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

thinkagain

Hil-liar-y learned from the biggest liars of them all…her hubby and the current liar-in-chief.

The Big Dog's back

Listen, hear that? That's right wing world exploding. bwahahahahaha.

Swamp Fox

dog breath, maybe its a drunk on a golf cart you hear?

rickross2

If you dont have anything nice to say, you must be talking about Hilary Clinton-Jeff Foxworthy

meowmix

OUCH rickross........to throw a quote in from Jeff Foxworthy?? Boy, you sure did teach us libs a thing or two with that one. :)

goofus

For all leftists with short term memory loss can google Jamie Gorelick and the Wall. The true contributing factor of 911. It seems head clintonista Hillary instructed Gorelick to set up the wall to protect Bill from future interns from popping up from under the desk in the oval office. She is a shrewd liar and a devious person who had 4 months to formulate her response to questioning.

The Big Dog's back

goof, tell me again who was President on 9-11-2001. Hint, it wasn't Bill Clinton.

arnmcrmn

Goof, who was the president in the worst economic plunge and recovery ever? It wasn't Bush.

Pterocarya frax...

No but Bush (I mean Cheney) was president for the 2nd worst economic plunge ever.

arnmcrmn

and Obama is in place for the worst ever. Thanks for trying to play again liberals. Doesn't work both ways....lol.

Swamp Fox

9/11 compliments of wild Willy and his lack of concern for terrorism, he was diverted by intern issues.... Then there was Black Hawk down compliments of Wild Willy giving the UN command & control over U.S. Troops...

arnmcrmn

911 was Clinton's fault.

tk

9-11 was Osama BenLaden's fault.

SamAdams

Osama bin Laden? You mean the one that Bill Clinton was offered on a silver platter and DECLINED? Him?

tk

But Obama got him.

meowmix

Wrong SamA-- Bin Laden was offered up on a silver plate to Bush. Clinton wasn't going to go after him with the transfer of power from himself to Bush so close at hand--ever read anything by Richard Clark??? Dubya simply chose to ignore the warning.

Contango

meowmix writes:

"Dubya simply chose to ignore the warning."

"WHAT DIFFERENCE, AT THIS POINT, DOES IT MAKE?"

Great "catch all" sentence yes?

The "Powers-that-be" like the populace apathetic and "dumbed down," since it makes 'em easier to control.

goofus

Kitty Litter, go into your browser and google Jamie Gorelick and the Wall. Bush wasn't told half the stuff because of it. Bush was guilty of being too benevolent by keeping democrats in higher up positions.

kURTje

Hey arcrmen......since you never served here's a news flash from history. "Charlie Wilson's war." It involved Ronnie Reagan & a Texan. Then to Afghanistan. Opps....facts again. That's IS what got the US startec over there.

arnmcrmn

Ohhh the hypocrisy by the liberal posters on here. Saying the Republican Party is using this tragedy for their political gain. So what say you libs on the Sandy Hook event? Are not the same liberals you are defending here using the Sandy shooting for their political agenda and gain with gun control. Exactly so. Thanks for playing hypocrites.

The Big Dog's back

Strong women like Hillary scare the bageezus out of Repubs.

Swamp Fox

Strong women do not stay with a husband that has embarrassed her and this country with his Oral Office escapades along with a past history of being a womanizer. She stays because she only cares about her own political ambition and power. If only Vince Foster could speak......

meowmix

Swampy-- you seem to be very obsessed with the sexual indiscretion of Clinton. Why?

arnmcrmn

ummmm he was our president and cheating on his wife with numerous women but got caught in the White House of all places. But, he gets a pass from the liberals.

Swamp Fox

cat food, Lack of trust, and what both Clintons will do to keep power, can't trust either one of them......Best way to know when a Clinton is lying, their mouth moves....

arnmcrmn

Swamp. Im not a Clinton hater at all. However, the guy can't get a free pass for cheating on his wife in the White House. Sorry that just wont happen, but as we both see, the liberals give anyone a pass that is Democratic.

Also, we as a nation can thank Clinton for the housing collapse. His ideas and push, so that "everyone should own a home" caused banks to hand out loans they normally wouldn't. We all see how that went.

8ballinthesidepocket

She is a lying sack of s&@#!!!!

Don S

HELL, WE STILL DON'T KNOW EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED WWI,WWII,KOREA,VIETNAM. SO, HOW ARE WE TO KNOW ABOUT WHAT ALL HAPPENED IN THE BENGHAZI ATTACK IN AS LITTLE A WEEK OR MONTH? HAS McCAIN EVER OPENED UP COMPLETELY ABOUT EVERYTHING OF WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM WHEN HE GOT SHOT DOWN?? IS HE SO OLD THAT HE CAN'T REMEMBER HOW CONFUSING COMBAT WAS FOR HIM?? SO, WHAT GIVES THIS HOLY AZZ THE RIGHT TO QUESTION ANOTHERS ACTIONS IN THIS STRESSFUL ENVIROMENT?? McCAIN,,,A WAR HERO???? PLEASE GIVE ME A BREAK, FOR GOD'S SAKE!!!!

There you go again

Please give us a break and stop SHOUTING!!!!

gilamonster

Kurt, are you saying a drunk, sexist, cokehead, progressive Democrat drug America into a one-man war against the commies in Afghanistan? Thanks for that tidbit of lost history, seemed to repeat itself in Libya. At least Wilson supported the second amendment.

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