All-Star Panel: Political impact of e-mails about Benghazi attack

All-Star Panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 24, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Continuing our coverage of this Benghazi e-mail situation today and the breaking news with the political impact of this. Despite the fact -- we're back with the panel – that this did not come up significantly and Governor Romney didn't jump on it in the last debate this week, Steve, how does it affect the presidential race? And does it move the needle?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I'm not sure it does affect the race very much. When Governor Romney doesn't talk about it and the Romney campaign isn't focused on it, it gives excuses, frankly, to the news organizations that ought to be covering this. This is a huge story no matter what.

BAIER: And it will be no matter who wins the election.


HAYES: No question.

BAIER: And if President Obama wins the election it will be a huge story --


HAYES: An ongoing scandal, we'll get these reports, there will be hearings in Congress. You can bet on all of that. Look, you have whatever anybody believes about the ultimate truth of this, you have a series now almost six weeks of directly contradictory statements, one after another after another, made by the administration.  Now it may be just incompetence. But that is a lot of incompetence for that kind of a story.

Let me make one point. I've made it before but I think it's very important in light of what Charles said about the focus on Romney right after the attacks.  Remember, in previous attacks after previous attacks, both the New York Times Square bomber and the airline bomber, the Obama administration did exactly the same thing where they downplayed the attacks, they said there were no links to Al Qaeda, ya know the airline bomber --

BAIER: And the Fort Hood shooter.

HAYES: The Fort Hood shooter -- but they did that more later, when they released this sort of after the fact report. I am talking in real-time, in both the airline bomber case and the New York Times Square case. They downplayed links to Al Qaeda; they downplayed who these people were. They said of the airline bomber that he was a lone -- an isolated extremist and they said of the New York Times Square bomber that this was a one-off attack; that there weren't any connections. And then they had to say, well in fact, it was finance directed by the Pakistani Taliban – in the case of the New York Time Square bomber, and in the other one, legions of ties to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: But ya know, first of all, in all of those cases you think they would have learned to say hey, we are investigating. We don't know. This is chaotic and confusion. That would have been better, just a placeholder until you get your facts straight. Better than having to backtrack. But something about – I just want to talk about the politics --

BAIER: The fluid reporting that Secretary Clinton talks about at the time you would think concrete evidence is not exactly what you want your White House press secretary --

LIASSON: That's right, that's what I'm saying. Why not just say we're investing and we simply don't know instead of tying yourself down to a story that you're going to have to later walk back from or be criticized for?

But I want to say something about the politics of this, Mitt Romney has one of the biggest megaphones that anybody, any human being can have. He is the Republican nominee for president. And he had a chance -- you know, Charles said too much focus was put on him -- he had a chance to say that the administration left the embassy unprotected, they bungled the Arab spring but he focused on an attack that he said the White House sympathized with the attackers. And so he had a choice there and he made a choice. He had a choice also in Florida. He didn't bring this up. This would have been a huge -- every one of us was prepared to write a lot about Libya before the debate in Florida. And he chose not to bring it up.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: This is journalistic malpractice and to blame it on the candidate whose got other ideas, other strategic reasons to say, well, because he didn't ask for looking in to this, we're not going to do it, doesn't excuse it.

LIASSON: I'm talking about in the context of our stories on the campaign.

KRAUTHAMMER: In the context of the story of the scandal, the media ought to be on it, Romney or not. So it's not an excuse.

BAIER: Stick around to the online show and you have more to say. Strong letter to follow.

KRAUTHAMMER: Absolutely.

BAIER: We have an online show after this show.  Much more on this and the Electoral College as well. That is it for the panel but stay with us to see how the candidates try to really differentiate themselves at the debate this week.

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