Defiant Hillary Clinton fires back

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton offered a fiery response Wednesday to Republican critics of the Obama administration's handling of the deadly attack on a U.S. mission in Benghazi, facing off with lawmakers who included potential 2016 presidential rivals.
Associated Press
Jan 23, 2013

At times emotional and frequently combative, Clinton rejected GOP suggestions in two congressional hearings that the administration tried to mislead the country about the Sept. 11 attack that killed Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans. She insisted the State Department is moving swiftly and aggressively to strengthen security at diplomatic posts worldwide.

In her last formal testimony before Congress as America's top diplomat — but perhaps not her last time on the political stage — Clinton once again took responsibility for the department's missteps and failures leading up to the assault. But she also said that requests for more security at the diplomatic mission in Benghazi didn't reach her desk, and reminded lawmakers that they have a responsibility to fund security-related budget requests.

Three weeks after her release from a New York hospital — admitted for complications after a concussion — Clinton was at times defiant, complimentary and willing to chastise lawmakers during more than 5 ½ hours of testimony before two separate committees. She tangled with some who could be rivals in 2016 if she decides to seek the presidency again.

Her voice cracking at one point, Clinton said the attack and the aftermath were highly personal tragedies for the families of the victims who died — Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty — as well as herself.

"I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews. I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters and the wives left alone to raise their children," she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a packed hearing.

Clearly annoyed with Republican complaints about the initial explanation for the attack, she rose to the defense of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who was vilified for widely debunked claims five days after the attack that protests precipitated the raid rather than terrorism.

Clinton said, "People were trying in real time to get to the best information." And she said her own focus was on looking ahead on how to improve security rather than revisiting the talking points and Rice's comments.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., pressed her on why "we were misled that there were supposedly protests and something sprang out of that, an assault sprang out of that."

"With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans," she said, her voice rising and quivering with anger as she and Johnson spoke over each other.

"Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided they would go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator."

If Johnson's comments drew an irritated response from Clinton, she notably ignored Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., when he said he would have fired her if he had been in charge and found that she had not read cables from her team in Libya asking for more security. Paul is a potential 2016 presidential candidate.

"Had I been president and found you did not read the cables from Benghazi and from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post," Paul said. "I think it's inexcusable."

Clinton and other officials have testified that requests for additional security did not reach her level, and a scathing independent review of the matter sharply criticized four senior State Department officials who have been relieved of their duties.

"I did not see these requests. They did not come to me. I did not approve them. I did not deny them," she said.

Later, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina repeatedly challenged Clinton's claim to have looked at the tragedy with "clear eyes," saying she should have personally ensured security at the mission.

He said Clinton had "let the consulate become a death trap" in denying requests for additional security and called it "malpractice."

Clinton said she could have let the review board's report remain classified and told Congress "goodbye" before leaving office. But she said, it's "not who I am. It's not what I do."

Absent from the Senate hearing was Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the man tapped to succeed Clinton, who is leaving the administration after four years. Kerry, defeated by George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election, is expected to win swift Senate approval. Clinton is to introduce him at his confirmation hearing on Thursday.

Politics play an outsized role in any appearance by Clinton, who was defeated by Barack Obama in a hard-fought battle for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. She is the subject of constant speculation about a possible bid in 2016.

A former New York senator and the wife of former President Bill Clinton, she is a polarizing figure but is ending her tenure at the State Department with high favorability ratings. A poll last month by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found 65 percent of Americans held a favorable impression of her, compared with 29 percent unfavorable.

On the panel at the Senate hearing were two possible 2016 Republican presidential candidates — Florida's Marco Rubio and Paul, a new member of the committee — as well as John McCain of Arizona, who was defeated by Obama in November 2008.

Clinton, 65, did little to quiet the presidential chatter earlier this month when she returned to work after her hospitalization. On the subject of retirement, she said, "I don't know if that is a word I would use, but certainly stepping off the very fast track for a little while."

In a second round of questioning on Wednesday, Clinton testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee where Republican members pressed her on why cables and other memos about security deficiencies in Benghazi seemed to be ignored.

"The dots here were connected ahead of time. The State Department saw this was coming," said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the panel. "The State Department didn't act."

Clinton told senators the department is implementing the 29 recommendations of the review board and going beyond the proposals, with a special focus on high-threat posts.

"Nobody is more committed to getting this right," she said. "I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger, and more secure."

