Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Attack in Libya Planned in Advance?; Romney Criticizes Obama Over Foreign Policy; Anti-Islam Film Sparks Violence; Ambassador Killed, Romney Gets Political; Region's Response To Embassy Attack; Was The Arab Spring Worth It?; Clinton: "How Could This Happen?"
Aired September 12, 2012 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Sources tell CNN the attack that killed four Americans, including the top U.S. diplomat in Libya, was planned in advance.
We're also talking with the people behind the controversial anti- Muslim film igniting protests that the attackers may have used for cover.
We're also watching an important political dimension to this story, Mitt Romney's immediate criticism of President Obama's international policies.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Dramatic developments unfolding. And let's begin with some important new developments in the attacks on U.S. facilities in both Cairo, Egypt and Benghazi, Libya.
U.S. sources now tell CNN the attack in Benghazi was actually planned in advance and the perpetrators used a protest outside the U.S. Consulate Benghazi there simply as a diversion. Four Americans died, including the United States ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.
Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, has been working her resources to get a better idea on exactly what happened. Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is monitoring the search for who's responsible. And our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, is keeping tabs on the U.S. military's response to what's going on as well.
Let's go to Jill first. She's watching what's going on.
Jill, what's the latest over at the State Department beyond the heartbreak of a top U.S. diplomat, three others killed?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf.
Just in a few minutes, we're expecting an update, a briefing on background by senior officials here at the State Department. But for now, this is what we know based on the conversations and what we are hearing from U.S. officials.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Tuesday night at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, a complex and highly dangerous situation, outside an anti- American protest. Then a group of heavily armed militants, approximately two dozen of them, launched an attack firing rocket- propelled grenades.
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The attack in Libya is appears to be a very coordinated military-style attack. This was not a demonstration gone bad. This was a clear, targeted, planned event.
DOUGHERTY: According to senior U.S. officials, that ignited a fire inside the consulate. American and Libyan security personnel, officials say, we're forced to fight on two fronts, the attackers on the outside, the fire inside.
Diplomatic sources are beginning to piece together what happened next. Officials tell CNN Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi on a short visit from the capital, Tripoli, along with Sean Smith, a 10-year veteran of the State Department in Libya on temporary assignment, took refuge in a safe room along with a lead security officer.
But the room became filled with smoke. The officer left the room, they say. When he returned, Smith was dead, Ambassador Stevens was missing. One official says Stevens and possibly others were trying to escape to the roof.
The ambassador, he tells CNN, ultimately succumbed to smoke inhalation. In the chaos, consulate staff attempted to enter the building to try and find and save the men.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the Libyans who she said helped fight off the attackers and carried Ambassador Stevens' body to the hospital.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: This was an attack by a small and savage group, not the people or government of Libya.
DOUGHERTY: At this point, State Department officials believe the attack was planned in advance, but do not believe Ambassador Stevens was directly targeted.
Nicholas Burns, a former top State Department official, tells CNN U.S. diplomats are facing an incendiary situation in the Middle East.
NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: The cruel irony here is that the United States is well-regarded in Libya. And there's a moderate government in place.
And this is clearly the actions of an isolated and very small, but very vicious terrorist group. And so we have got to protect ourselves from those groups. And we have got to go after them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOUGHERTY: And, Wolf, as I said, we're expecting momentarily a briefing, background here at the State Department. There are a lot of details. Everyone that we talk to says that it was a very, very complex, almost chaotic situation, fighting on the outside, fire on the inside. And so we expect to have more details as we go along.
BLITZER: And so far we have only been told the names of Chris Stevens and Sean Smith. The other two Americans, they have not released their names yet, is that right?
DOUGHERTY: Yes. As far as we know, Wolf, that is correct. They were security officials.
BLITZER: Not U.S. Marines, though?
DOUGHERTY: No. They, we understand, were not Marines. They were security personnel.
BLITZER: Let us know what happens at this background briefing you're about to get. And you will update our viewers. Stand by for that. Jill Dougherty.
Let's go to Nic Robertson now in London for more on who may have been behind these attacks. Nic has spent a lot of time in Libya, as all of our viewers know.
Nic, as you heard, initial reports indicated a mob got out of control. But now it's looking more like a pretty sophisticated assassination plot in the works for a long time. What are you hearing?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we still can't say with certain knowledge precisely who was responsible.
