Washington (CNN) – Sen. Rand Paul - the Kentucky conservative who told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Wednesday he would have fired her for her response to the Benghazi attacks if he was president - acknowledged later the top diplomat had made a valid point when she angrily denounced Republicans focused on the administration's response to the attack.
Clinton was responding to Sen. Ron Johnson, a tea party backed Wisconsin Republican, who questioned Clinton about what he described as members of the administration "purposely misleading" the American people
"With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans," Clinton shot back. "Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided they'd go kill some Americans?"
Her fists shaking, she continued: "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."
Paul, who like Johnson was backed by the tea party during his bid for Senate in 2010, said after the hearings concluded that Clinton made a legitimate case.
"I think she has a little bit of a valid point," he said on CNN's "The Situation Room." "It's not so important whether or not it was a movie or what it was. I think what's important, though, in going forward is it not happen again."
The way to ensure that is to give the Defense Department responsibility for protecting American embassy staff in dangerous zones, Paul said, arguing places like Libya were too hazardous for standard diplomatic security personnel.
"I don't think we can treat it like an embassy in Paris," he said, adding that his proposed budget increased funding for U.S. marines who provide embassy security.
Paul, who like Clinton is a potential candidate for president in 2016, also explained his statement that the September 11, 2012 attack at the diplomatic post in Benghazi was "the worst tragedy since 9/11," making clear on CNN that he was referring to "diplomatic and security and intelligence" tragedies. He said his statement excluded the intelligence failure that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
"You can't compare the beginning of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the tragedy of those wars is of a different scale and I guess we're talking more about a diplomatic mission than we are talking about the beginning of the war," Paul said, adding he opposed the war in Iraq in 2003.