"Face the Nation" transcripts, September 16, 2012: Libyan Pres. Magariaf, Amb. Rice and Sen. McCain

BOB SCHIEFFER: Mm-Hm.

SUSAN RICE: --sparked by this hateful video. But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that-- in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But you do not agree with him that this was something that had been plotted out several months ago?

SUSAN RICE: We do not-- we do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you agree or disagree with him that al Qaeda had some part in this?

SUSAN RICE: Well, we'll have to find out that out. I mean I think it's clear that there were extremist elements that joined in and escalated the violence. Whether they were al Qaeda affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al Qaeda itself I think is one of the things we'll have to determine.

BOB SCHIEFFER: There seems to be demonstrations in more than twenty cities as far as we know yesterday. Is there any sense that this is leveling off?

SUSAN RICE: Well, on Friday, of course, I think that's what you're referring to-- there-- there were a number of places around the world in which there were protests, many of them peaceful, some of them turned violent. And our emphasis has been-- and the President has been very, very clear about this, priority number one is protection of American personnel and facilities. And we have been working now very constructively with host governments around the world to provide the kind of protection we need and to condemn the violence. What happens going forward I think it would be unwise for any of us to predict with certainty. Clearly the last couple of days have seen a reduction in protests and a reduction in violence. I don't want to predict what the next days will yield.

BOB SCHIEFFER: The Romney campaign continues to criticize the administration. Paul Ryan was on the campaign trail yesterday saying that the Obama administration has diminished America's presence overseas and our image, a direct quote, "If we project-- if we project weakness, they come. If we are strong, our adversaries will not test us and our allies will respond to us." What's your response to that?

SUSAN RICE: It's two-fold. First of all, Bob, I think the American people expect in times of challenge overseas for our leaders to be unified and to come together and to be steadfast and steady and calm and responsible and that certainly what President Obama has been. With respect to what I think is a very empty and baseless charge of weakness, let's be plain, I think American people know the record very well. President Obama said when he was running for President that he would refocus our efforts and attentions on al Qaeda. We've decimated al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden is gone. He also said we would end the war in Iraq responsibly. We've done that. He has protected civilians in Libya, and Qaddafi is gone. I serve up at the United Nations and I see every day the difference in how countries around the world view the United States. They view us as a partner. They view us as somebody they want to work with. They view President Obama as somebody they trust. Our standing in the world is much stronger so this charge of weakness is really quite baseless.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think Mitt Romney spoke inappropriately when he criticized and issued a statement so early in this turmoil?

SUSAN RICE: Bob, I think you know, in my role, I'm-- I'm not going to jump into politics and make those judgments. That's for the American people to decide.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Madam Ambassador, thank you for being with us.

SUSAN RICE: Thank you very much.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And joining us now for his take on all this, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain. Senator, you've got to help me out here. The president of Libya says that this was something that had been in the works for two months, this attack. He blames it on al Qaeda. Susan Rice says that the State Department thinks it is some sort of a spontaneous event. What-- what do you make of it?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-Arizona): Most people don't bring rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons to a demonstration. That was an act of terror, and for anyone to disagree with that fundamental fact I think is really ignoring the facts. Now, how long it was planned and who was involved, but there is no doubt there was extremists and there's no doubt they were using heavy weapons and they used pretty good tactics--indirect fire, direct fire, and obviously they were successful. Could I just say that our prayers are with Chris Stevens and Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods and Sean Smith who gave their lives. I met Chris Stevens in Benghazi during the fighting. He was putting his life on the line every day. He was living in a hotel. I was with him on July 7th when the Libyan people voted and he and I were down where thousands of people were saying to him, "Thank you, thank you, America, thank you." So the last thing that Chris Stevens would want the United States to do is to stop assisting Libya as they go through this very difficult process of trying to establish a government and democracy.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Why do you think the-- is there something more going on here than a difference of opinion when the administration spokesman today says that she believes and the administration believes this was just a spontaneous act?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: How-- how spontaneous is a demonstration when people bring rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons and-- and have a very tactically successful military operation, but there are so many things that we need to cover but the fact is that the United States is weakened. And, you know, it was Osama bin Laden that said when people see the strong horse and the weak horse, people like the strong horse. Right now United States is the weak horse.

In Iraq, it's unraveling. In Iraq, al Qaeda is coming back. It is in danger of breaking up into Sunni, Shia, and Kurd. By the way Iranian flights are overflying Iraq with weapons for Bashar Assad. In Afghanistan again, you just saw, the worst thing for any military morale is these killing by your allies that continue to escalate. It's unraveling because all we tell the Afghan people is we're leaving. We are not telling them we're succeeding. We tell them we're leaving.

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