Political Musings February 3, 2014: Obama vs Bill O’Reilly tie in tough pre-Super Bowl interview match-up

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama vs Bill O’Reilly tie in tough pre-Super Bowl interview match-up

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The 10-minute pre-Super Bowl interview between FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly and President Barack Obama on Sunday evening, Feb. 2, 2014 during a special edition of The O’Reilly Factor was even more bruising than…READ MORE

Political Headlines June 13, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Upcoming Africa Trip Comes to Cost Taxpayers Tens of Millions

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama’s Africa Trip Comes with Hefty Price Tag

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-13-13

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama’s upcoming trip to Africa will require extraordinary security measures and will likely cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, according to a confidential planning document obtained by the Washington Post….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 2, 2013: Rep. Darrell Issa Says Washington Directed IRS Targetting Out of Cincinnati

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Rep. Issa Says Washington Directed IRS Targetting Out of Cincinnati

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-2-13

The IRS agents in Cincinnati who were involved in the targeting of conservative groups were “being directly ordered from Washington,” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said on Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, as he accused the White House of lying about the involvement of IRS headquarters officials in the scandal, calling White House Press Secretary Jay Carney a “paid liar.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines May 23, 2013: IRS Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner Placed on Administrative Leave

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Lois Lerner Placed on Administrative Leave

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-23-13

Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congressional and administration sources confirm that IRS director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner has been placed on administrative leave.

Lerner came under fire this week when she chose to invoke her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself rather than testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform committee….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 17, 2013: IRS Scandal: Steven Miller Grilled at House Hearing

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

IRS Scandal: Steven Miller Grilled at House Hearing

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-17-13

ABC News

Irate lawmakers grilled Steven Miller on Friday, demanding to know who was responsible for the IRS’ targeting of Tea-Party groups, why it continued, and why no one told Congress about it.

“First and foremost, as acting commissioner I want to apologize on behalf of the IRS for the mistakes that we made and the poor service that [we] provided,” Miller told the House Ways and Means Committee in his opening statement. “Partisanship or even the perception of partisanship has no place at the IRS.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines May 16, 2013: Vowing to Sue IRS, Tea Partiers Descend on DC Hold Press Conference with Rep. Michele Bachmann

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Vowing to Sue IRS, Tea Partiers Descend on DC

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-16-13

Tea Party activists descended on Washington Thursday, promising to sue the Internal Revenue Service and claiming vindication in their long-held complaints about perceived government overreach.

At a news conference on Capitol Hill Thursday morning, activists joined Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., to lambaste the federal government for targeting them with extra scrutiny as they applied for tax-exempt status as public-advocacy groups….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 16, 2013: House Speaker John Boehner: Scandals Reveal Obama Administration’s ‘Arrogance of Power’

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Boehner: Scandals Reveal Obama Administration’s ‘Arrogance of Power’

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-16-13

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call

With a three-headed monster of controversy and scandal chasing the president this week — Benghazi, the IRS, The Justice Department’s monitoring AP —  House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that an “arrogance of power” within the Obama administration threatens to unravel the American people’s dithering confidence in government.

“Nothing dissolves the bonds between the people and their government like the arrogance of power here in Washington, and that’s what the American people are seeing today from the Obama administration — remarkable arrogance,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 16, 2013: President Barack Obama Names Danny Werfel New Acting IRS Commissioner

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Names New Acting IRS Commish

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

President Obama on Thursday appointed Office of Management and Budget official Danny Werfel to serve as acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.

Werfel, 42, replaces Steven Miller, who was asked to resign Wednesday in the wake of revelations that IRS employees inappropriately targeted conservative groups….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency May 16, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Rose Garden Press Conference Discussing the IRS & the Associated Press / Justice Department Scandals & Syria

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Joint Press Conference by President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey

Doug Mills/The New York Times
Political storm clouds gave way to a steady drizzle at a Rose Garden news conference Thursday.

Source: WH, 5-16-13

Rose Garden

12:48 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, before we get started let me just make sure that I’m a good host.  Mr. Prime Minister, do you want an umbrella?  (Laughter.)  Because we can arrange it if you need it.  You’re okay?  All right, this will be incentive for the press to ask concise questions and us to give concise answers.