But we do know last year the head of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, sent a top Libyan jihadist trusted lieutenant from Afghanistan to Libya to set up an al Qaeda camp. We know from Libyan government officials whom I met with in June there that they have been monitoring those camps.
But they don't have the power, they don't have the security structure to close those camps down. When the consulate was targeted and attacked on June 5 this year, the group left behind fliers saying that this was a revenge attack, the United States drone attack in the Afghan/Pakistan border region killing al Qaeda's number two at the time, a Libyan, Abu Yahya al-Libi.
Al Qaeda never confirmed that killing until yesterday, when Ayman al- Zawahri, Al Qaeda's leader, issued a video statement saying that Abu Yahya al-Libi was dead and calling on Libyans to attack and kill Americans.
So there is a correlation here that al Qaeda perhaps -- has definitely established camps and perhaps has had a role in this particular attack. It's not possible to say that. But we do know that they are operating in that part of Libya, Wolf.
BLITZER: And yesterday when I spoke to Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he told me he has been briefed that there is an al Qaeda presence, not only in Libya, but in Tunisia as well.
How significant, unclear right now, but it sounds like that al Qaeda operation in Libya is very, very real indeed. All of this suggests to me, Nic, that the attack yesterday on the U.S. ambassador and other Americans on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 was not necessarily simply a coincidence. What are you hearing about that?
ROBERTSON: It definitely doesn't seem to be a coincidence, Wolf.
I mean, the indications point to the fact that this group has been prepared. The concern has been -- we have been reporting this since the beginning of the year, even naming some of the al Qaeda members, one of them a former Gitmo detainee, who are inside these camps. Those names are confirmed to us by Libyan as well as other officials, that they have space to operate inside Libya because the Libyans can't close them down.
Libyan officials say that U.S. drones have been monitoring those camps at least since June this year. But the problem that faces the Libyan authorities they say is that they have sort of been able to monitor the activity of these groups. And these groups have grown stronger, not just in the east of the country but spreading throughout the region.
And that's been al Qaeda's strategy to try to take advantage of this Arab spring where there isn't strong security, put down roots. And the analysts have been telling us that the attacks they feared were going to be al Qaeda not attacking Libyans inside Libya, but attacking Western interests not just inside Libya, but using because it's close to Europe as a base to attack Europe, Western interests inside Europe, Wolf.
BLITZER: Explains why the U.S. now reducing dramatically its diplomatic presence both in Benghazi as well as in the capital of Tripoli.
Nic Robertson, thanks very much.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, is joining us now. He's got the latest on how the U.S. military is responding to this unfortunate situation in Libya. And the potential for a whole lot more trouble.
What are you learning, Chris?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we can now confirm that that U.S. Marine quick reaction force has landed in Libya.
And they are now on the ground in Tripoli. Also, the Pentagon has notified some American troops around the world that in the coming days, they may be moved also to American embassies in different parts of the world to try to beef up security for the American diplomats working abroad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LAWRENCE (voice-over): The U.S. has sent a fast reaction force of 50 Marines to Libya to -- quote -- "help with security and possible evacuations if needed."
Insurgents attacked this same U.S. mission in Benghazi back in June. And now a former U.S. counterterrorism official says new countermeasures will have to be put in place.
FRED BURTON, SECURITY EXPERT: The location where the diplomatic facility was, was not your normal embassy with heightened security.
LAWRENCE: Fred Burton is a former special agent with that same diplomatic security service. He says the Marines will work with agents to coordinate a security plan for Americans still in Libya, especially around Benghazi.
BURTON: The agents with the diplomatic security service do not work in a vacuum. They would be working in tandem with the host government to make sure that the routes of travel for the U.S. ambassador is secure.
LAWRENCE: Other former U.S. officials say Marines are normally posted in a capital like Tripoli with the main U.S. diplomatic mission.
JAMIE RUBIN, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: There aren't that many Marines in the world that could cover every single post. And in the end, again, Benghazi was the part of the country where the rebels were most supportive of American involvement in Libya.
LAWRENCE: A senior defense official confirms the U.S. has been flying surveillance drone missions over Libya for some time and that Libyan officials were aware of the flights.
Now he says that mission will be more focused on finding the specific insurgent cell responsible. The information will be passed onto Libyan officials who would presumably go after them on the ground. But Libya's leaders don't completely control the east.
