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Sweet: Benazir Bhutto assasination: React, Transcripts.

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DES MOINES, IA.--The assasination of Benizir Bhutto quickly brought a strong reaction from top U.S. government officials and the 2008 GOP and Democratic presidential candidates.

Included in this searchable package
*Statements from President Bush and Senators....Joe Biden, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, John Kerry, Dianne Feinstein, Joe Lieberman and former Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. John Boehner.
*White House briefing.



Prairie Chapel Ranch

Crawford, Texas

9:55 A.M. CST

THE PRESIDENT: Laura and I extend our deepest condolences to the family of Benazir Bhutto, to her friends, to her supporters. We send our condolences to the families of the others who were killed in today's violence. And we send our condolences to all the people of Pakistan on this tragic occasion.

The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy. Those who committed this crime must be brought to justice. Mrs. Bhutto served her nation twice as Prime Minister and she knew that her return to Pakistan earlier this year put her life at risk. Yet she refused to allow assassins to dictate the course of her country.

We stand with the people of Pakistan in their struggle against the forces of terror and extremism. We urge them to honor Benazir Bhutto's memory by continuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life.

END 9:57 A.M. CST



“I am profoundly saddened and outraged by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a leader of tremendous political and personal courage. I came to know Mrs. Bhutto over many years, during her tenures as Prime Minister and during her years in exile. Mrs. Bhutto's concern for her country, and her family, propelled her to risk her life on behalf of the Pakistani people. She returned to Pakistan to fight for democracy despite threats and previous attempts on her life and now she has made the ultimate sacrifice. Her death is a tragedy for her country and a terrible reminder of the work that remains to bring peace, stability, and hope to regions of the globe too often paralyzed by fear, hatred, and violence.

Let us pray that her legacy will be a brighter, more hopeful future for the people she loved and the country she served. My family and I extend our condolences and deepest sympathies to the victims and their families and to the people of Pakistan.”


Washington, DC- Senator and Presidential Candidate Chris Dodd today expressed his condolences to the family of Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated earlier today in Pakistan.

Dodd, who has kept in touch with Bhutto over the past few weeks of turbulence and unrest in Pakistan, and is a 26-year member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that this is again another reminder of the experienced leadership our country needs at a time when critical regions around the world are in turmoil.

"Today's news from Pakistan is both shocking and saddening. As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I have had the opportunity to travel to Pakistan and come to know Former Prime Minister Bhutto very well over the years. I spoke to her personally several weeks ago and have stayed in close contact with her since. She was a respected leader who played an important part in moving Pakistan toward democracy.

"As we recognize the loss of a leader today, we must also recognize the implication of today's tragedy to the security of the region and to that of the United States.

"At this critical time we must do everything in our power to help Pakistan continue the path toward democracy and full elections. Our first priority must be to ensure stability in this critical nuclear state.

"The United States should also stand ready to provide assistance in investigating this heinous act. And as Pakistan perpetrators to justice, it should also demonstrate that it will not allow such violence to derail democracy and proceed with elections in a timely manner."

Boston, MA – Today, Governor Mitt Romney issued the following statement on today's tragic events in Pakistan:

"We are still learning the details of today's tragic events in Pakistan, but this is a stark reminder that America must not only stay on high alert, but remain actively engaged across the globe. Pakistan has long been a key part in the war against extremism and radical jihadists. For those who think Iraq is the sole front in the War on Terror, one must look no further than what has happened today. America must show its commitment to stand with all moderate forces across the Islamic world and together face the defining challenge of our generation – the struggle against violent, radical jihadists.

"At this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers go to the family of Benazir Bhutto, and to all the people of Pakistan who are fighting against extremist forces that would commit such heinous acts as the whole world has witnessed today."

BIDEN Issues Statement on the Assassination of Benazir Bhutto

Washington, DC – Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE) issued the following statement today after the assassination of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto:

“This is a terrible day. My heart goes out to Benazir Bhutto’s family, friends and followers.

“Like her father before her, Benazir Bhutto worked her whole life – and gave her life – to help Pakistan become a democratic, secular and modern Muslim country. She was a woman of extraordinary courage who returned to Pakistan in the face of death threats and even after an assassination attempt the day of her return, she did not flinch. It was a privilege to know her these many years and to call her a friend.

“I am convinced Ms. Bhutto would have won free and fair elections next week. The fact that she was by far Pakistan’s most popular leader underscores the fact that there is a vast, moderate majority in Pakistan that must have a clear voice in the system. Her assassination makes it all the more urgent that Pakistan return to a democratic path.