I’m going to start with Julianna Goldman of Bloomberg.

Q    Unfortunately, we all forgot umbrellas.  Mr. President, I want to ask you about the IRS.  Can you assure the American people that nobody in the White House knew about the agency’s actions before your Counsel’s Office found out on April 22nd?  And when they did find out, do you think that you should have learned about it before you learned about it from news reports as you said last Friday?  And also, are you opposed to there being a special council appointed to lead the Justice Department investigation?….

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, with respect to the IRS, I spoke to this yesterday.  My main concern is fixing a problem, and we began that process yesterday by asking and accepting the resignation of the Acting Director there.  We will be putting in new leadership that will be able to make sure that — following up on the IG audit — that we gather up all the facts, that we hold accountable those who have taken these outrageous actions.  As I said last night, it is just simply unacceptable for there to even be a hint of partisanship or ideology when it comes to the application of our tax laws.

I am going to go ahead and ask folks — why don’t we get a couple of Marines, they’re going to look good next to us — (laughter) — just because I’ve got a change of suits — (laughter) — but I don’t know about our Prime Minister.  There we go.  That’s good.  You guys I’m sorry about.  (Laughter.)

But let me make sure that I answer your specific question.  I can assure you that I certainly did not know anything about the IG report before the IG report had been leaked through the press. Typically, the IG reports are not supposed to be widely distributed or shared.  They tend to be a process that everybody is trying to protect the integrity of.  But what I’m absolutely certain of is that the actions that were described in that IG report are unacceptable.

So in addition to making sure that we’ve got a new acting director there, we’re also going to make sure that we gather up the facts, and hold accountable and responsible anybody who was involved in this.  We’re going to make sure that we identify any structural or management issues to prevent something like this from happening again.  We’re going to make sure that we are accepting all of the recommendations that the IG has in the report.

And I’m looking forward to working with Congress to fully investigate what happened, make sure that it doesn’t happen again, and also look at some of the laws that create a bunch of ambiguity in which the IRS may not have enough guidance and not be clear about what exactly they need to be doing and doing it right, so that the American people have confidence that the tax laws are being applied fairly and evenly.

So in terms of the White House and reporting, I think that you’ve gotten that information from Mr. Carney and others.  I promise you this — that the minute I found out about it, then my main focus is making sure we get the thing fixed.  I think that it’s going to be sufficient for us to be working with Congress.  They’ve got a whole bunch of committees.  We’ve got IGs already there.

The IG has done an audit; it’s now my understanding they’re going to be recommending an investigation.  And Attorney General Holder also announced a criminal investigation of what happened. Between those investigations, I think we’re going to be able to figure out exactly what happened, who was involved, what went wrong, and we’re going to be able to implement steps to fix it.

And that, ultimately, is the main priority that I have, but also I think the American people have.  They understand that we’ve got an agency that has enormous potential power and is involved in everybody’s lives.  And that’s part of the reason why it’s been treated as a quasi-independent institution.  But that’s also why we’ve got to make sure that it is doing its job scrupulously and without even a hint of bias, or a hint that somehow they’re favoring one group over another.

And, as I said yesterday, I’m outraged by this in part because, look, I’m a public figure — if a future administration is starting to use the tax laws to favor one party over another or one political view over another, obviously we’re all vulnerable.  And that’s why, as I’ve said, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, you should be equally outraged at even the prospect that the IRS might not be acting with the kind of complete neutrality that we expect.

And I think we’re going to be able to fix it.  We’re going to be able to get it done, and we’ve already begun that progress and we’re going to keep on going until it’s finished.

Jeff Mason.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I’d like to ask you about the Justice Department.  Do you believe that the seizure of phone records from Associated Press journalists this week — or before that was announced recently this week was an overreach?  And do you still have full confidence in your Attorney General?  Should we interpret yesterday’s renewed interest by the White House in a media shield law as a response to that?  And, more broadly, how do you feel about comparisons by some of your critics of this week’s scandals to those that happened under the Nixon administration?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I’ll let you guys engage in those comparisons and you can go ahead and read the history I think and draw your own conclusions.

