May 30th, 2014
08:16 AM ET
6 months ago

Clinton knocks those 'who exploit' Benghazi in memoir chapter

Updated 4:32 p.m. ET, 5/30/2014

Washington (CNN) – Hillary Clinton strikes a defiant tone on Benghazi in her upcoming memoir "Hard Choices" and knocks those "who exploit" the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack as "a political tool," according to a Politico report on the chapter.

The former secretary of state also writes that the attack – which Republicans have used to bludgeon Clinton since the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed in the incident- is surrounded by a "regrettable amount of misinformation, speculation, and flat-out deceit by some in politics and the media."

Politico obtained the chapter ahead of a Friday confab where Democratic national security experts and communicators will be briefed on Benghazi by Philippe Reines, a longtime Clinton adviser and spokesman.

House Republicans have continued to pressure Clinton on Benghazi and earlier this month organized a select committee to investigate the terrorist attack. Democrats contend that the investigation is nothing more than a political tool to criticize Clinton as she mulls a run at the presidency in 2016.

While it is likely that Republicans will call on Clinton to testify before the select committee, Clinton casts doubt on her participation in the investigation, according to the report by Politico's Maggie Haberman, who is also a CNN political analyst

"I will not be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans," Clinton writes. "It's just plain wrong, and it's unworthy of our great country. Those who insist on politicizing the tragedy will have to do so without me."

She continues to knock House Republicans, writing that while she respects the oversight role of Congress, "many of these same people are a broken record about unanswered questions. But there is a difference between unanswered questions and unlistened to answers."

GOP chairman of Select Benghazi Committee reacts to Hillary Clinton book chapter

The U.S. consulate in Benghazi was attacked on September 11, 2012. Four Americans, including Ambassador 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.

Hillary Clinton's not-so-new book rollout

Questions about Benghazi have dogged Clinton since the attack and some have questioned whether the former first lady is to blame for Stevens' death - the first U.S. ambassador killed on duty in over 30 years.

Earlier this year, Clinton said that Benghazi was her biggest regret during the four years she served as America's top diplomat. "It was a terrible tragedy losing four Americans, two diplomats and now it is public so I can say two CIA operatives," Clinton said at a speech in New Orleans.

Clinton has also taken responsibility for the deaths and did so, according to Politico, in the memoir chapter, too.

"As Secretary I was the one ultimately responsible for my people's safety, and I never felt that responsibility more deeply than I did that day," she writes.

Clinton testified about the attack in House and Senate hearings in 2013. Republicans, however, say there are still questions left unanswered and some contend that the attack should disqualify the former secretary of state from holding future office.

According to Politico, Clinton responds to some Republican questions on Benghazi, including claims that military assets were not scrambled in time to aid the compound and that requests for more security for the compound were ignored by the secretary of state.

"Our military does everything humanly possible to save American lives – and would do more if they could," Clinton writes according to Politico. "That anyone has ever suggested otherwise is something I will never understand."

The former first lady also defends then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who used five Sunday talk show appearances soon after the attack to link the deaths to the anti-Islam video posted to YouTube.

"Susan stated what the intelligence community believed, rightly or wrongly, at the time," Clinton writes, according to Politico. "That was the best she or anyone could do."

Republicans contend that the talking points that link the attack to the video show the White House was playing politics with Benghazi because President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election was just two months away.

As to why Rice rather than Clinton appeared on the Sunday shows, Clinton writes, "I don't see appearing on Sunday-morning television as any more of a responsibility than appearing on late-night TV. Only in Washington is the definition of talking to Americans confined to 9 A.M. on Sunday mornings."

CNN confirmed that Tommy Vietor, a National Security Council spokesman during Obama's first term, has been brought on by the Clinton team to coordinate and assist in the response to the book.

The hiring of Vietor, whose time with the President dates back to Obama’s days in the Senate and who has ties to both Clinton and Obama's closest advisers, signals a closer cooperation between the White House and Clinton's staff on communicating the news from Clinton's book.

In another sign of stepped up cooperation, Democratic surrogates and communicators who publicly support both Obama and Clinton met at the White House this week with Communications Director Jenn Palmieri and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes to talk about a number of issues, including Benghazi and Clinton's upcoming book, according to a source familiar with the meeting.

While the topic was not on the official meeting agenda, one surrogate asked about it and the President’s aides made clear they want no daylight between Obama and Clinton on foreign policy issues as the book rolls out, the source added. The messaging, the White House aides said according to the source, is this: Obama’s team of rivals became an unrivaled team.

In addition to working with the White House, the Clinton camp has stepped up their messaging around the book's release to include a coordinated surrogate operation.

Clinton's team, according to a source familiar with the book rollout, has tapped Kiki McLean, a former Clinton senior adviser and veteran of five presidential campaigns, to coordinate the surrogate operation.

This group includes a war room of former diplomats who stand ready to respond to criticism of Clinton’s tenure at the State Department, according to the source.

During an interview that aired Friday on "Live with Kelly and Michael," Obama spoke highly of Clinton and said if she chooses to run for president, he thinks she "would be very effective at that."

"I always admired her. As soon as she got here, she couldn't have been more effective, more loyal," Obama said. "And since that time we have become really, really good friends."

The President's comments come a day after Obama and Clinton had an "informal, private" lunch at the White House, according to a White House official.

Republicans were quick to respond to Clinton's chapter on Benghazi.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told CNN on Friday that the Benghazi chapter shows "Hillary Clinton, President Obama and the Democrats would rather blame Republicans for asking questions than get answers for Americans."

