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Obama's new campaign challenge: Libya

1:40 PM, Oct 14, 2012   |    comments
A man walks past the closed U.S. Consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. (Photo: Abdullah Doma, AFP/Getty Images)
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by David Jackson, USA TODAY
Mitt Romney's aides are making it clear they will continue to press President Obama over exactly what happened before the death of the U.S. ambassador in Libya - and after.

"You have to get honest answers and accurate answers in response to the
questions," said Romney senior adviser Ed Gillespie on Fox News Sunday. "And what we have seen is a constantly shifting story from this administration, from various parts of the administration."

One issue, he said: Vice President Biden's comment last week that "we did not know" about requests for more security at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, even after State Department officials testified about those requests.

Romney, Gillespie and other campaign officials also ask why administration officials initially attributed the Sept. 11 attack to a protest over an anti-Islam film, then later said it was a pre-planned terrorist attack, and that there never was any protest.

Senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod, also on Fox, said Biden was "talking about what the White House knew" regarding security requests, which come through the State Department.

As for the shifting stories -- which officials said changed as the evidence changed - Axelrod said: "There is nobody in this planet who is more concerned and more interested in getting to the bottom of this than the president of the United States. He feels personal responsibility for every representative he sends around the world."

Axelrod also said Romney is campaigning and "working hard to exploit" the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others in Libya.

He cited the comments of the ambassador's father, Jan Stevens, who told Bloomberg News that "it would really be abhorrent to make this into a campaign issue," and that the matter is under investigation.

"We don't pretend to be experts in security. It has to be objectively examined," the elder Stevens told Bloomberg. "That's where it belongs. It does not belong in the campaign arena."

Said Axelrod: "I think we ought to follow the lead of the ambassador's family."

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a Romney supporter, told ABC's This Week that Libya is not a campaign issue - it's an issue, period, and Americans deserve answers.

"Folks want to know two things. Why wasn't the security there?" Portman said. "And why did the administration try so hard to create, you know, the wrong image as to what happened?"

USA TODAY

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