My concern is making sure that if there’s a problem in the government that we fix it.  That’s my responsibility, and that’s what we’re going to do.  That’s true with respect to the IRS and making sure that they apply the laws the way they were intended. That’s true with respect to the security of our diplomats, which is why we’re going to need to work with Congress to make sure that there’s adequate funding for what’s necessary out there.

Now, with respect to the Department of Justice, I’m not going to comment on a specific and pending case.  But I can talk broadly about the balance that we have to strike.  Leaks related to national security can put people at risk.  They can put men and women in uniform that I’ve sent into the battlefield at risk. They can put some of our intelligence officers, who are in various, dangerous situations that are easily compromised, at risk.

U.S. national security is dependent on those folks being able to operate with confidence that folks back home have their backs, so they’re not just left out there high and dry, and potentially put in even more danger than they may already be.  And so I make no apologies, and I don’t think the American people would expect me as Commander-in-Chief not to be concerned about information that might compromise their missions or might get them killed.

Now, the flip side of it is we also live in a democracy where a free press, free expression, and the open flow of information helps hold me accountable, helps hold our government accountable, and helps our democracy function.  And the whole reason I got involved in politics is because I believe so deeply in that democracy and that process.

So the whole goal of this media shield law — that was worked on and largely endorsed by folks like The Washington Post Editorial Page and by prosecutors — was finding a way to strike that balance appropriately.  And to the extent that this case, which we still don’t know all the details of — to the extent that this case has prompted renewed interest about how do we strike that balance properly, then I think now is the time for us to go ahead and revisit that legislation.  I think that’s a worthy conversation to have, and I think that’s important.

But I also think it’s important to recognize that when we express concern about leaks at a time when I’ve still got 60,000-plus troops in Afghanistan, and I’ve still got a whole bunch of intelligence officers around the world who are in risky situations — in outposts that, in some cases, are as dangerous as the outpost in Benghazi — that part of my job is to make sure that we’re protecting what they do, while still accommodating for the need for information — or the need for the public to be informed and be able to hold my office accountable.

Q    I asked about Holder as well.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Mr. Prime Minister, just excuse me — you’re right, I have complete confidence in Eric Holder as Attorney General.  He’s an outstanding Attorney General and does his job with integrity, and I expect he will continue to do so.

Q    Mr. President, my first question is to you.  You mentioned that Assad should go, and the question is how and when. Is there a rough timetable?  And shall we be talking about the Syrian tragedy next year at this time?  What’s the idea?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  We would have preferred Assad go two years ago; last year; six months ago; two months ago.  And there has been consistency on the part of my administration that Assad lost legitimacy when he started firing on his own people and killing his own people, who initially were protesting peacefully for a greater voice in their country’s affairs.  And obviously that’s escalated during the course of time.  So the answer is the sooner the better.

Now, in terms of the question how, I think we’ve already discussed that.  There’s no magic formula for dealing with a extraordinarily violent and difficult situation like Syria’s.  If there was, I think the Prime Minister and I would have already acted on it and it would already be finished.

And instead, what we have to do is apply steady international pressure, strengthen the opposition.  I do think that the prospect of talks in Geneva involving the Russians and representatives about a serious political transition that all the parties can buy into may yield results.  But in the meantime, we’re going to continue to make sure that we’re helping the opposition, and obviously dealing with the humanitarian situation.  And we’ll do so in close consultation with Turkey, which obviously is deeply invested in this and with whom we’ve got an outstanding relationship with.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:   Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.  Thank you, guys.

END
1:26 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines May 16, 2013: President Barack Obama Vows to Get Ahead of IRS, AP Scandals at Rose Garden Press Conference

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Vows to Get Ahead of IRS, AP Controversies

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-16-13

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Playing offense, President Obama on Thursday vowed to take action in response to the three controversies plaguing his administration, calling on Congress to provide additional resources to protect U.S. embassies abroad, vowing to hold accountable those who committed “outrageous actions” at the IRS, and pledging to strike a “balance” between protecting national security interests and the freedom of the press.