“This fall, I twice urged President Musharraf to provide better security for Ms. Bhutto and other political leaders – I wrote him before her return and after the first assassination attempt in October. The failure to protect Ms. Bhutto raises a lot of hard questions for the government and security services that must be answered.

“I know that Benazir’s followers will be tempted to lash out in anger and violence. I urge them to remain calm – and not play into the hands of the forces of destruction. I urge Pakistan’s leaders to open a fully accountable and transparent investigation. We must find out who was behind this and bring those responsible to justice. And the United States should offer any assistance necessary, including investigative teams, to get to the bottom of this horror.

“The way to honor Benazir Bhutto is to uphold the values for which she gave her life: democracy, moderation and social justice. I join with the Pakistani people in mourning the loss of a dear friend.”


On October 24, 2007, Senator Biden wrote to Pakistan’s President Pervaiz Musharraf expressing the need for effective security for all candidates – particularly Benazir Bhutto – who would be participating in the upcoming election. Sen. Biden had previously written President Musharraf in September before Ms. Bhutto returned to Pakistan, urging him to provide her with full security. The full text of the October letter, signed also by Senators Leahy and Lieberman, is below:

October 24, 2007

President Pervaiz Musharraf
c/o The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
3517 International Court, NW
Washington, DC 20008

Dear President Musharraf:

We write to express our sympathy for the tremendous loss suffered by Pakistan in the October 18 suicide attack during a rally welcoming Pakistan Peoples Party leader Benazir Bhutto. The brutal murder of 140 Pakistani citizens in Karachi was a senseless tragedy, and we extend our condolences to you, to the victims’ families, and to all of the people of Pakistan.

We believe this devastating attack serves as a stark reminder of the need for effective security mechanisms for the protection of all candidates and their supporters (particularly, although not exclusively, Ms. Bhutto and members of her party), who will be participating in the coming election. To this end, we ask you to take the following points under close consideration, as you and your government develop a plan to confront these serious challenges:

We believe it is very important to the democratic process that Ms. Bhutto be provided the full level of security support customarily afforded to any former Pakistani Prime Minister. One of the most important security provisions would be government-provided bomb-proof vehicles and jamming equipment, in order to protect Ms. Bhutto and other senior political leaders from roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices.
We are troubled by allegations—well-founded or not— of potential links between certain currently-serving or retired military or intelligence officials and extremist forces who might target secular politicians. In order to dispel any suspicion of complicity on the part of any past or present government officials, we urge you to ensure that any individual involved in (or alleged to have been involved in) past political action against Ms. Bhutto and her supporters be excluded from any part of the former prime minister’s security detail.
We urge you to refrain from using security concerns as a rationale for imposing a ban on political rallies. We believe your government, like the governments of other nations afflicted by the scourge of terrorism, can adequately protect political leaders and their supporters without stifling the democratic process.
We urge the government of Pakistan to conduct a thorough and transparent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the attack of October 18. We also encourage the government of Pakistan to accept whatever forensic, intelligence, and investigatory support from outside countries might be necessary to ensure a successful outcome to this inquiry. If the resources of the U.S. government would be helpful in bringing the perpetrators of this terrible assault on innocent Pakistanis to justice, we stand ready to facilitate the provision of such resources in any way we are able to do so.

We share the pain that you, and all Pakistanis, suffered at the brutal murder of 140 of your fellow citizens. We continue to believe in the critical importance of a strong friendship between the people of United States and Pakistan.


Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
United States Senator

Joseph I. Lieberman
United States Senator

Patrick J. Leahy
United States Senator
Obama Statement on the Assassination of Benazir Bhutto

“I am shocked and saddened by the death of Benazir Bhutto in this terrorist atrocity. She was a respected and resilient advocate for the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people. We join with them in mourning her loss, and stand with them in their quest for democracy and against the terrorists who threaten the common security of the world,” said United States Senator Barack Obama.
Office of the Press Secretary
(Crawford, Texas)

For Immediate Release December 27, 2007
Crawford Middle School
Crawford, Texas
11:37 A.M. CST
MR. STANZEL: Good afternoon, everyone. Happy to take your questions.

Q Scott, do you have any update on the President calling President Musharraf at all? And any plans for the President to attend a funeral?

MR. STANZEL: The President does plan to talk with President Musharraf today. We had reached out to them earlier, to make those arrangements, but that has not happened yet. You should also know that Secretary Rice has spoken with Benazir Bhutto's husband to offer our condolences, but don't have anything for you beyond that.

