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. tom l

    I'm just curious what it means when someone says they "take responsibility". Just what does that mean? To me, those are just words to placate. Perhaps someone can elaborate on just what that "responsibility" was and what that means.

    January 27, 2014 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  2. bobo

    Hillary...... I know your are sorry...... but do not Lie to the American people!

    January 27, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  3. Richard

    I thought in the past that Hillary was the best choice to become our next President right up until she refused to accept responsibility for what happened in Benghazi. It might not have been her fault but she was the Secretary of State, so stand up and be accountable. I believe former Secretary of State Condalisa Rice would have. So with that said "Condalisa
    Rice for President" and I'm not even a republican.

    January 27, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  4. Silence DoGood

    @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?!
    ---------
    Bush
    9/11 – ignored Clinton security briefings – 1000's dead
    Katrina – neutered FEMA and slow response – 1800 dead
    Iraq – lied about intelligence – 1000's dead
    many embassy attacks – many dead
    That conservatives think that was all OK is loony x 1000 then. Or let us hear your outrage about that.

    January 27, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  5. just asking

    Thomas
    How many americans died last month in Afghanistan ?
    -–

    don't know because these are on obama and the press isn't keeping track like they did when bush was in the white house. funny that double standard. but what the heck is the relevance anyways? is smoke all you and obama got?

    January 27, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  6. smith

    Got to give it to Hil-dogg, she is doing the right thing here. She should have done this from the get go.However, she is a Clinton.

    January 27, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  7. Harold Read

    It was "a spontaneous group of protestors that were upset about the YouTube video".
    – it was not a group of heavily armed militia executing a planned assault
    – the YouTube film maker was PROMPTLY arrested and thrown in jail
    – none of the "protestors" who organized the "protest" have been captured
    – Obama got to go to Vegas to campaign

    But... "what matter does it make"?

    January 27, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  8. Silence DoGood

    (factual context alert – conspiracy theorists might want to avert their eyes)
    Just for the record – the "what difference" comment did not refer to a lack of caring for the fact that 4 people lost their lives. In context she was saying the most important thing was to address the issue and make sure it did not happen again, not the exact mental state of those pulling the trigger.

    January 27, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  9. Tampa Tim

    We are all waiting for Bush to take the responsibility for 13 embassy attacks with 50 dead, ignoring warnings on 9-11 leading to the deaths of almost 3000, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, the deaths of 4400 servicemen, 43,000 wounded troops in his wars, a Great Recession, TARP, tax cuts for the wealthy, etc. where is that brain dead right wing outrage?

    January 27, 2014 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  10. Wake up People!

    So did Condi ever take responsibility for the nonWMD's??
    Hillary will be the next POTUS.
    BENGHAZI!

    January 27, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  11. sly

    Where is her Birth Certificate.

    I will not let her be President until I personnally view her birth certificate. And, as an American, I also have the right to hold it in my hands to verify it is real.

    Come on – where is it?

    Hillary's Birth Certificate is the #1 issue in the world today!

    January 27, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  12. Donna

    Hillary Clinton totally FAILED in her duties to provide adequate protection to her employees in a very dangerous part of the world. They had been given many warnings, assessments, and still failed.

    Hillary Clinton totally FAILED during the attack to try and do everything she could to help or save those people under attack. To this day she has not accounted for those hours and she was in Washington while they were getting minute by minute reports and live feeds from a drone.

    Hillary Clinton totally FAILED after the attack to be honest with the American people and LIED to all of us including the families of the dead in face to face meetings.

    Bottom line is she accused Obama of not being ready to handle that 3am phone call (and she was right) but now we know and have proof that she ws also not up to the task.

    January 27, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  13. rs

    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.
    ________________________
    Way to go. The Secretary of State DID NOT order her employees (3 of which turned out to be CIA) into the field yet you want HER to be the responsible (ie. "guilty" party); the 4 turned down protection (nice as the GOP cut those funds anyway). The deaths occured in a country undergoing civil war. They were more than 490 miles from the embassy. Your fantasy is a good one. Just how would that rescue have worked? Space craft? Ray guns?

    January 27, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  14. rs

    Silence DoGood

    (factual context alert – conspiracy theorists might want to avert their eyes)
    Just for the record – the "what difference" comment did not refer to a lack of caring for the fact that 4 people lost their lives. In context she was saying the most important thing was to address the issue and make sure it did not happen again, not the exact mental state of those pulling the trigger.
    ___________________________
    Nice try. Unfortunately "it makes no difference" to the bleaters of the Right.

    January 27, 2014 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  15. The Elephant in the Room

    What "fair & balanced" journalist will be prepared with the following question for Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Louie Gohmert or whatever TALKING HEAD levels a criticism of HRC over Benghazi.

    Senator [ or Congressman, or Mayor Guiliani, or . . . ], Are you leveling a political attack against Mrs. Clinton OR are you genuinely concerned about the deaths of United States Diplomats? THAT's THE SET UP.

    HERE IS THE KNOCKOUT when they take the bait. Well Senator [or Congressman, et al], did you call for a Congressional inquiry when US diplomats were killed in the line of duty 15 times from 2000 to 2008? You were in office during that time, correct?

    January 27, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    "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."
    -----------------------------------
    Not sure if it lasted that long, or not. They knew at the time that Amb. Stevens had been killed during the first hour.