“My concern is making sure that if there’s a problem in the government, that we fix it,” the president said in a rainy joint Rose Garden news conference with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey, as his administration seeks to take charge in the wake of the scandals. “That’s my responsibility, and that’s what we’re going to do.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines May 15, 2013: Acting IRS Chief Steven Miller Resigns, President Barack Obama Condemns ‘Inexcusable’ Targeting of Tea Party Groups

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Acting IRS Chief Resigns, Obama Condemns ‘Inexcusable’ Targeting of Tea Party Groups

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-15-13

The White House

President Obama announced on Wednesday that the Internal Revenue Service acting commissioner Steven Miller has submitted his resignation for his agency’s “inexcusable” targeting of conservative groups who had applied for tax-exempt status.

“I reviewed the Treasury Department watchdog’s report and the misconduct that it uncovered is inexcusable,” Obama said in the East Room of the White House. “Americans have a right to be angry about it, and I’m angry about it.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines May 14, 2013: White House Dodges Queries on IRS & Justice Department Controversies

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Facing Controversies, White House Dodges Queries

Source: NYT, 5-14-13

The press secretary, Jay Carney, deflected questions about the seizure of journalists’ telephone records and allegations that the I.R.S targeted conservative groups….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 13, 2013: Phone Records of Associated Press Journalists Seized by the Justice Department

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Phone Records of Journalists Seized by U.S.

Source: NYT, 5-13-13

The Associated Press reported that the Justice Department had secretly obtained the phone records of its offices and journalists, calling it a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 13, 2013: President Barack Obama Has ‘No Patience’ for IRS’ Targeting Conservatives

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Has ‘No Patience’ for IRS’ Targeting Conservatives

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-13-13

Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Obama said Monday he has “no patience” for reports that the Internal Revenue Service singled out conservative groups for additional scrutiny, promising accountability if allegations of political motivations at the agency turn out to be true.

“So we’ll wait and see what exactly all the details and the facts are,” Obama said at a news conference. “But I’ve got no patience with it. I will not tolerate it. And we’ll make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this.”…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency May 13, 2013: President Barack Obama Addresses Benghazi Hearings & IRS Controversy at Press Conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obama Addresses Benghazi and I.R.S. Controversies

Source: NYT, 5-13-13

Alex Wong/Getty Images

The president said Republicans were dishonoring the four victims of the attacks in Benghazi last fall, but said he would not tolerate I.R.S. wrongdoing….READ MORE

Source: WH, 5-13-13

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you.  All right, we’ve got time for a couple of questions.  We’re going to start with Julie Pace.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I wanted to ask about the IRS and Benghazi.  When did you first learn that the IRS was targeting conservative political groups?  Do you feel that the IRS has betrayed the public’s trust?  And what do you think the repercussions for these actions should be?  And on Benghazi, newly public emails show that the White House and the State Department appear to have been more closely involved with the crafting of the talking points on the attack than first acknowledged.  Do you think the White House misled the public about its role in shaping the talking points?  And do you stand by your administration’s assertions that the talking points were not purposely changed to downplay the prospects of terrorism?  And, Prime Minister Cameron, on Syria, if the EU arms embargo that you mentioned is amended or lapses, is it your intention to send the Syrian opposition forces weapons?  And are you encouraging President Obama to take the same step?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, let me take the IRS situation first.  I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this.  I think it was on Friday.  And this is pretty straightforward.

If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that had been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that’s outrageous and there’s no place for it.  And they have to be held fully accountable, because the IRS as an independent agency requires absolute integrity, and people have to have confidence that they’re applying it in a non-partisan way — applying the laws in a non-partisan way.

And you should feel that way regardless of party.  I don’t care whether you’re a Democrat, independent or a Republican.  At some point, there are going to be Republican administrations.  At some point, there are going to be Democratic ones.  Either way, you don’t want the IRS ever being perceived to be biased and anything less than neutral in terms of how they operate.  So this is something that I think people are properly concerned about.