Clinton had been due to testify in December but postponed her appearances after fainting, falling and suffering a concussion while recovering from a stomach virus that left her severely dehydrated. She was then diagnosed with a blood clot near her brain and returned to work only on Jan. 7.

She won bipartisan well-wishes on her recovery, but while Democrats were quick to praise her for accomplishments as secretary of state, Republicans then hit her with withering criticism.

"It's wonderful to see you in good health and combative as ever," said McCain.

But in the same breath, he dismissed her explanation of events, the administration's response to warnings about the deteriorating security situation in Libya and even the attention paid to Libya after rebels toppled Moammar Gadhafi. "The answers, frankly, that you've given this morning are not satisfactory to me," McCain said.

To McCain, a friend that Clinton served with in the Senate, she replied matter-of-factly: "We just have a disagreement. We have a disagreement about what did happen and when it happened with respect to explaining the sequence of events."

Some Democrats raised the point that Congress had cut funding for embassy security.

"We have to get our act together," she told the panels, chiding House GOP members for recently stripping $1 billion in security aid from the hurricane relief bill and the Senate panel for failing for years to produce a spending authorization bill.

In something of a valedictory, Clinton noted her robust itinerary in four years and her work, nearly 1 million miles and 112 countries.

"My faith in our country and our future is stronger than ever. Every time that blue and white airplane carrying the words "United States of America" touches down in some far-off capital, I feel again the honor it is to represent the world's indispensable nation. And I am confident that, with your help, we will continue to keep the United States safe, strong, and exceptional."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., expressed incredulity that the independent review board did not interview Clinton for its extensive report. She also complained about the department's "false narrative" that four employees lost their jobs over the attack.

"There's just been a shuffling of the deck chairs," said Ros-Lehtinen.

Clinton said earlier that she was not asked to speak to the review board but would have been available. She said the four employees have been removed from their jobs and have been placed on administrative leave, but federal rules prevent the department from taking more drastic steps.

Her testimony followed more than three months of Republican charges that the Obama administration ignored signs of a deteriorating security situation and cast an act of terrorism as mere protests over an anti-Muslim video in the heat of a presidential election. U.S. officials suspect that militants linked to al-Qaida carried out the attack.

Associated Press writers Bradley Klapper and Andrew Miga contributed to this report.

 

Comments

goofus

Alas another puff piece from the All Praise Obozo newsgroup. I like this part of the testimony
http://www.weeklystandard.com/bl...

There you go again

Clinton will walk back that statement to explain "what I really meant!"

sorryhog

More B.S.

dontcare

Hillary 2016

There you go again

Clinton had 4 months to practice her "show" and that is all she came up with?
I am still not convinced that Obama and Clinton were innocent bystanders in the Benghazi debacle.

dontcare

What do you mean all she came up with, she shoved it down the rebumblicans throat I thought.

The Big Dog's back

Hillary slapped those Repubs around like the cheap suits they are.

wiredmama222

Yes, she did. It appalls me to see the RP use the deaths of these men to promote their political agendas. It is sickening to watch them argue that they seem to have the right to lay blame at the feet of Hillary Clinton while all the time reducing the funding for security and knowing that is the truth of the matter. Good for her for standing her ground and speaking out as she did. She certainly did not take their "crap". Punching back, she showed them she can stand up for herself, her department and her decisions without cow-towing to the RP without fear and demoralization. I thought she was very good at it. Especially with specific senators.

There you go again

Surely you heard that Ms. Hillary accepted the responsibilty for her department. RP wants to know why the coverup/delay? Facts show that cables were sent, to no avail. Seems like evidence to me.

wiredmama222

It shows only that certain people who were DISMISSED in her department got the memos, not that she saw them. And like any good leader, she takes responsiblity for her department. Where that comes down to a 'cover up' in the eyes of a RP is beyond me. I simply do not see it. But, true to form, the Republicans must find a Democrat to blame or it simply isn't over until they do. That is the game of politics in this Washington we have. There is no such thing as justice any more, nor cooperation or fair play nor resolution. Not in Washington DC. Not with the way the party is going. They are too busy pushing politics as usual. They better find a far less complusory way of doing business before the next presidential election or they are sure to lose again. This old way just is not working.

deertracker

Agreed! She held her own very well! Impressive!

bored reader

Yeah four months to practice and her handlers could only produce that cheap garbage. "At some point Hillary you must act outraged and indignant". Sad that dead Americans were simply "bumps in the road". Absolute democrat morons.

