GIGOT: It was just all about the video reaction in the Muslim world - - to -- let's face it, an obscure Youtube video that nobody knew about until almost after the riot started?
HENNINGER: I think this is the key question, Paul. I don't know why they went to that narrative, but what is interesting is that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stepped off of that narrative herself several days later. And when she was at the United Nations, also said that it was -- they knew that Al Qaeda had been active in the Arabian Peninsula. It seems to me that the secretary of state is basically distancing herself from what the White House was saying because if it comes out later in an investigation that the White House or ambassador Rice was withholding information about what happened when they knew it there is going to be a problem for this administration.
GIGOT: Well, now, just to be clear here. Ambassador Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, reports to Hillary Clinton. I mean she is the technically part of the State Department operations. So -- and she made one of the most clear statements about the association with the video and basically refused to acknowledge whether or not this was a terrorist attack?
HENNINGER: We don't know who was calling the shots. But we do know that what they were saying breaks into two separate parts. And that what they've been saying now suggests that they did know early on that Al Qaeda was involved in that. And I suspect that that is probably one of the reasons ambassador Stevens was getting active there. Because it was well known to people in Libya that Islamic extremists in Al Qaeda was getting much more active in eastern Libya.
GIGOT: Well, we know this from his diary, which the CNN reported came across unreported, his anxieties that were represented in that diary about what was going on. And yet the State Department press spokesman, Hillary Clinton's right hand media man attacks CNN for reporting this.
KAMINSKI: This very (INAUDIBLE) attack, and he called it disgusting, and that he got involved in an exchange with a different reporter, using words that we can't repeat here. But it just reveals the very sort of reluctance on the part of the administration to be very open about this. I mean it is a campaign, they have other things going on, but this has been a stunning attack on U.S. sovereign soil, and it's anytime that you should be very transparent about what you know, what went wrong, it should be right now.
STEPHENS: But, look, there is something about the larger narrative of the Obama administration ...
STEPHENS: ... and its attitude towards the Middle East. A, that the Obama -- that the president has gone after Al Qaeda in an unprecedented way. And B, that in a sense our lighter cultural footprint helps secure American interests. And that is precisely why our facilities were not well defended. Both of those narratives are being undercut by just what happened in Libya. Al Qaeda remains a serious threat ...
GIGOT: Has not been defeated.
STEPHENS: ... and just because President Obama is in the White House doesn't mean we are beloved by millions of Arabs around the world.
GIGOT: We're going to find out a lot more about this Libya these days on forth. Still ahead as foreign policy emerges as a central theme in the presidential race, team Obama is pushing a new narrative that Mitt Romney will get America into another war. But is war more likely in a Romney presidency or a second Obama term?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: He said it was a mistake to end the war in Iraq and bring all of our warriors home.
BIDEN: He said it was a mistake to set an end date for our warriors in Afghanistan and bring them home.
BIDEN: He implies by the speech that he is ready to go to war in Syria and Iran.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: That was Vice President Joe Biden earlier this month at a campaign stop in Pennsylvania suggesting that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was ready to go to war in Iran and Syria. It's the theme the Obama campaign is pushing with the president himself getting in on the act. In an interview with "60 Minutes" last Sunday Mr. Obama responding to his opponent's criticism of his Middle East policy said, quote, "If Governor Romney is suggesting that we should start another war, he should say so." So rumors of war, Dan. What the political strategy here or do you think there is one?
HENNINGER: Well, obviously we are in a moment when everything Barack Obama says is related to his reelection. And so it is with this. A key element of the Obama reelection strategy has to do with perceived voter fatigue over wars, Iraq and Afghanistan.
GIGOT: The tide of war is receding, it's one of his campaign themes.
HENNINGER: Exactly. And when he talked on "60 Minutes" about what he had accomplished in foreign policy, the first thing he says is, I ended the war in Iraq. And now he is winding down Afghanistan. And from that premise he is suggesting to people that Mitt Romney just might start it up again because he is advised by the same people who got us into the war in Iraq.
GIGOT: Associate Mitt Romney with Bush and the fact that a lot of people still don't like the fact that we had that long ...
GIGOT: ... that long -- those long years of war, Matt. So, how fair is the charge?
KAMINSKI: Well, I think, you know, it definitely worked for him. Because I mean people are ready to --were very responsive to that message. The problem is that, you know, chaos adores vacuums and we are creating a vacuum in the Middle East and Iran.
GIGOT: Right now?
KAMINSKI: It is being created by President Obama. So, I think, Mitt Romney can make a very good case saying look, if anyone is creating the situation where we might be -- end up in a war it is thanks to the policies of President Obama in Iran, possibly (ph) in Southeast Asia and Pakistan and Afghanistan and in the wider Middle East.
GIGOT: So, and when you say creating a vacuum. Because we've left Iraq with -- nobody -- the war was essentially over when the president came in, so I mean just winding down, but we didn't leave any troops at all there. We are staying out of Syria. So, this is area is festering, and then, of course, the biggest problem, Bret, is Iran?
GIGOT: And ...
STEPHENS: And you have to ask yourself, Paul, if this is a president who says I'm not going to have any more wars in the Middle East, how serious can he be about confronting Iran militarily, if necessary?
GIGOT: And maybe preventing the war?
STEPHENS: If they passed that red line that Benjamin Netanyahu drew at his U.N. speech ...
GIGOT: 90 percent enrichment of uranium on the way to a nuclear bomb?
STEPHENS: That's right, and they are getting extremely close. I mean they now are enriching uranium to a 20 percent level, increasing their capacity. These things are kind of inventory every few months by the International Atomic Energy.
GIGOT: And the jump from 20 percent to 90 percent is actually much smaller than it sounds.
STEPHENS: It's -- I've been told by nuclear scientists that once you are 20 percent you are actually 87 percent of the way toward the bomb.