Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today delivered her long-anticipated testimony on the deadly September 11 terror attacks in Benghazi that left four Americans dead.
Her failing health delayed for weeks the testimony on the security failures that allowed the attack and the controversial aftermath — as officials failed to clarify whether the attack was indeed terrorism or a spillover from violent protests over an anti-Muslim hate film.
U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s statement in the wake of the attack, working from infamous “talking points” that did not peg the attack to terrorism, helped cost her a chance at Clinton’s job.
This morning Clinton appeared on Capitol Hill before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Here’s what you should know about her testimony.
1. She Got Emotional
Clinton’s voice cracked at a times as she talked about taking the Benghazi tragedy personally. Here’s the most poignant quote:
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.
2. She Took Responsibility
While defending the State Department’s actions, she did take responsibility:
As I have said many times, I take responsibility. And nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger, and more secure.
3. She Screamed at a Senator
Clinton totally lost it and screamed at conservative Sen. Ron Johnson, who was grilling her on the adminstration’s failure to determine whether the attack was terrorism or protest spillover:
We had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or because of guys out for a walk one night and decided to go kill some Americans? At this point what difference does it make!?
4. Rand Paul Said He Would Have Fired Her
Senator Rand Paul told Clinton that “With your leaving you accept culpability for the worst attack since 9/11.” He told her that if he were president at the time and found out she didn’t “read the cables” about threats on the ground in Libya — he would have “relieved you of your post.”
5. McCain Took Her to Task
Calling her answers up to that point “not satisfactory” and said “I categorically reject your answer to Senator Johnson.” He said there were “numerous warnings” about militant activity in Libya that were not heeded by the State Department. McCain said the State Department had a “soft footprint” in the country and is “to some degree” responsible for the attack. And he delivered a modified version of one of his go-to statements on the attack:
People don’t bring RPGs and mortars to spontaneous demonstrations. That’s a fundamental, here we are, four months later, and we still don’t have the basic information.
6. She Said She Never Saw Requests for More Security
Despite wide criticism that the administration failed to respond to threats in the area, Clinton said she never personally denied any requests for more security. In fact, she washed her hands of it, saying the “security professionals” handle such requests — she doesn’t even see them: “I didn’t approve them, I didn’t deny them. … These requests don’t normally come to the Secretary of State.”
7. She Said She Had no Role in Susan Rice’s Comments
Again, Clinton removed herself from responsibility. When discussing the talking points used by Susan Rice — which characterized the attack as a protest and not a terror attack. Clinton says she did not weigh in on the preparation of those talking points: “I wasn’t involved in the talking points process.”
8. People Were Fired
Clinton defended the Administration’s reaction to the security failure in the wake of the attacks, saying numerous security professionals were fired after a performance review.
9. She Said Despite Failures, We’re Decimating al-Qaida
Clinton said that despite the security failure in Benghazi, the recent attack in Algeria and the rebellion in Mali, overall the Obama administration is winning the fight against Islamist extremists — decimating its core. “A whole cadre of of leadership” has been removed.
10. She Compared the Situation in North Africa to Pre-9/11 Afghanistan
Clinton said the climate in Northern Africa is reminiscent of the climate in Afghanistan prior to Sept. 11, 2001, which harbored the terrorists who attacked America. She called for broad intervention in Northern Africa — stepping up intelligence and training for government forces — but not an American military operation.
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