Q Any chance of going to a funeral, or would you send Secretary Rice or somebody else?

MR. STANZEL: It's too early to tell. We'll see what those arrangements are, and we can provide information as it comes in.

Q Scott, does the White House support the possible postponing of elections in Pakistan, given what's happened today?

MR. STANZEL: Well, I think that is up to the Pakistanis. Free and fair elections are an integral part of a democratic society, and we're in the opening hours of this tragedy, this assassination. But that is up to the people of Pakistan.

Q And more broadly, can you comment a bit about the implications for U.S. policy in Pakistan because of what's happened today? I mean, as the White House sees it, given the declaration of emergency rule and then what's happened with this assassination, is democracy failing?

MR. STANZEL: I think it's important to take a step back and consider what we're facing here. This is the nature of the enemy we face. We face terrorists who will stop at nothing. They will take innocent life to stop the march of democracy. And we have seen that in other places around the world -- suicide bombers who kill wantonly. And the President decided to take the fight to the enemy in 2001 to confront this type of danger, because terrorist thugs want to stop the march of democracy, they want to stop the advancement of liberty, and they will stop at nothing to do so. So it is a reminder of the threats that we face.

Q Who do you believe was responsible for this attack?

MR. STANZEL: That would be up to the Pakistani officials to investigate. Let's be clear: Whoever perpetuated this violence was someone who was an enemy of democracy. But it's too early, at this point, to say that from our perspective. Understand there are various -- there may be claims of responsibility out there, but I'm sure the Pakistani authorities will be looking into the matter.


Q Scott, how confident are you that there will be a thorough investigation, given that there -- the same calls were made after the bombing, when she first returned, and there's been no progress that we know of in finding out who carried out that event.

MR. STANZEL: I think it's -- from our perspective, it's important to have a review of this and to look into the matter, and I think it's important to the long-term prospects of democracy in Pakistan that there be an open review of this matter. And I think that that is something that is necessary.

Q Is that something the United States is prepared to assist with?

MR. STANZEL: Well, you know, again, we're in the opening hours of this tragedy, and the President looks forward to his conversation with President Musharraf today. Obviously we're in contact with Pakistani officials. Pakistan has been an ally in the war on terror. President Musharraf, himself, has faced numerous assassination attempts, numerous attempts on his life, so he is familiar with the threat from extremists. We're in the early hours of this matter, but certainly Pakistan has been a close ally in the war on terror, and we look forward to those further conversations.

Yes, Savannah.

Q Does the administration trust the Pakistani government to investigate properly whether the government, itself, or any elements within it were involved in this attack?

MR. STANZEL: Well, that's sort of the answer that I provided to Steven. I think it's important to have a thorough investigation of that. We expect that that will happen and, like I said I said to Steven, I think we're willing to work with our allies in Pakistan to make sure that does happen.


Q Does President Bush plan to offer any guidance to President Musharraf regarding whether to hold the elections next month? And, also, does he plan to discourage any imposition of, for example, martial law in Pakistan?

MR. STANZEL: Well, the conversation hasn't happened yet, so the President does look forward to his conversation with President Musharraf. But we would urge calm -- and there is a risk of -- after an assassination like this of a political leader, there is a risk of people turning to violence to express their anger. And we would urge calm and hope that all the Pakistanis would mourn her death, celebrate her life, and unite together in opposition to the types of extremists that are trying to stop the march of democracy.

Q When you were saying before that Musharraf is an ally in the war on terror, are you concerned, though, when The New York Times, for example, reported just a few days ago that a lot of the U.S. aid for Pakistan has been wasted and has not gone to fighting extremists, any concern at all that he is not fully onboard and you need push him a little bit?

MR. STANZEL: Well, I think it's important to remember that Pakistan -- the Pakistan military has lost hundreds of soldiers in the fight against extremism. They have lost life in their fight against these types of terrorists. Certainly when it comes to aid that is provided, we always want to make sure it's used for the purposes for which it was provided, and those are ongoing reviews that we always have with all countries around the world.

But I think that there is -- what is clear is there are extremist elements in Pakistan and other places around the world who do want to stop democracy and will take measures -- like killing innocent people at a democratic rally -- to try to stop that advancement.


Q Does the President think that President Musharraf did his utmost to protect Benazir Bhutto? And what level of confidence can President Bush have in President Musharraf now, after this act?

