming thirty thousand people dead and foreign fighters moving into Syria. The Iranians have quadrupled the amount of enriched uranium they have to build bombs, as the Obama administration talks to them. This whole region is about to explode, al Qaeda is on the march. Northern Mali is now under the control of radical Islamists that make the Taliban look like choir boys. So they're trying to sell something, (INDISTINCT) the facts on the ground will not justify. When John Kerry said at the Democratic National Convention ask bin Laden is he better off. They're trying to spike the ball after killing bin Laden create a false narrative about the true state of al Qaeda and it all caught up with them in Libya.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right, Senator Graham, I want to thank you for some very sobering words this morning. Thank you very much.

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