January 27th, 2014
12:52 PM ET
9 months ago

Clinton's biggest regret at State: Benghazi

Updated 1:33 p.m. ET, 1/27/2014

(CNN) – Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya was her biggest regret during the four years she served as America's top diplomat.

In a speech to the National Automobile Dealers Association meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, Clinton addressed a number of auto-related topics, including some of the more colorful cars former President Bill Clinton has owned and the fact that she hasn't driven a car since 1996.

"My biggest regret is what happened in Benghazi," Clinton said in response to a question from David Westcott, the outgoing chairman of NADA. "It was a terrible tragedy losing four Americans, two diplomats and now it is public so I can say two CIA operatives."

Clinton said that while at the State Department, some of the decisions she made were "based on imperfect information," and that despite the right intentions came with "unforeseen consequences, unpredictable twists and turns."

Benghazi, she said, "illustrated one of the biggest problems that I faced as Secretary of State: We have a lot of dangerous locations where we send not our military, but our civilians. And they go in, they have language skills often, they try to assess what is going on in the area, but they are vulnerable."

This is not the first time she has said that she regretted the Benghazi attack, but she rarely addresses the incident, especially in this detail. In a global town hall in January 2013, Clinton made similar comments, stating that "We have to understand from the very beginning you can't control everything."

The remarks also come just days after the one year anniversary of Clinton's testimony in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the Benghazi attack.

The U.S. consulate in Libya was attacked on September 11, 2012. Four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, were killed. Initially, the attack was thought to be perpetrated by an angry mob responding to a video made in the U.S. which mocked Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, but was later determined to be a terrorist attack.

Questions about Benghazi have dogged Clinton since the attack and some some have questioned whether the former first lady is to blame for Steven's death – the first U.S. ambassador killed on duty in over thirty years.

In a Senate report put out earlier this month, the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound was deemed "likely preventable" based on known security shortfalls and prior warnings that the security situation there was deteriorating.

Benghazi is likely to continue to dog Clinton as she considers whether to run for president in 2016. Since the attack, Republicans have held Clinton culpable and some have said the attack should disqualify her from holding future elected office.

The speech, like many other paid remarks she's made, was due to be closed to the press. On Friday however, event organizers notified CNN that Clinton's comments would be open to cameras at the request of her aides.

Like she has at past public appearances, Clinton was coy about whether she's thinking about a 2016 run, despite the fact that the audience applauded at the prospect.

"I am not thinking about it," Clinton said. "I am trying to get other people not to think about it. I'll think about it, you know, in the future sometime."

She added, "We can worry about the next election later. I think we spend too much time looking over the horizon instead of looking straight ahead and saying, 'hey, we can do better.'"

Despite Clinton's denials, a cadre of former aides and supporters have begun to build the groundwork for a possible run in 2016. In addition to groups like Ready for Hillary and Emily's List - two pro-Clinton fundraising machines - Priorities USA - which was the top super PAC supporting President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election - moved last week to get behind Clinton and announced they will begin raising big money to help elect Clinton to the White House.

Since leaving the State Department in 2013, the former Secretary of State has kept up an active schedule, collecting paychecks on the corporate speaking circuit and picking up hardware at award ceremonies across the country.

The auto sales group would not comment on how much they were paying Clinton to appear at the winter meeting.

Because the speech was to a group of people who own and operate auto dealerships across the country, much of Clinton's remarks were centered around how the auto industry has helped build the American middle class and helped the country recover from the economic downturn.

Clinton also made an auto admission of her own, telling the audience that because of the security around her, she has not driven a car since 1996.

"One of the regrets I have about my public life is that I can't drive anymore," she said. "My husband thinks that's a blessing, but he is the one who should talk. Last time I actually drove a car myself was 1996 and I remember it very well and unfortunately so does the Secret Service which is why I haven't driven since then."

Other auto admissions made: Bill Clinton has owned both a 1970 burnt orange Opel station wagon – "With all due respect, one of the ugliest cars ever built" – and a Chevy El Camino Pickup truck with the bed in the back covered in astro turf.

