This morning on "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien," Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) addresses allegations by fmr. New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani of a cover up in U.S. Consulate attack in Libya.
"With all due respect to Mayor Giuliani, when he makes accusations about this administration and a cover-up for not keeping the Benghazi facility safe, you know, I would never say this but some could suggest that when he was the mayor of New York, why wasn't he better prepared to deal with 9/11? It's just ludicrous. It's ludicrous. You've got to – you have certain information, you do the best you can with that information," Rep Israel says.
"But again, on the ultimate question that the American think about, which is, "Is al Qaeda stronger or weaker? Is Osama bin Laden dead or alive? Is the war in Iraq continuing to be waged or is it over? Are our troops coming home to Long Island from Afghanistan or will they be there for another 10 years fighting another country's battles?" On those questions, this president has performed," Rep. Israel adds.
Transcript available after the jump.
O'BRIEN: Thank you. Libya is going to be a topic tonight, I'm absolutely certain. Here is what Secretary Clinton told Elise Labott about Libya. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I take responsibility. I'm in charge of the State Department, 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts. The president and the vice president certainly wouldn't be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals. They're the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs, and make a considered decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: So she's saying, ultimately, the responsibility rests with me. But none of that really confronts all the kerfuffle around this videotape and claiming there was an argument, a protest, over this movie that we now know did not exist. And we know on September 16, Susan Rice on "Meet the Press" said, "Initially our assessment," et cetera, et cetera, "was prompted, of course, by the video."
On September 18, it was Jay Carney who said, "Our belief based on the information we had was the video that caused unrest in Cairo precipitated some of the unrest in Benghazi."
So they're talking about video. They're wrong. They're ultimately wrong. Secretary Clinton, is she ultimately responsible for that?
ISRAEL: Look, there's got to be accountability and there's got to be transparency and Secretary of State Clinton said that she is ultimately responsible. But, Soledad, at the end of the day, national security and foreign policy is about who is keeping us safe? This debate tonight is about 30 or 40 miles away from Ground Zero. Long Islanders understood what happened on 9/11 and this was the president who made the tough decisions to eliminate to Osama bin Laden. This was the president who got us out of Iraq, who is winding down the war in Afghanistan and letting Afghanistan forces, Afghanistan's army and police, take over a war that we have been fighting for over 10 years.
So on the fundamental national security and foreign policy questions facing our country, this is a president who has done an extraordinarily good job keeping us safe, putting additional forces in Afghanistan when they were needed, taking them out, and killing Osama bin Laden and more al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists than George Bush did in his 8 years.
O'BRIEN: But isn't a fundamental foreign policy question one that Mayor Giuliani posed to us yesterday, where he said it's a cover-up. And isn't a fundamental foreign policy is, "Is it a cover-up?" Or is it incompetence that it took so long to figure out. We're now a month out and still haven't sort of – just getting the basic facts of what happened.
ISRAEL: I think it's fair to say that you have certain information on Tuesday, you have more information on Wednesday, more information on Thursday. By the way, with all due respect to Mayor Giuliani, when he makes accusations about this administration and a cover-up for not keeping the Benghazi facility safe, you know, I would never say this but some could suggest that when he was the mayor of New York, why wasn't he better prepared to deal with 9/11? It's just ludicrous. It's ludicrous. You've got to – you have certain information, you do the best you can with that information.
But again, on the ultimate question that the American think about, which is, "Is al Qaeda stronger or weaker? Is Osama bin Laden dead or alive? Is the war in Iraq continuing to be waged or is it over? Are our troops coming home to Long Island from Afghanistan or will they be there for another 10 years fighting another country's battles?" On those questions, this president has performed.
O'BRIEN: I like the way you said, "I would never say this," and then quoted people who you think might say that. Jump in, Ron.
BROWNSTEIN: I want to ask – Congressman, Ron Brownstein from "The National Journal". There were many blank spots in that first debate but maybe the biggest one was President Obama not really telling us very much about what he would do in a second term. You're trying to elect a Democratic Congress. If the voters do give you the majority in the House and the president is reelected, what can they expect, if anything, from Democrats to try to get the economy recovering faster than it has over the last few years?
ISRAEL: Well, Ron, it's so appropriate that this debate is held on Long Island – or as we say, Long Island – because it is the home to the middle class voter, the home to the swing voter, the home to the defiantly independent voter. And tonight is very important. The central question is what do you do to rebuild a middle class that has, as Vice President Biden said in his debate, been knocked back on its heels by Republican policies that put us in this position?
And I think it's important for the president to remind voters that he and Democrats in Congress want to quit giving tax breaks to big corporations to ship jobs overseas and start providing bigger tax incentives for small businesses to open up on Hempstead Turnpike near Hofstra University, or on Main Street in Huntington. He has to remind the American people that he thinks we should give the middle class more help to send a kid to college. Mitt Romney thinks that we have to give millionaires more help, and big oil companies more help. And the president has to remind the American people that we believe that if you're 25 or 35, paying into Medicare, or 55 or 65, it should not be turned into a voucher. Mitt Romney and the Republicans believe it should.
So those are three critically important middle class principles that the president has to enunciate tonight. And in that debate, Mitt Romney is on defense trying to explain to the American people why his policies, which we tried and failed the middle class, will succeed for them again. And the president is on offense on his relentless advocacy for the middle class.
O'BRIEN: It will be interesting to hear it actually goes when this debate takes place tonight. Congressman Steve Israel from Long Island, nice to see you, sir. Thank you for talking with us.