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

meowmix

Good question Contango. What difference does it make?
Another abject fail for Republicans. She had them for breakfast, wiped her lips with a napkin, all looking awfully gracious and, may I say, presidential.

Contango

Agreed. It made no difference under Bush and it doesn't matter under Obama.

Incompetence, malfeasance, obfuscation and lying are the hallmarks of the American nomeklatura.

The reason NOTHING was learned yesterday by "We The People" is because THEY didn't want you to know.

Be good little droids and keep focusing on the political parties.

The CIA was operating a covert operation in Benghazi - end of story.

More wars and rumors of war to follow.

shucks

Quoting a biblical phrase,eh? how convenient.

SamAdams

I agree. Where WAS the outrage?

During the Bush administration, I didn't give a crap if the Democrats had a hidden agenda behind their opposition of the USA PATRIOT Act. They were right to oppose it. But now those same Democrats are watching a Democrat president renew and EXPAND the PATRIOT Act, and sign into law really awesome freedom-stealers like the NDAA, and they say nothing.

Sounds to me like it's ALL politics, and that BOTH sides are guilty of it.

So are you suggesting, then, that nobody bother with trying to find the truth behind Benghazi-gate? That once a crime (or at least a mistake) is done and over, we should not only move past it but excuse MORE crimes and mistakes because we did it once (or even 100 times) before?

shucks

Meow, I've got backup:

http://answers.yahoo.com/questio...

Quote Sam Adams :"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)! "

It did happen.
I didn't hear a deafening outcry.
You should be angry, ashamed, and humiliated.

meowmix

for sure 4shizzle!! Pathetic little beings the GOP.

Swamp Fox

The Clinton record on terrorism

So she wants to take credit for her husband's administration. She wants to take credit for any foreign policy achievements during the Clinton years, she wants to claim the national security mantle, and she claims to be fully vetted. She claims there are no more SURPRISES in her and her husband's background. That remains to be seen!!

But who says all the other baggage we know about can't be effectively re-used, re-hashed and re-manipulated for political advantage?

I can just see the Rethugs coming out with a commercial (visuals and all) outlining a string of terrorist bombings that effected U.S. interests, property and persons during Bill Clinton's administration. Shall we list a few here:

1993 - The first World Trade Center bombing
1995 - Attempted crashing of plane on White House
1995 - Oklahoma City bombing
1996 - Khobar Towers bombing - Saudi Arabia
1998 - U.S. Embassy bombings Kenya/Tanzania
2000 - USS Cole Bombing - Yemen
Not to mention Clinton's lack of action (non-sexual) that lead to 9/11

The Clinton response, One stained intern dress....

deertracker

Wow, you are way off topic!

Swamp Fox

You do realize in your little far left mind the topic is terrorism and how the Clintons has always mishandled it including the latest in Libya..

The Big Dog's back

swamprat, 9-11-2001, 2,977 deaths.

Swamp Fox

dog breath, compliments of Wild Bill Clinton and lack of attention to terrorism for 8 years, he was busy conducting business in the Oral Office......

eriemom

Actually swamp, what I remember about any lack of action included the phrase, 'wag the dog" from the gop-ers.

Swamp Fox

After listening to her rants I can now understand why Bill looked for strange...

meowmix

Oh now swampy-- the son of your god Rand Paul had this to say about Benghazi that is was "The most tragic event in America since 9/11". Gee, think he was emoting just a tad? Or did he think that below was somehow just inconsequential?
Iraq
Katrina
Sandy
Deep Water Horizon
Tucson
Aurora
Newtown
Virginia TechR

Swamp Fox

Cat food, It might not be the most tragic event but its clearly the biggest example of misdirection and a continuing pattern of conduct by this administration...

Contango

Russia warned us to stay the (bleep) outa Libya. Tellin' us we'd open up a whole can o' worms.

But no, The Puppet-in-Chief Obama had to do the bidding of his masters to keep the machinery of the Endless War greased with new money and power.

http://www.businessinsider.com/r...

shucks

@ Con
Who are his masters? The chicken-hawk Republicans?

