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. tm1946

    I am leaning towards:

    What does it matter

    or

    how do I keep Bill's thing in his pants and out of other woman's ______

    January 27, 2014 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  2. jack2

    the liberals aren't too smart. they are just now figuring out that Obama lied but the only thing is when they find out they decide it's Ok for Obama and Hillary to have lied.

    January 27, 2014 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  3. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ Rudy

    Yeah, I know.

    January 27, 2014 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  4. Me

    Sniffit

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

    Show me Iraq's WMDs.
    __________
    That is not proof sniffy and you know it! The intel stated they had them, show me proof that Bush KNOWINGLY lied, in other words, he KNEW they didn't have them and still stated they did (but I think you know what I was asking)..... You know you can't so just give up or in your case make some more rediculous comments to spin your way around the question!

    January 27, 2014 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  5. SCBAMA

    Woman has not driven a car since 1996. How in the world can she relate to the average voter's issues?

    January 27, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  6. The Real Tom Paine

    -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!
    ****************************
    Ask Colin Powell what he thinks of the intel on Iraq's WMDs in retrospect. You can pick any number of interviews, or are you afraid of what you will find?

    January 27, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  7. Polar Bear

    She hasn't driven since 1996. Ergo, "limousine liberal." Of course, it's okay for them, but not those "evil rich." I'm sure she was carted around in a stretch Prius.

    January 27, 2014 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  8. Me

    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.
    _______________
    hahaha truth hurts doesn't it dutchy boy??? LMFAO No more money is NOT necessarily needed, you just have to allocate more to your high probability targets!!! But again the low info moron like you just doesn't get it! LMFAO

    January 27, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    "That is not proof sniffy and you know it! The intel stated they had them, show me proof that Bush KNOWINGLY lied, in other words, he KNEW they didn't have them and still stated they did (but I think you know what I was asking)..... You know you can't so just give up or in your case make some more rediculous comments to spin your way around the question"

    Yes it is. You see, the burden of proof first rests on the side who made the initial affirmative declaration, which in this situation was "Iraq has WMDs." The folks who said that bear the initial burden of proving it to be true. Failure to do so means it is false. There are no elephants in the strawberry patch. Trying to play semantic games and add in the requirement that I prove it was a "knowing" lie just shows your desperation.

    January 27, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  10. just asking

    if hillary clinton was truly responsible, why wasn't she interviewed by the acountability review board that she hand picked? of course her name is no where to be found concerning anything about benghazi. why is that? because democrats are in total cover up mode to protect their 2016 candidate from the truth of her failures.

    January 27, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  11. it must be said

    In testimony Wednesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Charlene Lamb, a deputy assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, was asked, “Was there any budget consideration and lack of budget which led you not to increase the number of people in the security force there?”

    Lamb responded, “No, sir.”

    Recall that Lamb is the person who denied requests from the top diplomatic security officer in Libya to retain a 16-man team of military personnel who had been protecting diplomats.

    January 27, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  12. jack2

    Anyone with a brain can conclued Obama and Hillary lied and are still lying. Most liberals admit he lied but they think it's ok that he lied. What has this nation become when we give our politicians a hall pass to lie?

    January 27, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  13. name. willard

    No thanks note support fo hillary clinton 2016 cause she was lied her story about benghizia

    January 27, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  14. TTNYC

    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."

    Which part of Ambassador Stevens "information" asking for more security was "imperfect"? What were the "unforeseen consequences, unpredictable twists and turns" when his requests were denied?

    She botched one embassy in one of the (if not the) most unstable parts of the world where we are hated and despised and on the anniversary of the worst attack on our soil – a date we are all highly sensitive to each and every year since – and she says her information wasn't perfect, that she couldn't foresee the consequences and the twists and turns. And she wants to be President. What kind of damage will she inflict on us if she is?