KARIM MEZRAN, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: The government should -- the government has the possibility to count on some of the militias or on some of its forces to attack a cell. But they do not have the strength to counteract a large group like the Salafi.
LAWRENCE: Dr. Mezran says he expects that insurgent group to launch an attack on Libyan officials in an attempt to bring down the government.
MEZRAN: The killing of the U.S. ambassador is a huge event, but may not be the last one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE: So, again, to bring you up to date, the U.S. Marines quick reaction force is on the ground there in Tripoli. And the Pentagon is in deep discussions with the State Department and the White House trying to determine what other assets may be needed, ships, planes. Even some U.S. troops that are stationed overseas have been notified that they could be moved to U.S. embassies to try to meet the president's goal of trying to bolster security around the world, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, but those drones are really intriguing to me, Chris, I assume to you and a lot of folks at the Pentagon.
As you know, President Obama's authorized targeted killings by drones in Pakistan, certainly in Afghanistan, in Yemen. The question is, will similar drone attacks against al Qaeda or other terrorist elements in Libya be undertaken now, especially since the president has declared publicly justice will be served against those who killed those four Americans?
LAWRENCE: That is the big question, Wolf.
Right now, what we have from the Pentagon is a continuation and a focusing of these surveillance drone flights. Those are very different than some of the attack drones that have been used obviously in parts of Pakistan and other parts of the world where the administration has gone after senior al Qaeda figures.
But that would be a change, going from strictly surveillance to an actual attack on an insurgent cell.
BLITZER: Yes, I wouldn't be surprised. But we will see what happens. Thanks very much for that.
The president says justice will be served.
The attack in Libya coincided with demonstrations against a crude anti-Muslim film produced right here in the United States. Our own Brian Todd tracked down one of the people who knows the filmmaker.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty has more on the violent attacks in both Libya and Egypt -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, so much for the Arab spring, or is it? The wave of protests sweeping parts of the Middle East and North Africa in which the people fought to oust dictators doesn't seem to have brought any of them any closer to a peaceful society. Libya and Egypt are just the latest example. Years from now historians might even trace the origin of the Arab spring in addition to the fruit vendor in Tunisia who set himself on fire to the decision by George W. Bush to attack Iraq in the wake of 9/11. Go in, overthrow a dictator, turn the country over to the people and presto. Nirvana will surely follow.
Well, violence continues in Iraq and people die there everyday. Egypt's now in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. Mubarak's gone. They had elections there. And yesterday violent mobs assaulted the U.S. embassy compound. In Libya, Moammar Gadhafi's gone. The U.S. ambassador and three other people are dead because some terrorists in that country didn't like a movie critical of Islam.
Syria's become a slaughter house with dictator Assad hanging on, murdering the civilian population at will.
Iran continues the march toward nuclear weapons. I don't want to even think what might happen if they get them.
And al Qaeda, as we talked about yesterday, is busy reconstitutes itself in Pakistan and half a dozen other countries.
The songwriter who wrote the phrase, "wishing won't make it so," spot- on. And anybody who thinks the Middle East is suddenly going to transform itself into a peaceful civilization where majority rules, well, they just haven't been reading the history books.
Here's the question, is the Arab spring worth it?
Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile, post a comment on my blog. Or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page.
BLITZER: You heard Mitt Romney today, express concern that Arab spring was turning out to be an Arab winter. Jack, you got a good question.
CAFFERTY: I think Mr. Romney may have done himself a lot of damage today.
BLITZER: We're going to have much more on this part of the story later as the political fallout is significant as well. Standby.
Tuesday's deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya came amid regional fury over a film mocking Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.
Our own Brian Todd has been looking into this and who's behind this film.
What do you finding out, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's not clear if the killing of the U.S. ambassador is directly tied to this controversial movie. But a Libyan government official says the protests in Benghazi were at least partially ked to the film. U.S. sources are telling CNN that the people who attacked the ambassador used the protest outside the consulate as a diversion. Now, CNN has just received a statement from some of the people involved in this movie.
The statement reads as such, quote, "The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer. We are 100 percent not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose. We are shocked by the drastic rewrites of the script and lies were told to al involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred." That from the cast and crew of this movie. We also spoke with a man who identifies himself as a consultant on the film.