Though National Automobile Dealers Association convention organizers said they were excited about welcoming Clinton as their keynote speaker, some members of the organization reportedly planned to boycott the event because Clinton was speaking.

"I don't have a problem with them meeting with her," Jon Lind, general manager of a Ford-Lincoln dealership in tiny Burlington, Colorado, told Auto News. "But when I see the announcement that the 'Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton' will be giving the keynote address, the hair on my back just sticks up. Why her?"

The group has long invited high profile politicians and policy makers to address the group. In 2007, President George W. Bush spoke at the conference and the 2009 convention saw former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush address the audience.

CNN's Athena Jones contributed to this report.


Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Louisiana
soundoff (119 Responses)
  1. Wake up People!

    Will we ever hear one member of the GOP say their biggest regret is the real 9/11? Don't hold your breath.....

    January 27, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  2. O'drama ya Mama

    Isnt that what you wanted her to do? Address Benghazi, talk about it, take responsibility for it? Is this good enough for you RWNJ?

    January 27, 2014 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    The remarks also come just days after the one year anniversary of Clinton's testimony in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the Benghazi attack.
    -------------------------
    Some folks don't seem to remember her testimonies before Congress, at all. How they can forget about Rand Paul suggesting to Clinton's face that he would have fired her had he been POTUS is beyond me. It almost seems as if the person who shouts the loudest is the most correct, no matter what they're actually saying.

    January 27, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  4. Wake up People!

    The sad thing is she's being real, she regrets Benghazi happened under her watch, but the illiterate TPS that post here will use that statement over and over against her.

    January 27, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  5. YoonYoungJo

    Its horrible 4 Americans lost their lives and its a shame that more wasn't done with the information at hand. But when did we become a society where blame is placed elsewhere? Ultimately its te attackers and bombers at fault. At least Hillary has the conscience to consider it and be saddened by it. I doubt she will make the same mistake again. What's worse then criminals or wrong doers? Criminals and wrong doers who lack the conscience to even have a conscience or care. Seriously who in this world doesn't make mistakes? Who doesn't make wrong judgement calls or error? The difference though, between decency and indecency is whether there is a conscience for their actions. Its good to see our next President possess that. But people must never forget the ones at fault were the attackers.

    January 27, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  6. NameCraig

    Hillary should be ashamed , She lied and now says it was bogus information, She quit her job bailed out and the media or you libs didn't question her motives , in fact the mainstream media was smiling when they reported her content for the panel questioning her and how she got away looking like Obama when he outright bullies people into submission, She needs to get sick for good and for the good of this country

    January 27, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    "some have said the attack should disqualify for holding future elected office."

    They say that about her latest haircut or if she spills milk during breakfast. Pretty hard to take any of what they have to say seriously when they spend so much of their time howling wolf and ousting windmills.

    January 27, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  8. sly

    Sad that Americans died in Libya, certainly no surprise though.

    Sadder that the victim turned down 3 (three) requests by Hillary's State dept to increase security. He refused all 3, and paid the price for his ignorance.

    Sadder still that the Confederates in Congress voted down all of President Obama's requests to increase security for that embassy.

    Hillary – you are the finest foreign policy person in almost 50 years, and you tried your best to keep those fools camped out in enemy terrority alive.

    January 27, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  9. blakenaustin

    That's a tough question. So many regrets to choose from. Probably getting caught in lying and scandals so many times.

    January 27, 2014 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  10. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    @NameCraig
    Hillary should be ashamed , She lied and now says it was bogus information, She quit her job bailed out and the media or you libs didn't question her motives , in fact the mainstream media was smiling when they reported her content for the panel questioning her and how she got away looking like Obama when he outright bullies people into submission, She needs to get sick for good and for the good of this country

    You are a whack job. Issa and Faux "News" have been working non stop to make this an issue, and they can't!

