- May 22, 2012
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'If four Americans get killed, it's not OPTIMAL': Obama's extraordinary response to Comedy Central question about shifting story after Benghazi attack
By Toby Harnden In Washington
President Barack Obama on Benghazi attack: 'If 4 Americans get killed, it's not OPTIMAL' | Mail Online
19 October 2012
President Barack Obama, during an interview shown on Comedy Central, has responded to a question about his administration's confused communication after the Benghazi attack, by saying: 'If four Americans get killed, its not optimal.'
Obama was speaking to Jon Stewart of The Daily Show for a programme that was broadcast last night. Stewart, a liberal whose young audience is full of potential voters prized by the Obama campaign, asked the president about his handling of the aftermath of the Benghazi attack.
But Obama's response sparked outrage among Republican commentators including the website Breitbart and prompted a vicious backlash from the Twitter community.
Not optimal: President Barack Obama, pictured left, discussed the killing of four men in Benghazi while speaking to Jon Stewart, right, on The Daily Show
Ambassador Chris Stevens, diplomat Sean Smith and security men and former U.S. Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed by terrorists on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 - an attack that the White House initially blamed on a spontaneous protest about an anti-Islam movie made in California.
Stewart asked: 'Is part of the investigation helping the communication between these divisions? 'Not just what happened in Benghazi, but what happened within.
'Because I would say, even you would admit, it was not the optimal response, at least to the American people, as far as all of us being on the same page.'
Obama responded: 'Here's what Ill say. If four Americans get killed, its not optimal.'
He continued: 'Were going to fix it. All of it. And what happens, during the course of a presidency, is that the government is a big operation and any given time something screws up.
'And you make sure that you find out whats broken and you fix it.
'Whatever else I have done throughout the course of my presidency the one thing that Ive been absolutely clear about is that Americas security comes, and the American people need to know exactly how I make decisions when it comes to war, peace, security, and protecting Americans.
'And they will continue to get that over the next four years of my presidency.'
The word 'optimal' was first used by Stewart in the question. But Obama's use of it, in a sound bite that could be used to portray him as somewhat casual about the deaths, lit up conservatives on the internet after it was first reported in a White House pool report by Mike Memoli of the 'Los Angeles Times'.
The website Breitbart criticised the president for playing down the deaths of the four Americans when he used words such as 'crude and disgusting' to describe the anti-Muslim YouTube video that was initially linked to the attacks.
'To reiterate: deaths of Americans are "not optimal," and "bumps in the road." A YouTube video is "bigotry," "blasphemy," "crude and disgusting," an "insult," and inhuman,' commentator Ben Shapiro wrote.
'The left is already saying that the 'not optimal' quote has been taken out of context; they were saying that Stewart used the word 'optimal' first.
Watch the video here... President Barack Obama on Benghazi attack: 'If 4 Americans get killed, it's not OPTIMAL' | Mail Online
'The problem: it's far worse in context. Stewart said that the White House response was 'not the optimal response.' Obama responded not by tackling the White House response, but by calling the murders 'not optimal.'
Shapiro added: '"Not optimal." Now that's disgusting.'
The Twitter backlash was almost instantaneous, with the president's use of Stewart's phrase giving birth to the hashtag #NotOptimal. The dedicated hashtag was trending at around 7:30pm ET.
Obama's slip could help Mitt Romney recover from an awkward moment in the presidential debate in Long Island, New York on Tuesday when he challenged Obama over whether he had initially characterised the Benghazi attack as terrorism.