TODD (voice-over): The film tied to the violence is called "Innocence of Muslims," an amateurish crude production depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a womanizing, violent-provoking thug where portions of dialogue are poorly dubbed in. CNN is not airing any part of it.
According to reports published in "The Wall Street Journal" and the "Associated Press." the filmmaker is a real estate developer from California named Sam Bacile. A man identifying himself as Bacile told "the Wall Street Journal" Islam is a cancer.
We couldn't find information about him in checking databases for Hollywood productions or real estate records raising questions about whether the name Sam Bacile is a pseudonym.
We spoke to Steve Klein, who says he consulted with Bacile on the film. I asked him about Bacile's reaction to the violence in Libya and Egypt.
STEVE KLEIN, CONSULTANT ON ANTI-ISLAM MOVIE: He's very depressed. He's upset. I talked to him this morning. And he said that he was very concerned for what happened to the ambassador.
TODD (on camera): Klein says Bacile is worried about his own safety and is in hiding. Through Klein, we tried to get Bacile to speak to us and we're told he would not. Klein says he hasn't known Bacile for very long. He says Bacile told him the film cost about $5 million to make, with at least 50 people in the cast and crew.
Did you or Mr. Bacile have any sense that this film would cause the fallout that it apparently has?
KLEIN: Absolutely not. It's -- when I spoke to him, we knew that it was going to cause some friction. If anybody paid attention to it. When we first showed it, nobody paid any attention to it. So I pretty much forgot about it after I went to Hollywood and saw nobody went to it.
TODD: But if you knew it would cause friction, could you not, I guess, presuppose that it might cause violence in the Middle East? I mean, if these things get on the Internet and they just go viral?
KLEIN: That's the interesting point. For example, when you started the interview, you asked me if I was afraid to show my face here or to speak about this. So my question is, in America, why should I be afraid?
TODD (voice-over): Klein says the film merely shows what he calls the facts, evidence and proof about radical Islam. Klein says he's not anti-Muslim.
(on camera): Do you and Mr. Bacile feel you have any blood on your hands as a result of the violence?
KLEIN: That's a very good question. Under the rules of engagement in Vietnam when I killed a North Vietnamese army and the Vietcong, I'd go to bed every night with no blood on my hand. It does not bother me a bit. In this case with the ambassador, I did not kill these people. It is they who pulled the trigger. It is they who murdered the ambassador.
TODD: Now, on that Vietnam reference, Klein says he is a Vietnam veteran, a former marine who served in combat there. He says his own son was wounded by a suicide bomber in Iraq while working with the U.S. army on a civil program there, Wolf.
BLITZER: I understand CNN also corresponding right now with one of the actresses in this so-called film.
TODD: That's right. My colleague Miguel Marquez has spoken to her. We cannot identify her by name or say where we spoke with her. But she essentially to him has reiterated what we saw in the statement from the cast and crew of this movie. She said she did not know the movie was about the Prophet Muhammad, said there was no character in the script and said she was shocked by the film that's been made.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian Todd, working this part of the story, very sensitive part of the story.
The attack in Libya came part of the presidential campaign narrative. Mitt Romney leveling a harsh criticism of the Obama administration response. Was it though premature? We're going to take you through a timeline of the events.
BLITZER: Somalia's new leader escapes an assassination attempt. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's going on?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf.
Well, it happened just two days after Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected as president. Journalists on the scene report early indications are two suicide bombers set off explosives at the gates of a Mogadishu hotel where the president was holding meetings. At least four Somalia government soldiers and one African Union soldiers were killed.
The Census Bureau is confirming what you many already know, middle class family income is still falling. Median income dropped to $50,054 last year, that is down 1.5 percent from a year earlier. National poverty rate dropped slightly to 15 percent. About 46 million people fell below the poverty line. That means that a family of four living on just over $23,000 a year. And Apple has unveiled a taller, thinner and lighter version of its iPhone. The iPhone 5 also has a four-inch screen compared to 3.5 inches on the previous versions. It will have a faster processor to connect mobile carriers with 4GLT processing.
What potential drawback, though. It comes with a different size charging cord. So some current speakers and accessories, they're going to need an adapter to work with the iPhone 5. So, something to keep in mind. There are a few changes.
Look at that difference. Much thinner. You can see right there on the screen.
BLITZER: A little thinner. I'm sure they'll sell a lot, a lot of those iPhones.
