By Greg McDonald
Sen. John McCain Thursday called the Obama administration's response to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, "a classic scandal and cover-up" with Watergate overtones, saying it would likely have an impact on the election outcome by turning veterans and active-duty military personnel against the president.
"I think that this Libya fiasco and tragedy is turning some veterans' votes and some active-duty military," McCain told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren Thursday night.
"They are angered and disgusted. Our active duty military people believe they can't trust the president of the United States," McCain added, referring to the administration's refusal so far to publicly lay out the facts surrounding the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans killed in the attacks.
"These people are covering up so much in such a ridiculous fashion," he said.
The Arizona Republican, who was his party's 2008 presidential nominee, called the administration's handling of the questions about the attack "a classic scandal and cover-up" that is "angering our veterans and . . . our active duty people."
"I think it can have an impact [on the election] because we've still got five more days. And this is a classic scandal, where almost every day, or every few days, another shoe drops," McCain continued.
The senator said he told some veterans who complained to him about events surrounding the Benghazi attack that "it could be as bad as Watergate."
"And one of our veterans said, 'Yes, but nobody died in Watergate,'" McCain said.
The senator's comments came amid reports that Stevens had cabled the State Department nearly a month before the attack, which occurred on the 11th anniversary of Sept. 11, about security concerns at the consulate and the presence of al-Qaida and other Islamist extremist groups in Benghazi.
McCain and many other Republicans have complained that Stevens' warnings were ignored and that the administration failed to respond to requests for help when the consulate was actually under attack.
On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that a group of CIA security agents from an agency annex in Benghazi did respond within 25 minutes of the attack beginning and managed to get most of the State Department personnel out of the consulate.
The story, quoting unidentified intelligence personnel, appeared to refute recent reports that the CIA told its personnel to "stand down" during the attack.
McCain, however, said the nation's active duty military personnel deserve answers and would like to have them before the Nov. 6 election.
"I'm getting a reaction the likes of which I have seldom seen. . . . They know what's going on. They know a cover-up is going on. And I can tell you, they do not trust the president of the United States," he said.
In a separate interview with Van Susteren, Sen. Pat Roberts offered a more critical assessment of how he thinks American military personnel have come to view the president in the wake of the Benghazi attack.
The Kansas Republican said he spoke to one young man who just got out of the service after being deployed five times.
"He says, 'I'm glad I'm out. I knew I was going to be in harm's way. That's why, you know, I signed up. But today, I don't think they'd have my back,'" Roberts quoted the young veteran as saying.
"Now, if that's true and that starts to fester, I would hate to see any president bear that burden, whether it be [Mitt] Romney or Obama," Roberts continued.
The senator said it was important to get answers now because, "You don't want to lose the morale of our service people put in harm's way. That's not right."
"This has been the doggonedest series of events, where it's sort of a drip, drip, drip, you know, revelation, and it doesn't make any sense," the senator said of the administration's response to the attack. "It's a jigsaw puzzle."
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