The IG is conducting its investigation.  And I am not going to comment on their specific findings prematurely, but I can tell you that if you’ve got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and non-partisan way, then that is outrageous, it is contrary to our traditions.  And people have to be held accountable, and it’s got to be fixed.  So we’ll wait and see what exactly all the details and the facts are.  But I’ve got no patience with it.  I will not tolerate it.  And we will make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this.

With respect to Benghazi, we’ve now seen this argument that’s been made by some folks primarily up on Capitol Hill for months now.  And I’ve just got to say — here’s what we know.  Americans died in Benghazi.  What we also know is clearly they were not in a position where they were adequately protected.  The day after it happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism.  And what I pledged to the American people was that we would find out what happened, we would make sure that it did not happen again, and we would make sure that we held accountable those who had perpetrated this terrible crime.

And that’s exactly what we’ve been trying to do.  And over the last several months, there was a review board headed by two distinguished Americans — Mike Mullen and Tom Pickering — who investigated every element of this.  And what they discovered was some pretty harsh judgments in terms of how we had worked to protect consulates and embassies around the world.  They gave us a whole series of recommendations.  Those recommendations are being implemented as we speak.

The whole issue of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow.  What we have been very clear about throughout was that immediately after this event happened we were not clear who exactly had carried it out, how it had occurred, what the motivations were.  It happened at the same time as we had seen attacks on U.S. embassies in Cairo as a consequence of this film.  And nobody understood exactly what was taking place during the course of those first few days.

And the emails that you allude to were provided by us to congressional committees.  They reviewed them several months ago, concluded that, in fact, there was nothing afoul in terms of the process that we had used.  And suddenly, three days ago, this gets spun up as if there’s something new to the story.  There’s no “there” there.

Keep in mind, by the way, these so-called talking points that were prepared for Susan Rice five, six days after the event occurred pretty much matched the assessments that I was receiving at that time in my presidential daily briefing.  And keep in mind that two to three days after Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday shows, using these talking points, which have been the source of all this controversy, I sent up the head of our National Counterterrorism Center, Matt Olsen, up to Capitol Hill and specifically said it was an act of terrorism and that extremist elements inside of Libya had been involved in it.

So if this was some effort on our part to try to downplay what had happened or tamp it down, that would be a pretty odd thing that three days later we end up putting out all the information that, in fact, has now served as the basis for everybody recognizing that this was a terrorist attack and that it may have included elements that were planned by extremists inside of Libya.

Who executes some sort of cover-up or effort to tamp things down for three days?  So the whole thing defies logic.  And the fact that this keeps on getting churned out, frankly, has a lot to do with political motivations.  We’ve had folks who have challenged Hillary Clinton’s integrity, Susan Rice’s integrity, Mike Mullen and Tom Pickering’s integrity.  It’s a given that mine gets challenged by these same folks.  They’ve used it for fundraising.

And frankly, if anybody out there wants to actually focus on how we make sure something like this does not happen again, I am happy to get their advice and information and counsel.  But the fact of the matter is these four Americans, as I said right when it happened, were people I sent into the field, and I’ve been very clear about taking responsibility for the fact that we were not able to prevent their deaths.  And we are doing everything we can to make sure we prevent it, in part because there are still diplomats around the world who are in very dangerous, difficult situations.  And we don’t have time to be playing these kinds of political games here in Washington.  We should be focused on what are we doing to protect them.

And that’s not easy, by the way.  And it’s going to require resources and tough judgments and tough calls.  And there are a whole bunch of diplomats out there who know that they’re in harm’s way.  And there are threat streams that come through every so often, with respect to our embassies and our consulates — and that’s not just us, by the way; the British have to deal with the same thing.

And we’ve got a whole bunch of people in the State Department who consistently say, you know what, I’m willing to step up, I’m willing to put myself in harm’s way because I think that this mission is important in terms of serving the United States and advancing our interests around the globe.

And so we dishonor them when we turn things like this into a political circus.  What happened was tragic.  It was carried out by extremists inside of Libya.  We are out there trying to hunt down the folks who carried this out, and we are trying to make sure that we fix the system so that it doesn’t happen again.

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