SYLVESTER: I think so too.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
All right. So foreign policy all of a sudden becoming the focus in a harsh campaign exchange with the crisis in Libya still very much unfolding. Mitt Romney draws some serious criticism for his accusations against the Obama administration.
BLITZER: With the anti-U.S. violence in Egypt and Libya hitting the news late Tuesday, Mitt Romney wasted no time before criticizing the Obama administration's response and the president's international policies.
He's doing it again today despite a growing political backlash and some questions about whether Romney's twisting some of the facts. Our national political correspondent Jim Acosta is over covering the Romney campaign. He's got the very latest -- Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Mitt Romney initially said, yesterday, that he would not criticize President Obama on September 11th, but late last night Romney issued a statement that blasted the president's handling of the diplomatic attacks in the Middle East.
As one Republican strategist put it to CNN, this could be the game- changer of the 2012 campaign.
ACOSTA (voice-over): It was a high stakes moment for his campaign. And Mitt Romney doubled down accusing the president of showing weakness on the world stage in the hours after the killings of American diplomats overseas.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values. ACOSTA: Romney first weighed in on the crisis late Tuesday taking issue with a statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo aimed at calming tensions over a movie that mocked Islam.
The embassy's statement said it condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religion.
In his own statement, Romney said it's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.
However, the embassy's statement was apparently released before the violence, not only in Egypt, but in Libya as well where it was later confirmed the U.S. ambassador to that country was murdered.
Asked whether he spoke too soon, Romney blamed the White House for not backing away from the embassy's comments right away.
ROMNEY: They clearly sent mixed messages to the world and the statement that came from the administration and the embassy is the administration.
ACOSTA: But Romney's initial statement is dividing some Republicans. One top advisor to John McCain's 2008 campaign said Romney was, quote, "too quick to politicize over faulty reporting initially. Too quick to politicize the deaths of Foreign Service officers makes him appear not ready."
But another top GOP strategist, CNN contributor Alex Castellanos said, Romney's tough talk could be, quote, "a game changer" in a sign Romney has no plans to back down his running mate, Paul Ryan, was just as harsh at a rally in Wisconsin.
REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you show weakness, if you show moral equivocation, then foreign policy adventurism among our adversaries will increase.
ACOSTA: For the Republican ticket it's a running theme Romney has returned to time and again. From Romney's book "No Apologies" to his foreign policies speeches on the trail.
ROMNEY: In dealings with other nations, he's given trust what's not earned, insult where it's not deserved and apology where it's not due.
ACOSTA: By contrast the president made no mention of Romney in his remarks at the White House.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We will not waiver in our commitment to see justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.
ACOSTA: Letting fellow Democrats handle the response.
SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I think he ought to apologize and I don't think he knows what he's talking about, frankly. It's that simple.
ACOSTA: A top Romney foreign policy advisor who asked not to be named acknowledged to CNN that the ambassador's death was not known at the time the GOP nominee released that statement late last night.
But as these new facts come in, that advisor told me, Wolf, that does not change the heart of what Romney said in that statement -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you. President Obama's now slapping directly back at Mitt Romney's criticism. Listen to what he just told CBS News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: There's a broader lesson to be learned here. Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and name later. And as president, one of the things I've learned is you can't do that.
It's important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts and that you've thought through the ramifications before you make them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The president by the way is now on his way to a campaign event in Nevada. Let's bring in two CNN analysts, our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley.
Candy, did Mitt Romney jump the gun here?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, they don't think so. OK, that's their story and they're going to stick to it. They are in this. They were in it again this morning.
They're feeling in the Romney camp is, wait a second, the president disavowed and said this wasn't about our -- this statement from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was not from us, we didn't approve it. And they'd say, look, this is what Mitt Romney condemned. It would look like an apology for free speech.
BLITZER: What do you think of the president's response in that little clip we just showed?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sort of swatted him down. Look, I've talked to the Romney campaign today. They say it's absurd that they're getting criticized for disavowing a statement that the president actually disavowed himself later on.
But I've also talked to republican foreign policy experts. Some of whom talk to the campaign, some of whom don't. And they're feeling is that what Romney said last night was actually that the Obama administration's response to the attacks was the Egyptian embassy's statement, which of course was sort of a rogue statement, if you will.