Good to know that you like to obey the Russians.

meowmix

Contango--you're infamous for calling we dem's communists--NOW you're telling us we should have listened to RUSSIA??? Welcome to the party, comrade. :)

Contango

News flash: Russia has had more experience with Islamist nuts and long before the U.S.

Good to know that you approved of Obama's war in Libya.

I'm sure you'll support him in his next one and the one after that, etc, etc.

BW1's picture
BW1

Russia also currently is further from being a communist nation than most of the West, including the USA.

Pterocarya frax...

So why don't you move there and live with Putin? Then we'll see how bad Obama is.

shucks

.

Mime Bloggling's picture
Mime Bloggling

I think what has the average patriotic citizen upset about the whole Benghazi debacle is that the White House et al was willing to blame the attack on the Consulate in Libya and the subsequent murders of Ambassador Stevens and 3 others military personnel on an anti-Islam YouTube video, when in fact within a couple of hours of the attack according to time stamped emails, the White House and over 400 security officials KNEW it was a terrorist attack linked to Al Qaeda. After all it was September 11th.

They kept up this subterfuge for weeks trying to avoid political fallout during a grueling election season understanding clearly that President Obama had campaigned on the notion that Al Qaeda was virtually a vanquished foe.

Because of the YouTube video LIE more riots occurred (in 25 countries) and more people died. Seventeen died in Pakistan alone. The more the Obama Administration blamed the video the more intense the rioting became and greater the anti-American sentiment grew.

"What difference would it make?" Madame Secretary? Just maybe more people would not have died... In the end the truth finally came out, it had nothing whatsoever to do with a YouTube video. The American people hate being LIED to and it doesn't matter if you are Republican or Democrat.

I chuckle when I see the AP headlines "Defiant Hillary Clinton Fires Back". She's had 4 months to process her response. I appreciate the fact that she's taken "responsibility", but in Washington what does that mean anymore? I see no consequences. She still has her job and her 4 subordinates who supposedly did not pass on vital information to her still have jobs. We have buried 4 patriots. In the real world they would have been fired.

Contango

Has anyone seen Oliver Stone's "Untold History of the United States"?

Important point:

At the end of the 1940s, Winston Churchill, the PM of a bankrupt UK, in essence handed the keys to the job of world policeman to the U.S. and figuratively said, "Good luck"!

Is the U.S. goin' to bring possible military destruction and bankruptcy upon itself while acting as the Earth's top cop?

So far, so good.

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

arnmcrmn

If the leadership in this country would have been up front and honest about this entire deal, it wouldn't of turned out to be what it was. Honest and manning up......something you wont see from this administration.

We all understand that tragic things are going to occur under each and every presidents watch that will cost American lives. That is not the point. The point is, some of our top leaders came out to the media that this attack was nothing more than a protest about some video that has been on the internet 6 months prior to any of this happening.

If they had all this intell and knew what was going on, then the response that we initially got shouldn't of happened.

All we wanted was answers, not finger pointing. If the ball was dropped then fire those responsible for dropping it and make sure it doesn't happen again.

The Big Dog's back

The only place this is even a "story" is in the shallow right wing world.

Swamp Fox

dog breath thanks to the loyalty of the lackeys in the far left media....

tk

Latest poll show Secretary Clinton with a 67% favorable rating. Not bad, huh?

gilamonster

Good job Obama, your private illegal war has destabilized Libya with far reaching consequences. Now we have all sorts of terrorist crawling out of Libya. How many times did Obama need to be told that extremists would use the uprising in Libya to gain power? By golly looks like they were right, looks like the Obummer administrations got themselves a real mess. Obama you broke it, now its yours. Onward Africa!!!

Contango

"The 'War On Terror' Has Changed, And Not One In 1,000 Americans Has Noticed":

http://www.zerohedge.com/contrib...

“We’ve always been at war with Eastasia”. - "Nineteen Eighty-Four"

"He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future." - George Orwell.

"You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes." - The Matrix

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