Spars with GOP over Benghazi attack
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's long-awaited testimony on Benghazi was dramatic, revealing, and, at times, must-see TV. But did we learn anything new? Here are five key takeaways:
1) Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said if he had been president he would have fired Clinton for not reading enough of the cable traffic between U.S. officials in Libya and the State Department. "It was a failure of leadership," Paul said. Clinton responded by pointing to the Accountability Review Board (ARB), headed by former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen. The ARB said the mistakes made were made far below the Secretary of State's level. Paul also said that Benghazi was the America's "greatest tragedy since 9/11," while Democrats scoff that Paul seems to have forgotten all about the Iraq war.
2) "The fact is, we have four dead Americans. What difference at this point does it make?” A less-than-diplomatic soundbite from Secretary Clinton, to Sen. Ron Johnson, the tea-party Republican from Wisconsin, who kept hammering away on the "what did the administration know and when did it know it" theme. She also scuffled with Arizona Republican John McCain, who complained that her answers were not acceptable. Clinton: “We just have a disagreement.”
3) Republicans have pointed to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's TV apearances following the attack to suggest that her talking points were indicative of a cover up. Clinton's response: "We've been as transparent as we can." At the same time, the administration has acknowledged that Rice was merely reading off talking points that weren't correct. A CNN poll last month showed that most Americans believe the administration on this one.
4) Clinton acknowledged that mistakes were made and that the State Department was implementing the recommendations of the ARB. She also called on Congress to increase funding to make State Department facilities around the world more secure.
5) Secretary Clinton, who hopes to leave her job by the end of the month, warned that the terror threat from Africa is growing. "If you look at the topography of northern Mali, it's not a desert, it's caves ... sounds reminiscent," she warned. Clinton pointed out that while the “core al-Qaida” in Pakistan and Afghanistan has been weakened, their “affiliates and wannabes” are on the rise in Africa and are targeting both Western interests (i.e. the recent attack on that Algerian natural gas facility) and Islamist governments in the region. She warned on a regional "Pandora’s Box" that has been opened in recent months.