TODAY   |  November 15, 2012

McCain on Benghazi: ‘Cover-up or incompetence’

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) discusses the Obama administration’s handling of the aftermath of the Benghazi attack, accusing the president of “either a cover-up or incompetence.” McCain also vowed to block any nomination of UN Ambassador Susan Rice for secretary of state to replace Hillary Clinton.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> mccain joins us now. senator, nice to see you, good morning.

>> thank you, matt.

>> i'll talk about ambassador rice in a moment, let me ask you about general petraeus and his testimony before the house intelligence committee tomorrow. what is the most important question you want the general to answer?

>> why we were not prepared for this attack where there was ample evidence that because of previous attacks and overwhelming intelligence information that attacks were very likely on our consulate. there'd been two previously in april and june. on august 15th , they sent back a message that in the case of a concerted attack, they could not defend the consulate. it was an overwhelming amount of evidence that there was great danger. and there was no measures taken to comply with the possibility of an attack.

>> we know now it was a terror attack , but the question that still has to be answered is when did we know that? who knew it? and did they respond appropriately? do you feel that in these hearings you will get any concrete evidence that would point to a cover-up? a deliberate cover-up on the part of the administration when it comes to that?

>> we need to find out, but already we know that the president of the united states and his second debate with mitt romney claimed that he had called it a terrorist attack in the rose garden . we know now he did not, unfortunately after the election and on 60 minutes that same day he said, quote, it's too early to know exactly how this came about what group was involved. he even talked to the united nations on september 25th saying the crude and disgusting video sparked outrage to the muslim world . we all knew by september 25th , i'd say with respect to the president. by the way, i'm not taking anybody on. the american people have lost four brave americans . we owe it to their families, we owe it to other americans who served.

>> well, you are taking someone on, senator. you've come out and said i will do everything in my power to block ambassador rice from being united states secretary of state . she's proven either she doesn't understand or she's not willing to accept evidence on its face. all i'm asking is why make a bold comment like that before these hearings on benghazi had been carried out? might you not learn something over the next day or so that might open your eyes and change your opinion?

>> i learned something the day that it happened. i know that people don't come to spontaneous demonstrations with rockets and mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and heavy weapons . i knew that at the time. in fact, i was on "face the nation" and said that at the time. and for the president of the united states for two weeks afterwards to deny that was the case is either a cover-up or it is incompetence. either one of the two.

>> let me ask your comments on comparisons that liberal advocates were makes. they said in 2005 when you supported the nomination of condoleezza rice for secretary of state, she had made that comment that when it came to iraq 's weapons of mass destruction , the smoking gun might be a mushroom cloud . as we now know that iraq did not have stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction . but she was commenting based on the information she had at the time. you said opponents of condoleezza rice were expressing sour grapes after an election loss. why is this different?

>> because every intelligence agency in the world, including the british believe that iraq had weapons of mass destruction . that was an entirely different situation. look, i've taken on my own administration. whether it be the failure in iraq when i advocated for a surge, whether it be going after torture and saying that we have to stop it against my own administration and my own president from my own party. i take on things because when i believe they're wrong. four americans died that didn't have to die. and for someone to go out and convey something that is absolutely false to all america in my view that is irresponsibility. by the way, i share the president's praise of general petraeus for his service to the country.

>> really quickly, if you don't mind, when he sits before the senate and house intelligence committees, this other issue in his life, this affair and possible confidential or classified information , are there any questions that are inappropriate and off limits?

>> i don't think so, but i want to know what happened in benghazi. i'm worried about why four americans died. i worry why the president of the united states would say in a debate to 80 million americans that he had said that it was a terrorist attack when he didn't. in fact, that same day he said he didn't know. i think the president of the united states has a lot to answer for.

>> we'll hear more about this. senator, nice of you to share your time with us this morning. i always appreciate it.

>> thank you very much, matt.