It had not been cleared by the State Department, apparently, which is very odd for these kinds of things. You know that. Diplomatic statements are usually clear. And I had this senior Republican foreign policy expert say to me, let me quote this to you.
That Romney's statement was, quote, "an ill considered jump to make an attack that also happens to be beside the point" because the real point he's trying to make is the president doesn't have a muscular foreign policy because by the way Mitt Romney is about a dozen points behind the president when it comes to foreign policy.
BLITZER: Foreign policy not necessarily a huge issue at least so far in this campaign. In our most recent poll we asked one of the most important issues out there, 59 percent said economic issues, 33 percent said domestic and social issues, and 4 percent said foreign policy issues.
And on the issue of foreign policy, you know, the president does much better. Obama 54 percent, Romney 42 percent. But, Candy, 4 percent, unless there's a crisis, usually foreign policy is not on the minds of a lot of Americans.
CROWLEY: Right. And the question is how will we view this through the prism of November? When it was one thing when Osama Bin Laden was out there and there was this, you know, is the Bush administration going to get him when John Kerry was running against George Bush.
So, you know, the question is, does it have resonance come November with that 4 percent because we keep seeing close polls. You know, perhaps it could.
But I think the larger question here is in listening to President Obama was almost like listening to Hillary Clinton four years ago when she kept saying, well, you know what I know from having done this e4et cetera, et cetera.
It does not seem to me that Americans unless they feel a real threat to U.S. homeland that they vote on the basis of foreign policy alone.
BLITZER: Except, I remember and you do too, all of us remember 1980. Jimmy carter, the incumbent president lost 444 days, Americans held hostage in Iran. That was a big issue, a huge embarrassment for the then incumbent president.
BORGER: Sure, it was. But this is not that.
BLITZER: We don't know how this is going to escalate --
BORGER: No, we don't.
BLITZER: -- over the next two months.
CROWLEY: But not 444 days.
BORGER: Right. Let me just say at this point -- BLITZER: Right.
BORGER: This is not that. But I think what you saw President Obama trying to do is to claim, OK, he's the one with the experience. He's the one who should get the 3:00 a.m. phone call. And I think what you see Mitt Romney doing is really playing defense.
And in a way he's looking to pick a fight with the president over foreign policy. He needs to raise his approval rating on that to a certain degree because even though this election as your poll shows may not be about foreign policy.
Isn't likely to be about foreign policy, there's still sort of a commander in chief threshold. And what the president was trying to do was kind of say, well, Mitt Romney doesn't meet that threshold. So it will be a debate.
BLITZER: Gloria, Candy, guys, thanks very much.
The Libyan ambassador to the United States speaking out to our own Christiane Amanpour. She is next with details.
BLITZER: The attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya -- actually the U.S. Consulate in Libya and the protest outside the embassy in the Egyptian capital of Cairo come as both countries struggle to establish democracy following the Arab spring.
And CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour is joining us. Christiane, you had a chance to speak with Libyan ambassador to the United States. What did he tell you?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN'S CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I did, Wolf, and obviously he's very sad. He knew Chris Stevens personally. He really thanked him for all the efforts he had made on behalf of Libyan democracy as well as all the U.S. leadership, and those other three diplomats who were killed as well.
But I asked him specifically the order from the U.S. is to hunt these people down and bring them to justice. And we've heard reports of drones going out to do surveillance and provide that intelligence to the Libyans. I asked him could they do it, he said they had to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will remember last few weeks there were also car bombs in Tripoli and we've been able to capture some of the people who are responsible for that. And that was a line to lead us to who was responsible and the financial support they get from overseas. It is our priority. We must know these people. We must know the sellers who are working in the dark to destabilize Libya and destabilize our relation with foreign countries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Wolf, he's very clear that these people attacked the United States, but also threatened the Libyan democracy as well.
BLITZER: What about Egypt, Christiane? You've spent a lot of time there. You've gotten to know some of these new leaders, these Muslim Brotherhood leaders, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was democratically elected.
As far as we know right now, he personally has not yet condemned the attack on the U.S. embassy in Cairo yesterday. Why is that?
AMANPOUR: Well, we have and I've spoken with him, I'm one of the few that has spoken with him, this is previously, he talked very, very strongly about a moderate democracy.