Yellow Snow

At the end of June 2008, Hilary was 12 million in debt from her failed presidential run. According to FEC documents reported today, her debt is now retired. Same day as her testimony. ..........

There you go again

Maybe now she can afford to get her hair done...please!

arnmcrmn

Hillary looked really bad again. Her party just can't decide what story they finally want to tell.

gilamonster

I did not have sexual relations with that woman....err wrong Clinton but lies as about as good as Slick Willy

kURTje

Dick Nixon, "How can we screw him."

Nor'easter

Doesn't anybody ever hold their oath of office as more than parroting another's voice. Dereliction of duty and/or treason comes to mind.

Contango

Why don't we the people know "exactly" what happened prior and during the Benghazi attack?

Three letters: C.I.A.

Shhhhhhh! Hush, hush.

The Endless War marches on.

“Be the first one on your block to have your boy (or girl) come home in a box.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d...

tk

I watched the hearings on C-span. Secretary Clinton was masterful as expected. She is a strong lady who can stand her ground. The Republicans weren't trying to find out what happened. They were trying to tarnish her image and all they succeeded in doing was tarnishing their own.

Speakezy

Nor'easter... excellent comment and ditto!

Swamp Fox

"They were trying to tarnish her image." I think she accomplished that on her own. Surprise, surprise a Clinton who lies, and tries to divert attention from their own mistakes, at least she didn't have a stain on her dress, classic Clintonesse.....

Swamp Fox

After watching her, she clearly does not have the temperament for higher office, she appeared to be an angry out of control person attempting to lie her way out of this........

arnmcrmn

Dont worry folks, its all Bush's fault. I surprised some of the liberals on here aren't posting that yet.

Obama and his defense staff and everyone in charge clearly dropped the ball, but what does that matter now according to Clinton?

At least she kinda manned up and took a tiny fraction of responsibility, but that was soon overlooked when she started finger pointing in a direction where nobody was standing.

This was a terrorist attack, and nothing was done by your leaders. SAD and PATHETIC are the words I think of everyday when I think of our leadership.

4shizzle

The Republican propaganda machine is in action.

FORWARD to the 2016 ELECTON !!!

SamAdams

After seeing parts and pieces of the hearings, I'm not surprised Secretary Clinton got a little defensive! It's SO insulting when you lie and people don't buy the story, especially when you've had four months to plan your testimony. All that effort, and people STILL know you're lying! Whether it's to protect her own political behind or the President's — or some combination thereof — is the only question I still have. Everything else is crystal clear:

Security was lax, and had been despite the State Department's knowledge of that fact.

Warnings were received in advance of the attack from credible sources (British and Israeli Intelligence among them), but were ignored.

and

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Susan Rice lied, lied, lied, lied, and LIED, apparently in a coordinated matter of policy.

I don't care if Republicans DO have a political agenda at least partially behind their role in the investigation. Whatever the reason, the truth needs to get out however ugly it will be, and no matter the tarnish it puts on the golden idol residing in the White House or anybody else!

Think for a second if this had happened in a Republican administration, and the deafening outcry from Democrats (and I'd frankly agree with them)! Now explain why it's okay for Democrats to commit crimes (or it's defined as "doesn't matter" or "not REALLY a crime"), but it's far more serious if a Republican does the exact same thing...?

The he11 with ideology here. Let's move on to the TRUTH for a change! People are dead because other people messed up.

meowmix

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).

arnmcrmn

Obama carried the war over to Afghanistan and we are still there to this day and lives are being lost weekly. Before you post, remember Obama = just as guilty. Try again.

meowmix

SamAdams said: I don't care if Republicans DO have a political agenda at least partially behind their role in the investigation."

Just goes to show just how shallow Repub's can be.

Here are a few fun facts:
Where was the outrage over Embassy and Consulate attacks under the Bush Admin?

2002 US Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan 12 Killed, 51 Injured
2003 Diplomatic Compound Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 17 Killed
2003 US Consulate , Karachi, Pakistan (SECOND time) 2 Killed
2004 US Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan 2 Killed
2004 US Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 5 Killed, 10 Injured
2006 US Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan (THIRD time) 4 Killed
2006 US Embassy Damascus Syria, 1 Killed 13 Injured
2007 US Embassy Athens Greece, Zero Killed, 8 Injured
2008 US Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, 3 Killed
2008 US Embassy in Yemen 13 Killed, 16 injured

Contango

"WHAT DIFFERENCE...DOES IT MAKE"?

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