    January 27, 2014 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  11. Al-NY,NY

    this is still the only thing the righties have to try to derail her road to the WH. Too bad for them it's not going to

    January 27, 2014 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  12. Sam Mazz

    Come on Hillary, tell the truth. We all know your biggest regret is Wild Bill.

    January 27, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    Oh, no she didn't. She played the Benghazi card. Right wing media will flip out over this.

    January 27, 2014 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  14. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Where's Our $24 Billion?

    Watch republicans jump over her comments like a hooker in heat. Where were the congressional hearings when David Foy was killed in Pakistan?

    January 27, 2014 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  15. Chris

    Oh now she regrets Benghazi. Time for the pants-suit to try and get in front of this. What happened to "what does it matter?"

    That will be sound bite #1 when she tries to make a run at the ovakl office.

    She was an embarrassment as first lady.

    She was a joke as a Senator.

    She was inept as a Secretary of State.

    January 27, 2014 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  16. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Benghazi is likely to continue to dog Clinton as she considers whether to run for president in 2016. Since the attack, Republicans have held Clinton culpable and some have said the attack should disqualify for holding future elected office."

    Yes, well. When this fails (as it will) ... there is always the pantsuits meme to fall back on.

    January 27, 2014 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  17. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Where's Our $24 Billion?

    David Foy!!!

    January 27, 2014 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  18. just saying

    Sniffit
    "some have said the attack should disqualify for holding future elected office."
    They say that about her latest haircut or if she spills milk during breakfast. Pretty hard to take any of what they have to say seriously when they spend so much of their time howling wolf and ousting windmills.
    ----

    this is the level of seriousness that the looney left takes towards the deaths of 4 americans including our ambassador. what the heck is wrong with you?!

    January 27, 2014 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  19. Thomas

    How many americans died last month in Afghanistan ?

    January 27, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  20. just asking

    O'drama ya Mama
    Isnt that what you wanted her to do? Address Benghazi, talk about it, take responsibility for it? Is this good enough for you RWNJ?
    -–

    all hillary clinton has done is talk in vague generalities just as she did in this speech. has she ever uttered the words that she was responsible for the deaths of 4 americans and it should never have happened (according to a democrat led senate report)? no.

    and will she ever come clean on what she did to save those people during the 7-9 hours they were under attack? none, absolutely none of the documents reference her in any way. it is as if she was never secretary of state when it comes to benghazi.

    January 27, 2014 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  21. jack2

    I understand mistakes and miscalculations but i don't undestand the blatant lie from her and Obama on the cause. She mislead us and still is everyday she doesn't admit the cover-up. What concerns me most is the liberals turning their ear from the lie and then upholding the lie. We now have given politicians a hall pass to lie.

    January 27, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  22. Jenna from Dallas

    Has Hillary Clinton gotten a face lift or plastic surgery??? It sure looks like it.

    January 27, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  23. Nick

    Don't you love how it's always somebody else's fault with the Clintons? My jaw would drop if for once she said it was her fault and actually take responsibility.

    January 27, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  24. M1

    Her biggest regret was Benghazi?
    Are you kidding?
    After all, lady, you said what does it matter?
    Doesn't sound regretful to me at all.
    But nice obfuscation, the Clinton lying machine is well oiled and ready to replace Obama's lying machine.

    January 27, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  25. rs

    just saying

    Sniffit
    "some have said the attack should disqualify for holding future elected office."
    They say that about her latest haircut or if she spills milk during breakfast. Pretty hard to take any of what they have to say seriously when they spend so much of their time howling wolf and ousting windmills.
    --

    this is the level of seriousness that the looney left takes towards the deaths of 4 americans including our ambassador. what the heck is wrong with you?!
    _____________________
    We could ask you the same question- it happened 12 times inder Mr. Bush resulting in the deaths of 61 State Department workers. Did you utter a peep then? No one denies that these death are sad, and might have been prevented, it is the Right's endless need to politicize everything (including these deaths, Ms. Clinton's clothing and hairstyle) that is so repulsive. It really is just a game to you people.

    January 27, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
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