    January 27, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  17. truth hurts but reality bites

    Hillary Clinton regrets that Benghazi hangs like a big blood red F (failure) around her neck. She regrets it ONLY because it affects her political future. That is the truth. I doubt she has lost a second of sleep over the deaths of those 4 people.

    January 27, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  18. Deej

    A CHEAT-SHEET SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO READ MORE COMMENTS:

    Those on the left love Hillary and give her the benefit of the doubt. Some of them gush over her until you want to puke. According to comments from these liberals, Hillary personally gave birth to Jesus Christ. These are the same people who cried "evil" over everything G.W. Bush said or did. Sometimes they were right, sometimes they were wrong, but even when they knew they were wrong they said it. They still bring up G.W. Bush whenever a liberal is attacked, which is sad.

    Those on the right hate Hillary and see everything she's done as evil. They get their information from Limbaugh and Beck and assume it must be true, as they're really not interested enough in facts to look them up. Facts could make it uncomfortable to say lots of harsh things, so... shhh... no facts. These are the same people who signed up on websites calling for Obama's impeachment before he even took office. They didn't need facts to make that decision, they don't need fac... come to think of it, they'd rather we strike the word "fact" from the language. It makes them uncomfrortable.

    These people on both sides of each issue are going to say the same things every time, so you can skim through the messages. You won't miss anything important. If it came out today that Hillary consumes aborted fetuses to maintain her evil power, the liberals would excuse it. If it came out today that she personally rescued dozens on 9/11, the conservatives would say she should have saved more. You see, you can't win in politics, and you really can't win in comment sections.

    So there you have it. Everybody is addicted to outrage, and that's all it's really about in comment sections.

    January 27, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  19. smith

    @Silence-I didn`t know Bush was a wizard that creates hurricanes. Slow response? Gov.Blanco(democrat) refused federal assistance in the begining. 9/11, Clinton did nothing about AQ because he was to busy committing adultery.

    January 27, 2014 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  20. Silence DoGood

    @Donna
    Hillary Clinton totally FAILED etc.
    -------–
    C'mon – don't you want to see her birth certificate? Benghazi is the new Birth certificate.

    January 27, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "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?!"

    LOL. I take it seriously. Which is why I abhor the GOP/Teatrolls' attempt to turn it into a political win via kangaroo hearings and a constant barrage of talking points that showed they had already made their conclusions PRIOR to collecting evidence and testimony and investigating what happened. Partisan witch-hunts in which the allegations are treated as true prior to having any proof and which constitute pre-emptive strikes against the POTUS candidate one side fears most...that's not a "serious" way to conduct an investigation that should have as its number one focus collecting facts and THEN using those facts to engage in objective, thoughtful analysis of what went wrong and how to prevent it in the future. THAT is how you address it seriously. Conclusions prior to investigations, show trial antics and "lack of proof of my accusations means there was a coverup"...that gets nothing done...which was the GOP/Teatrolls whole goal in the first place.

    January 27, 2014 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  22. Joan

    The Senate report did say that the Benghazi attack was likely preventable but it didn't lay the blame solely on the State Department. There are other facts that don't get reported. It stated that more security had twice been declined by those in Libya. Also, it is most likely that the video did have a certain amount of blame because it had been circulating for a while and hatred had been building in the whole area for days before this attack. Don't forget that funding had been cut by Congress too which would make increasing security very difficult. Any security in that area for the week before the attack was obviously stretched pretty thin because of all of the protests, violence, fires, etc. that the video had inspired. It is interesting that Romney and his campaign came out criticizing the Obama administration's handling of the Benghazi attack even before the facts were really known. That makes one wonder if they had a strategy of blame all ready and were just waiting for any instance like this to pull out their plan. Benghazi just seemed the perfect way for them to inject this criticism. The media frenzy following the Republican talking points hasn't helped either. Obviously the Republicans will try to use this constantly if Hilary Clinton runs in 2016 but she can throw back all of the many attacks on embassies and deaths during the Bush administration and they didn't seem to mind then. People are sick of the blame game.

    January 27, 2014 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  23. Silence DoGood

    @Deej
    A CHEAT-SHEET SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO READ MORE COMMENTS:

    Those on the left (judgement section)
    Those on the right (judgement section)

    So there you have it. Everybody is addicted to outrage, and that's all it's really about in comment sections.
    ------–
    So what you are saying in your infinite wisdom is that you are outraged at all the outrage.
    I must say I am outraged about that.

    January 27, 2014 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  24. Me

    Silence DoGood

    @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?!
    ---
    Bush
    9/11 – ignored Clinton security briefings – 1000's dead
    Katrina – neutered FEMA and slow response – 1800 dead
    Iraq – lied about intelligence – 1000's dead
    _________________
    You are so partisan it is sick, Iraq – lied about intelligence when it comes to Bush but Clinton says misinformation and all is good!!! HYPOCRITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Show me ONE piece of proof Bush LIED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I will wait.....FOREVER!

    January 27, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  25. Tampa Tim

    Republican economic policy -Fail
    Republican foreign policy – Fail
    Republican domestic policy – Fail
    Republican ongoing war on women, poor, seniors, veterans, the environment, minorities, students, uninsured, to win white house in 2016 – Fail

    January 27, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
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