WASHINGTON — The day after the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three other American officials were killed, Republican and Democrat members of Colorado’s congressional delegation responded to the assault with dueling explanations of its causes.
In a delegation polarized by ideology, members disagreed on the role of the Obama administration’s leadership abroad as well as the U.S. State Department’s policies.
Although Christopher Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979, Colorado Republicans and Democrats reflected not on the historical nature of the attack but rather on its policy roots.
Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs on Wednesday issued a statement highly critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy.
“Like many Americans, I am concerned about the Obama Administration’s policy of leading from behind on world affairs,” Lamborn said in the statement. “The American people deserve stronger leadership from the White House. We need an administration that will project strength even into troubled areas of the world.”
By contrast, Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Lakewood released a statement that defended the president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by name and expressed confidence in their leadership.
“I stand by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton in condemning these attacks in the strongest terms,” Perlmutter said in the release. “I have complete confidence American resources will be fully engaged to bring the perpetrators to justice, as all Americans demand and expect.”
Some House members of the delegation issued statements that did not mention the Obama administration by name, but referred indirectly to its policies.
Republican Rep. Mike Coffman of Lone Tree criticized the U.S. State Department’s security of the U.S. embassy in Benghazi.
“Unfortunately, the State Department was irresponsible in posting an ambassador and his staff in an unstable country without requiring a U.S. Marine Corps security detachment to protect them,” Coffman said in the release.
Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver lauded U.S. State Department officials for their bravery.
“The assault of our diplomatic post in Libya, along with the recent protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo reminds us to pay tribute to the many Foreign Service officers and diplomats who risk their lives to serve America across the world,” DeGette said in a prepared statement.
There was non-partisan analysis of the attack, which reportedly began Tuesday evening in Benghazi, a former stronghold for rebels opposed to Libya dictataor Moammar Gaddhafi.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee, told reporters Wednesday he believes the attack was not the result of happenstance.
“Clearly the event in Libya was a planned, targeted event. There is no doubt,” Rogers said of the assault, which fell on the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. “The date of the attack was no accident. There are too many coincidences.”
Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-Md.), the ranking member on the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee, cast doubt that al Qaeda killed Ambassador Stevens, despite that one of the terrorist organization’s affiliates claimed that it did so.
“There are questions that need to be answered here,” Ruppersberger said. “Was it a rogue group? Did they take advantage of an opportunity? Al Qaeda will take credit for any attacks on us or our allies. We don’t know.”
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, criticized the Obama administration for not issuing a more forceful statement about its response to the killings. “What they should have said is, ‘We’re going to go after them like we went after bin Laden,’” King said.
Ruppersberger and Rogers did not immediately endorse cutting off aid to Egypt or Libya.
“We should walk to that conclusion, not run to it,” Rogers said.
Similarly, Republican Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez did not rule out cutting off aid to the countries. “I would not take it off the table,” he said in an interview.