January 27th, 2014
12:52 PM ET
10 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. Tommy G

    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?
    --–

    To which any knowledgeable person would respond:

    Other attacks have no bearing on this attack and the facts around the numerous Benghazi failures make it quite unique.

    This attack was preceded by months of warnings, assessments, denied requests for added security, then a security cut as all other groups pulled out of Benghazi after numerous attacks, including twice on this very same facility. There were open threats made that were carried out and the AQ flew numerous places in the city. And even with all of this our ambassador was out in a knwon danger zone on the anniversary of 9/11 with practically no reliable protection. And to make matters worse, our military was not prepared or capable of acting to help save those people and the few that could help were told not to help.

    And then it was all covered up and the American people lied to for weeks and months in order to save Obama's re-election campaign. Just as his Obamacare lies were hidden. It has become a pattern of lie after lie after lie from the Liar of the Year, Obama,

    January 27, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  2. sly

    " I doubt she has lost a second of sleep over the deaths of those 4 people"
    =====
    Who really cares about some fools in enemy territory who 3 times refused Hillary's urgent call for increase embassy security?

    They dug their own graves.

    Of course, the Confederate Party in Congress did it's part by refusing President Obama's urgent request for increased security funding for Libya.

    Yup, lots of Republican blood on those hands ...

    January 27, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  3. kjfuller7

    I still can't believe that all American outposts are not closed and barricaded every SEP11 as a matter of policy. K!

    January 27, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  4. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    Benghazi , the GOP talking point FORGETS to mention the delta force rescue of over thirty Americans ALIVE from Benghazi , how come the GOP stooge and thief Issa forgot to mention that??????

    January 27, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  5. Tony

    Tom I., Christie said that he took responsibility for the bridge scandal. I wonder what Christie meant by "taking responsibility" in that case.

    January 27, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  6. Wake up People!

    Actually Deej, you're wrong. I support Hillary but no I don't think she gave birth to JC nor any of that other crap you're spewing. I support her because she's head and shoulders over anything or anyone the GOP has to offer. And after reading message boards for the past 6 years, there is nothing that could ever get me to vote Republikkkan. The hatred emanating from them for our POTUS, stops me dead in my tracks. As for the Clintons, it's always been Bill that I adored.

    January 27, 2014 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  7. just asking

    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.
    --

    wow... does it get more callous than this? actually it does, 'what difference does it all make' from the person who claims she is responsible.

    January 27, 2014 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  8. Tampa Tim

    According to baggers – Sure, Hillary says she was born in Illinois, but was it really a state in 1945? Her birth certificate was probably forged but Orley Tates and Donald Trump will get to the bottom of the conspiracy. Details on Fox.

    January 27, 2014 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  9. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Where's Our $24 Billion?

    RWNJ like Donna fail to mention & blatantly ignore the FACT that Sec. Clinton requested money for additional embassy security from Congress and was denied. We've had over a dozen Benghazi's in the last decade. "What difference does it make?"

    January 27, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  10. Wake up People!

    Now here comes Joan trying to inject facts and wisdom when all the TPT wants is lies......

    Awesome comments Joan!

    January 27, 2014 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  11. Lynda/Minnesota

    "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."

    How outrageous of you to be so outraged by Deej's outrage. Now I am outraged as well.

    January 27, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    "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."

    More to the point, he's advertising that he's fully bought into the GOP/Teatrolls' game of breaking everything so that people, like him, will just throw up their hands, say "everyone does it" and give up completely on the federal gov't. Sometimes there are right and wrong answers and not everything can be chalked up to "both sides do it" or "this is just as legitimate as that, even though it's the exact opposite and one or the other HAS to be the answer." Reporting "wealth magically trickles down if we just make the rich richer" as equally legitimate to "we need to shore up the middle-class, require better wages, and create demand to drive the economy" is the MSM's job in helping the GOP/Teatrolls hold onto enough power that there will always be a nontroversy narrative to drive ad revenue.

