Romney: Benghazi Didn’t Decide The Election

Mitt Romney doesn’t think that the attack in Benghazi played a large role in deciding the 2012 election:

The Obama administration’s talking points on the terror attack in Benghazi had no bearing on Mitt Romney’s defeat last year, the former Republican presidential nominee told Jay Leno.

The issue of the administration’s talking points has been a key focus of Republican criticism over the handling of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya last September that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

The administration initially held that the attack was a result of a local protest over an anti-Muslim Internet video that spun violently out of control. Officials later assessed that it was a terror attack coordinated by terrorists with ties to al Qaeda.

Republicans have blasted the administration for this change in narrative, accusing top officials of initially misleading the public in an attempt to protect Obama’s foreign policy record of protecting American interests abroad.

The attacks occurred less than two months before Obama and Romney faced off at the polls. And less than one month later, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) held a rare hearing while Congress was in recess that Democrats contended was pure politics at play.

But on Friday, Leno asked Romney whether he believes he might have beaten Obama in the November election if the initial narrative from the administration on the motive behind the attacks had been attributed to terrorism instead of a protest.

“I don’t think it would have changed the election,” said Romney.

In the end, Romney is of course correct. There simply isn’t any evidence that foreign policy was playing that much of a role in the election to begin with, and Benghazi itself was so confusing at the time that it seems unlikely that this post-incident we’re having over talking points would have mattered to anyone other than hardline partisans and the inside-the-Beltway crowd. And, yet, we’re likely to keep talking about it for months.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, National Security, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. stonetools says:

    People are still talking about Benghazi because the Republicans (and their fellow travelers) WANT to keep talking about Benghazi. I’m curious, Doug, did you miss altogether that the Republicans deliberately changed Administration emails about the Benghazi talking points in order to make it seem like a cover up. Here’s a helpful link, with video. You’re welcome

  2. wr says:

    @stonetools: What’s that? Are you saying something? Changed what now? We must have a bad connection. I can’t hear you. Well, I’m sure that whatever you were saying doesn’t really matter. Sorry.

  3. sharky says:


    CBS’s Major Garrett reported on the story claiming Republicans had altered emails from the government on Benghazi. One of the quotes in question belonged to national security adviser Ben Rhodes. The official’s comment in the email purportedly leaked (presumably to ABC’s Jon Karl) read, ”We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.” But the wording in the White House version said, ”We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.” The words “State Department” were not present in the latter text.

    Jack Tapper, who previously worked at ABC, reports that “whoever provided those accounts seemingly invented the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed.” ABC’s Jonathan Karl responded to Tapper’s report Tuesday by saying he quoted verbatim a source who had seen the original emails but was not permitted to make copies of them. Jonathan Karl said he contacted his source, who said that Rhodes’ reply “was after a long chain of email about State Dept concerns. So when WH emailer says, take into account all equities, he is talking about the State equities, since that is what the email chain was about.”

    Republicans also provided what they said was a quote from an email written by State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland.

    The Republican version quotes Nuland discussing, “The penultimate point is a paragraph talking about all the previous warnings provided by the Agency (CIA) about al-Qaeda’s presence and activities of al-Qaeda.”

    The actual email from Nuland says: “The penultimate point could be abused by members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings.”

    The so-called GOP versions of the emails consisted of someone reading the talking points to ABC News. This does not dismiss the differences, but it does add some more context to the scenario in helping to explain why the texts vary in the first place. And it certainly doesn’t implicate any obvious Republican source. So that makes Major Garrett’s charge that it was “Republicans” who altered the emails much more curious. In fact, Major Garrett claims that there is a “Republican version” of the emails that was previously released and that this text is apparently inaccurate compared to the emails that were finally released by the White House this week. Throughout his report, Garrett even mentions this “Republican version.” He wrote:

    On Friday, Republicans leaked what they said was a quote from Rhodes: “We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.” But it turns out that in the actual email, Rhodes did not mention the State Department.

    But that is a new charge. While it is entirely possible GOP members leaked the e-mails, there has been no admission of that publicly, and Garrett doesn’t cite sources.

    So where does this all leave us? First, there’s no denying that there are discrepancies. But is it true that it was Republicans who either altered them or were behind intentionally misleading the public? As the CBS report stands, that allegation has not been proven.

    (H/T: The Blaze)

  4. PJ says:

    Yeah, with all the posts on Benghazi by Doug, it’s rather curious that there’s not one focusing on the fact that Republicans were distributing edited talking points.

    I wonder why.

  5. stonetools says:


    Thanks for quoting the Blaze spin on things (The Blaze is a right wing media outfit established by Glenn Beck, for the benefit of readers who may not know). I note that the right wing has not been so gracious and understanding about Susan Rice’s explanations about Benghazi. Not half.
    Now its one thing to misquote an oral statement that you are recalling from memory. Its a whole nother thing to change written emails. I can understand how the former could be an error. I don’t understand how the latter can be anything but deliberate.
    Its hard for me to understand why the Democrats have not been more aggressive in pointing things out and calling for an investigation, but then, that’s Obama-too “even handed” for his own good.

  6. Caj says:

    Benghazi wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the election. That’s just wishful thinking by those on the right. Had God forbid Mitt Romney won we’d probably be at war with Iran, had troops in Syria and God knows where else around the globe. John McCain would have made sure of that! There’s nothing like a good war as far the GOP are concerned. All their special interest buddies can have a slice of the pie when we’re at war with someone, anyone! What should be investigated is Mr Investigation himself, Darrell Issa. Voted against funds for protection of staff overseas like those in Benghazi. I wish President Obama had investigated the Bush administration over the bogus war in Iraq. Now there was a real investigation to be had!!

  7. gVOR08 says:

    Yeah, the Supposedly Liberal Media don’t seem very eager to talk about the GOPs misrepresenting the emails. John Karl should be burning his source in order to maintain his own credibility, but I suppose that boat has sailed.

    Leno should have asked the question more honestly, “Governor, how much do you think it hurt you that you made a fool of yourself over Benghazi in the last debate?”

  8. wr says:

    I’m trying to imagine who in the world gives a damn about anything Mitt Romney has to say, but I’m drawing a blank here.

  9. anjin-san says:

    I’m sure Doug will have a post about the GOP playing fast and loose with the truth in the Benghazi affair.

    Right after he finishes the one he is writing about the recovery of the real estate market.

  10. al-Ameda says:

    re: Benghazi ….

    “I don’t think it would have changed the election,” said Romney.

    That quote, in a nutshell, shows you that Romney is: (1) not at all trusted by base rank-and-file nut case Republicans, and (2) too sensible to be a Republican, and that he should change his political affiliation.

  11. Moosebreath says:


    Which will follow Doug’s post about the laughably incorrect data in the study which formed the primary basis for austerity in the midst of recession.

  12. stonetools says:


    Heh, I think I like “alternate Doug’s” posts better than the real Doug’s posts.

  13. fred says:

    Wow! For once I agree with Mitt Romney. If we hade not been dragged by lies into two illegal and unnecessary wars our country would not be in the mess we are now getting out of thanks to Pres Obama even though he has had to fight and put up with GOP obstruction all the way. This too in spite of the bias now so evident in such media agencies as C-SPAN and Politico, which seem to be getting on the bandwagon of Fox News and CNN. They always jump on GOP talking points to make news headlines but neglect to speak about such important things as immigration, jobs for vets and all working class folks, GOP cuts to vets and other social programs making life harder for millions and why the banks get away with low interest payments while college students have to pay approx 9 times higher interest rates. No, the media mentioned above don’t want Pres Obama to succeed either just like GOP and TP folks. That’s why they are all losing viewships too.