"It isn’t acceptable for the Democrats to try to sweep this under the rug," Priebus said. "Americans want answers so it doesn’t happen again."

Tim Miller, the executive director of America Rising, an anti-Clinton super PAC, added in an email to reporters that "Clinton offers plenty of finger-pointing but no real accountability of what she should've done differently/better."

"In a 34-page recounting of her actions before and after a deadly terrorist attack, it appears Clinton offers few if any real regrets about how she handled the attack," Miller said.

"Hard Choices" is an important moment for Clinton, the current favorite to win the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination should she run. Critics have charged that her time as America's top diplomat was marked by a lack of a crowning achievement, while Clinton confidants have looked to frame those years as a success and see the book as the most potent way to do that.

Obama, Clinton have 'informal, private' White House lunch

Clinton has said the book begins with her accepting Obama's offer to become secretary of state and covers a range of topics, including Iran, Syria and Libya. She has joked that the memoir will be "just another light summer read" and will cover topics from "Crimea to climate change."

The memoir is due out on June 10.

Asked why the Benghazi chapter was released prior to the overall release of the book, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill told CNN that "until the book is released, there’s nothing to say. And once it’s released, it will speak for itself."


Filed under: 2016 • Hillary Clinton
soundoff (342 Responses)
  1. Steve9930

    This woman would do more damage to the USA then President Obama. "What difference does it make?" What a absolutely clueless thing to say.

    June 1, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  2. rl

    But no one can do more damage to the United States than the republicon/TB party.

    June 1, 2014 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  3. Faitful Democrat

    I just want the Democratic party to tell me what to believe and who to vote for . America will have Hillary Clinton as our new President , and the Republicans are frightened at her credibility and poise and sheer political power . She will be President . America loves Hillary , and you soon will , too . Vote blue , and America wins .

    June 1, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  4. Jayenne

    Steve 9930 – that is NOT what she said. Use the entire quote unless you are afraid of looking like a bigger buffoon than you already do.

    June 1, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  5. MplsMike

    Good, she should knock them. I don't see any of those idiots out there making a scandal out of all of the other US Embassy attacks that have occurred post-9/11. What happened was horrible, four honorable citizens died and this "investigation" is long past its shelf life. The only reason this investigation is still ongoing is because they're afraid of Hillary; if she announced she was not running I would lay down money that the investigation would be quickly wrapped up. If they want to ask questions about they answer this question: How come every request for additional funding to beef up security and intelligence was denied? I can't wait to see the look on Darryl Issa's face when Hillary Clinton is elected President in 2016. Run, Hillary, run! America needs you!

    June 1, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  6. Gravee

    Benghazi was great in The Big Lebowski. How he got wrapped up in this Republican garbage is anyone's best guess!

    June 1, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  7. gstlab3

    I get the uneasy heebeejeebee feeling anytime I hear Hillary talk.,
    something is off and metered and obviously calculated in everything she says and does.

    June 1, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    We the people of the United States of America should demand that our public servants be truthful and honest and if they are not we should not support them. This goes for either party. We can not allow our own party affiliation cause us to stop being Americans first. Politicians on both sides have lied to us and we allow it.

    June 1, 2014 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  9. Rosslaw

    Republicans have got to learn not to be so transparently joyous when Americans are killed overseas during a democratic administration. 8 embassy attacks during the Bush administration and no "investigations". I guess those were "good" embassy attacks and we're glad those Americans were killed. I seem to recall the right-wingers missing a little something on 9/11/01 after Bush had been handed a memo stating that Bin Ladin was about to attack the US. Does the right count that as a mulligan?

    June 1, 2014 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  10. Robert N. constant

    The Republicans cannot run on the economy. They now realize that after spending over 400 million dollars to kill Obamacare, they cannot run on the Affordable Care Act. In fact, millions of Americans who have no health insurance in 24 states and who are being denied access to provisions of the Affordable Care Act , are furious with the Republicans. The families and friends of these people are also irate that Republican Governors are playing politics with their well being.
    Republicans surely cannot run on issues that are important to women or minorities, Republicans have blocked every attempt at Immigration reform..
    In the absence of having issues to run on, they have resurrected Monica Lewinsky, a creation of the Republican operative Linda Tripp. They have politicized the Tragedy at Benghazi, attempting to make it different from all of the other attacks on American installations, even though they are well aware that the CIA controlled Benghazi talking points. They have publicized the VA backlogs, after doing nothing about them for 20 years and forced the resignation of General Shinseki for a problem he did not create and that was kept form him by dishonest subordinates. And most recently, they are politicizing the rprisoner exchange of an American soldier held for 5 years in Afghanistan.

    June 1, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  11. Steaming Pile

    Didn't she just politicize it?

    June 1, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  12. jiim

    The country can't afford another democrat in office.

    June 1, 2014 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  13. Conservative398

    Correct title should read, hillary clinton exploits those who exploite terrorist attack...hypocrite much?

    June 1, 2014 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  14. Conservative398

    Rudy NYC your "facts" sound a lot like lies.

    June 1, 2014 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  15. Conservative398

    Robert constant, your post should be analyzed by psychiatrists, you are completely devoid of reality.

    June 1, 2014 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  16. Conservative398

    Rosslaw, the only people fighting for any answers regarding the attack are those republicans you claim are so happy.

    June 1, 2014 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  17. chris

    Stop partisan party lines and protect the constitution!!!

    What an innovative thought?

    June 1, 2014 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
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