MR. STANZEL: The President looks forward to his conversation with President Musharraf. Certainly security is an important matter. But as the President said earlier today, Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan knowing the risk that she faced, knowing that there would be people who would try to stop her calls for democracy. So the -- it was a dangerous situation, but she returned to it because she believed in democracy. But in terms of providing security and the arrangements that were made, that's not something that I can comment further on.

Q Who is here at the ranch -- who is physically here at the ranch to help advise the President on this? And is there any thought of somebody -- of the Secretary of State or national security coming here to help him in this crisis?

MR. STANZEL: Well, the President is always, wherever he goes, he travels with staff. He's here with national security staff and various other members of the senior White House staff --

Q And who is the top member that is here?

MR. STANZEL: I'm sorry?

Q Who is the top member of national security --

MR. STANZEL: Well, there are numerous people that essentially have the same rank, so there isn't one top person. But Stephen Hadley, the President's National Security Advisor, is in Washington, D.C., and they participate regularly in secure video teleconferences. So the President is never without the advice of his advisors. This morning, as you know, he participated in his regular intelligence briefing, where they did discuss this matter. So the President is always with staff wherever he goes.

Q And any thoughts any of any of them coming out here?

MR. STANZEL: Not at this time, but there will be various staff members here throughout the time here.

Q There are reports that the White House is reaching out to General Kayani in Pakistan. Can you explain what that means?

MR. STANZEL: We have an open dialogue with General Kayani, we have strong lines of communication with him. You may recall that Deputy Secretary Negroponte was recently in Pakistan and did have discussions with him. I believe that might be better described as the administration is reaching out to him, because I'm not aware that the White House is reaching out to him directly. But certainly the State Department, Defense Department and other officials throughout the government do have a relationship with General Kayani.

Q So the reaching out, I mean, why him, and --

MR. STANZEL: Well, obviously security and stability is important. And in the wake of this tragedy, we want to talk with officials in Pakistan to make sure that we are providing our advice as they need it or want it. Certainly General Kayani has a responsibility for stability in the country, as the leader of the army. And those are conversations that would be natural, I think.

Q Why is it taking so long to set up a phone call between President Bush and President Musharraf? Isn't he just able to --

MR. STANZEL: Actually the first time we reached out to him, President Musharraf I understand was talking with reporters. So serving your needs, and that's why the conversation didn't happen at that point. So when was that was occurring, we just decided that we would have it later today. That will happen shortly.

Q And what was President Bush's initial reaction when he heard the news that Bhutto was assassinated?

MR. STANZEL: Well, you got his reaction earlier today. And he did want to make a statement about it, because he thought it was very important to call attention to the matter, and to make sure that --

Q I mean, was he in shock, was he --

MR. STANZEL: I wasn't in the briefing, so I couldn't describe it -- I couldn't describe his immediate reaction, but you saw his statement earlier today. But certainly it is a tragedy, and it's a life that we mourn the loss of.


Q Scott, how soon after the assassination was the President informed? And also, you've been saying "extremists" and "terrorists" -- can you be more specific? Is the government hearing anything that is more specific than that, that takes it to al Qaeda?

MR. STANZEL: I don't -- I've seen and I'm aware that al Qaeda may have claimed responsibility. I'm aware of news reports of that, but I don't have any specifics for you on that. But certainly whoever perpetrated this attack is an enemy of democracy, and has used a tactic which al Qaeda is very familiar with, and that is suicide bombing and the taking of innocent life to try to disrupt a democratic process.

You had asked about when the President heard -- his regular intelligence briefing began this morning at 7:30 a.m. and he was informed at that time.

Q Scott, will you give us a readout after the phone call with Musharraf?

MR. STANZEL: I'm not sure that I will, but I'll see what I can do for you.

Q At least let us know it happened?

MR. STANZEL: Yes, certainly.

Q You were asked about this, but does the President have a position on whether elections should go forward on January 8th?

MR. STANZEL: And I would refer you to that answer, and that is that that is matter for the people of Pakistan, and what they believe is right in terms of advancing democracy is what we would support. So it is important that the democratic process move forward. We believe that is the right thing to do. Obviously we're just in the early hours of the wake of this tragedy, so those are discussions that the various political parties in Pakistan are probably having right now.


Q I have an airline question.


Q Today you announced that you would extend reinsurance on airlines. Why that decision -- you know, what led to that decision? Why are you only giving it another year? What's the process?

MR. STANZEL: Why am I -- why are we what? I'm sorry.