I have asked why hasn't he spoken out yet. People tell me that he's traveling. There has been reaction from the prime minister of Egypt who condemned the film because in Egypt it was about this anti-Islamic film that created the attacks against the U.S. Embassy yesterday.
Prime minister condemning the film, but saying there was no excuse for violence in Egypt and that protesters had to protest peacefully, and asking the United States by the same token to move against people who are insight hatred and insight tolerance based on ethnicity or religion.
He also said to me our future lies in strong relations not just in our region but within the United States. They're very clear, the Egyptians, that their future lies with good relations, good bilateral relations with the U.S.
And you know, earlier this week a high level U.S. delegation, State Department officials, business leaders, were in Egypt to talk about moving forward together.
BLITZER: Listen to what Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, said about the Arab spring. And you covered it very, very thoroughly. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Over the last several years, we've stood witness to an Arab spring that presents an opportunity for a more peaceful and prosperous region, but it also poses the potential for peril if the forces of extremism and violence are allowed to control the course of events. We must strive to ensure that the Arab spring does not become an Arab winter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A lot of people see that Arab winter. Do you see that yet?
AMANPOUR: Well, listen, Wolf, I think what candidate Romney has said is what a lot of people say. Of course, you want to see this Arab spring emerge into a democratic reality for this region and a moderate one. But I don't think it is an Arab winter and nor do most people who look at what's going on there. They point to the moderates who have won in Libya, for instance. And even though it's a Muslim Brotherhood candidate who's become president, in Egypt, they talk about moderation, about upholding treaties, about democracy, about equality for all, about keeping good relations with not just Israel and the peace treaty but also with the United States.
In Tunisia as well it's about moderation, but the fear of course is those small groups of solofists. These are the extreme real extremists. The Saudi style extremists who are not at all happy with the democratic moderate way these countries are going.
And it's in their interest to seize on any issue they can to attack not just the U.S., but also their own governments to try to put themselves in power. So that's what people have to keep an eye on.
Trying to empower these governments now and trying to help them, you know, really get to a democracy and build on these blocks while trying to sideline and minimize the trouble that the solofists and extremists can cause.
BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour, as usual, thanks very much.
AMANPOUR: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And beyond the foreign policy crisis is the personal loss. We have Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emotional response to the deadly attack in Libya.
BLITZER: Jack's back with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the question this hour is, was the Arab spring worth it?
Mike in Minneapolis says, "Asking why after two whole years, decades and maybe even centuries worth of problems haven't been solved is a very American question. Toppling a dictator's not a magic pill and the subsequent violence is by no means unique to the Middle East.
While the title may sound like it, Arab spring is not a movie. It will take more than Harrison Ford killing a dictator to fix things. For those in Egypt, Libya and Iraq who have a TV set, I'm guessing they're not impressed with 21st Century American democracy anyway."
Ralph in Florida says, "The jury's still out on whether the Arab spring was worth it to the Arabs. It was definitely not worth it to us. What part of too broke to keep playing world cop does our leadership not understand?"
John in Alabama writes, "Yes, the Arab spring was worth it, Jack. Freedom and democracy are messy, but the only things that fully satisfy the needs of the people. Men and women will die for freedom so their children can live free. We might sit in different pews and pray in different ways, but the hallmark of our beliefs is freedom." Mel in Houston says, "Why do you refer to the Arab spring in the past tense? The Egyptians, Libyans and Tunisians are still trying to find their way to a stable form of government. Look at the history of the United States.
We're declared our independence from England in 1776, and the U.S. constitution wasn't ratified until 1789. Will you give the Arabs 13 years to get their act together?"
And Michael in Virginia writes, "We're Lexington, Concord and Yorktown worth it? It's not our call, Jack." If you want to read more on the subject, go to the blog cnn.com/caffertyfile or to our post on "THE SITUATION ROOM's" Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.
Shock, condemnation and grief, we're going to hear Hillary Clinton's rather emotional statement as the embassy crisis unfolded.
BLITZER: Within the tightly knit State Department, the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens is a deeply, personal loss. You can see and hear the grief in the faces and the voices of the people who knew him and worked with him including the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Today many Americans are asking, indeed I asked myself, how could this happen? How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction?
This question reflects just how complicated and at times how confounding the world can be, but we must be clear-eyed even in our grief. This was an attack by a small and savage group. Not the people or government of Libya.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Secretary Clinton also says, violence like this is no way to honor a religion or a faith.