    January 27, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  13. freedom

    Oh, really? It's not possible to backtrack the "What difference does it make!!??" outburst. She exposed her true colors for all to see. Regrets? Her only regret is that outburst – she is selfish, unprincipled, and her agenda for her own power is bigger than any loyalty to our country, and those who serve it.

    January 27, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    "Show me ONE piece of proof Bush LIED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! "

    Show me Iraq's WMDs.

    January 27, 2014 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  15. Me

    Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Where's Our $24 Billion?

    RWNJ like Donna fail to mention & blatantly ignore the FACT that Sec. Clinton requested money for additional embassy security from Congress and was denied. We've had over a dozen Benghazi's in the last decade. "What difference does it make?"
    _____________
    You don't need MORE money to make ONE embassy safer, you just need to know how to allocate money using a risk based approach but I am sure you have no clue what I am talking about being the low info voter you are!!

    January 27, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    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!
    ------------------------
    'Mission Accomplished!"

    But, to be fair, I honestly think that Bush had accomplished HIS goals at the time.

    January 27, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  17. The Real Tom Paine

    -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.
    ***************
    Good question, especially since the self-described party of "personal responsibility" never seems willing to " take responsibility" unless they get caught doing something wrong, and even then its a struggle. Rationalizing bad decisions as someone else's fault seems to be the order of the day, rather than actually taking the consequences for bad decisions and short-sighted planning. Cutting budgets for security in unstable areas of the world certainly would qualify. There is also the fact that no amount of planning and budgeting can prevent a determined group of people from attacking us, especially when our host are unable to provide decent security.

    January 27, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  18. Wake up People!

    Next headline.....
    Donald Trump to hold a press conference where he will show absolute proof that Hillary is mu la tto.

    January 27, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  19. Lynda/Minnesota

    So much angst over the inevitable: should she decide to run she will become the next President of the United States.

    January 27, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  20. Silence DoGood

    @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!
    --------
    You might of heard of "the Internet" where many long lists of lies are documented but I will give you one as an example:
    LIE: "Our intelligence sources tell us that he (Saddam) has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production."
    State of the Union Address 1/28/2003
    TRUTH:The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as well as dozens of leading scientists declared said tubes unsuitable for nuclear weapons production - months before the war.

    - although I am very impressed by your ability to type "!".

    January 27, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    Tony

    Tom I., Christie said that he took responsibility for the bridge scandal. I wonder what Christie meant by "taking responsibility" in that case.
    -----------------------
    Actually, Christie said nothing of the kind. Conservative pundits have been claiming that Christie "took responsibility" for the bridge lane closure scandal. Christie said a lot of stuff like the following.

    "I was lied to."
    "I was humiliated."
    "I'm embarrassed."

    Sounds more like a fistful of victim cards to me.

    January 27, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  22. Jo Se

    What the democrats believe.

    They don't believe in and pledge obedience to God.

    They don't hold life sacred.

    They don't believe in God given Rights; therefore, they don't believe in the Constitution.

    As such, they are not "Americans" as defined by our history.

    January 27, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  23. Lynda/Minnesota

    "You don't need MORE money to make ONE embassy safer, you just need to know how to allocate money using a risk based approach but I am sure you have no clue what I am talking about being the low info voter you are!!"

    The GOP might just as well put you in charge and be done with it. They aren't having much luck with who've they got running the show as it is.

    January 27, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  24. Rudy NYC

    Lynda/Minnesota

    So much angst over the inevitable: should she decide to run she will become the next President of the United States.
    ---------------–
    Dare Scared.

    January 27, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  25. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Where's Our $24 Billion?

    Me
    Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Where's Our $24 Billion?

    RWNJ like Donna fail to mention & blatantly ignore the FACT that Sec. Clinton requested money for additional embassy security from Congress and was denied. We've had over a dozen Benghazi's in the last decade. "What difference does it make?"
    _____________
    "You don't need MORE money to make ONE embassy safer"
    ----------------------------------------
    No moron. We have over 200 embassies and missions around the globe. That's why more money is needed. so you think she was asking for money just for Benghazi? Change the station.

    January 27, 2014 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
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