Q Why are we giving it just another year?

MR. STANZEL: Well, that is a continuation of a policy. I can work to get you more information on that. But I understand that that's a continuation -- that was a determination that was made to continue that policy for another year, and that was on -- certainly on the advise of transportation officials and what we thought was right in terms of continuing a strong and healthy airline industry.

Other questions? All right, thank you all very much.

Q Any bill signings today?

MR. STANZEL: Not today. There could be, certainly.


MR. STANZEL: The S-CHIP extension has passed, obviously. As of yesterday, that had not arrived at the White House. So it was not ready for action.

END 11:51 A.M. CST
Boehner Statement on the Death of Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto
WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement today on the death of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto:

“I join the President in strongly condemning this assassination, and my thoughts and prayers are with Benazir Bhutto's family and supporters. The extremists behind today’s attack must be held responsible, and the upcoming democratic elections in Pakistan must go forward. Pakistan has been a vital ally of the United States, and a strong relationship with a stable, democratic Pakistan is important to our success in seeking out and defeating Islamic extremism in the Global War on Terror. This cowardice act serves as yet another reminder that we must remain vigilant in standing against the enemies of freedom in Pakistan and around the world to ensure that their efforts to thwart democracy will once again fail.”
Statement of Senator Dianne Feinstein on the Assassination

Today of Pakistan Opposition Leader Benazir Bhutto

“I met Benazir Bhutto when she was Prime Minister and came to this country, and the women of the Senate organized a breakfast with her. She was a brave woman who had the courage to return to Pakistan in the face of death threats, and she survived a previous attack on her life just two months ago. My heart and thoughts go out to her family and to the people of Pakistan, and I condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms. This indeed is a very difficult and tragic moment. My hope and prayer is that the Pakistani people will pull together, and allow the country to proceed on its road to democracy.”

Kerry on the Death of Benazir Bhutto

BOSTON, MA- Sen. John Kerry, (D-Mass.), issued the following statement about the murder of Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto today. Kerry is the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East and South and Central Asian Affairs, which includes Pakistan. He introduced a Sense of the Senate Resolution expressing concern for Ms. Bhutto’s safety in the fall of this year.

"This is both a horrific and heartbreaking tragedy, and a lightning bolt wakeup call for anyone who had taken their eye off of the turmoil in Pakistan. Teresa and I send our deepest condolences to Ms. Bhutto's family. Benazir Bhutto returned home after years in exile knowing fully that she was taking a great personal risk to fight for change and democracy. When I met with her this fall just days before her return to Pakistan, she raised the issue of her own personal security. Subsequent to the bombing and assassination attempt that greeted her return home, I spoke to Secretary Rice about ways the United States might work with President Musharraf to ensure her safety.

“Her loss underscores the fragility of the situation in Pakistan and the perils of a volatile mix of unrest, tension, radicalism, and nuclear weapons. Her killing embodies everyone’s worst possible fears and reinforces how tenuous the circumstances in Pakistan really are. The loss of Ms. Bhutto demands of the United States and our allies an urgent focus on developing a Pakistan strategy that will crush extremists and provide freedom, peace, and security for the country that mourns her loss today."


Statement by Senator Lieberman on the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) today issued the following statement in response to the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto:

“The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a shocking and despicable act by extremists that must not be allowed to diminish the freedom or future of the people of Pakistan. My most heartfelt condolences go out to the family and supporters of this courageous woman.

“The murder of Prime Minister Bhutto today was a barbaric terrorist attack against a remarkable world leader, and a tragic loss in the worldwide struggle against extremism that binds together Pakistan, the United States, and all peace-loving and civilized peoples. This is a dark day for Pakistan -- and the world.

“In striking at Prime Minister Bhutto today, the forces responsible for her assassination have tried to murder the values and principles that she stood for -- the values of democracy, freedom, and moderation. It is critical that they are not allowed to succeed.

“At this moment of tragedy and loss, we must stand united and strong in support of the vision of Pakistan -- democratic, peaceful, and free -- that Prime Minister Bhutto gave her life in pursuit of, and against the forces of fanaticism responsible for her murder.”

- 30 -


1 Comment

I am curious as to why nobody stopped her from popping her torso through the sunroof.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on December 27, 2007 1:04 PM.

Sweet: Obama in Des Moines "Stand for Change" Talks about his "unlikely journey in closing argument. Starts with Bhutto comments. was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet column: Bhutto assassination may change '08 dynamic. is the next entry in this blog.

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