    When Bush made decisions she and the majority of Democrats didn't like there was no talk of "imperfect information" or "unforeseen consequences, unpredictable twists and turns" – no he was just making all the wrong decisions. How could he not have "perfect information" on something like Sept 11, 2001? And because his 'information' must have been 'perfect' – how could he not 'foresee' all possible 'consequences' and not 'predict twists and turns'? She is first and foremost a selfish hypocrite.

    January 27, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC

    "That is not proof sniffy and you know it! The intel stated they had them, show me proof that Bush KNOWINGLY lied, in other words, he KNEW they didn't have them and still stated they did (but I think you know what I was asking)..... You know you can't so just give up or in your case make some more rediculous comments to spin your way around the question!"
    ----------------------------------
    'Mission Accomplished!"

    I repeat. I honestly think that Bush believed that had accomplished HIS goals at the time. Gosh, he was so proud that day.

    January 27, 2014 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  16. Tampa Tim

    Check out the 935 lies that W Bush told. Of course you can't believe google.

    January 27, 2014 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  17. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    REPUBICAN comments are just idiotic, no wonder they LOSE every national election!!!!!!!

    January 27, 2014 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  18. Destination Nowhere

    @ all the folks whining about lying....

    Get over yourselves! We all know politicians are in the business of lying, no matter their party affiliations.

    January 27, 2014 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  19. OleDawg

    Paying Hilary to speak ? What a joke ! Your better off hiring a circus clown !

    January 27, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  20. jimmyva18

    Her biggest regret, you mean, next to marrying that philandering, Impeached, husband of hers? Hillary is a pox on America.

    January 27, 2014 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  21. ColdWarVet

    Hey Me Sniffit.....I remember watching a 60 Minutes Episode in 2004 with a former Iraqi Air Force General who said they WMD's were moved to Syria jus tprior to the invasion. Now 60 Minutes is not exactly right leaning. And BTW, what was it that SH used on Iran and his own people (Khurds)? I believe it was a neve agent which is a WMD he wsa banned from having. You do recall that or do you have a selective memory?

    January 27, 2014 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  22. Darrell

    Not castrating Bill

    January 27, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  23. JL

    "My biggest regret is what happened in Benghazi," -Hillary Clinton, now

    That's not what she said at the Benghazi hearing. I believe she said, nay shouted...
    "WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE!"
    -Hillary Clinton, then

    January 27, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  24. Rudy NYC

    ColdWarVet

    Hey Me Sniffit.....I remember watching a 60 Minutes Episode in 2004 with a former Iraqi Air Force General who said they WMD's were moved to Syria jus tprior to the invasion. Now 60 Minutes is not exactly right leaning. And BTW, what was it that SH used on Iran and his own people (Khurds)? I believe it was a neve agent which is a WMD he wsa banned from having. You do recall that or do you have a selective memory?
    ---------------------------–
    I believe the chemical attacks on Kurds took place in the 1980s, back when the U.S. was quietly supporting him against Iran's Islamic Revolution. That's what's most ironic about the entire Iraq War. The U.S. attacked Saddam for using weapons that the could have likely supplied.

    January 27, 2014 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  25. The Real Tom Paine

    -ColdWarVet

    Hey Me Sniffit.....I remember watching a 60 Minutes Episode in 2004 with a former Iraqi Air Force General who said they WMD's were moved to Syria jus tprior to the invasion. Now 60 Minutes is not exactly right leaning. And BTW, what was it that SH used on Iran and his own people (Khurds)? I believe it was a neve agent which is a WMD he wsa banned from having. You do recall that or do you have a selective memory?
    *************************
    And you believed the Iraqi General, who could provide no evidence that could be independently corroborated, sinply because it fit the narrative you liked? AS far the nerve agent was concerned, we stood by for years and did nothing while Saddam gassed and murdered his own people, or do you have a selective memory on how the GOP did nothing against him because it suited our policy goals at the time?

    January 27, 2014 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
1 2 3 4 5