January 27th, 2014
12:52 PM ET
9 years 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.

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"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. johnpm

    Yet she has still not taken responsibility for it. Why is this news. The anointed candidate says something so quick....get it on CNN to try to make her look good. If she had taken responsibility for it it would have been different.

    January 27, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  2. Tim Blackwell

    What about her role in Vince Foster's murder?

    January 27, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  3. Jabooby

    Clearly a damage control for the upcoming 2016 failed bid.

    January 27, 2014 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  4. VJ

    are u in dream world.... Bush lied....period...

    January 27, 2014 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  5. smith

    Clinto launched operations in Iraq, Somalia, and Kosovo killing thousands yet liberals are silent. However, when a republican does the same thing the liberals are cryin war criminals and war mongers. Uh, double standard.

    January 27, 2014 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  6. CryBabies

    "What difference, at this point, does it make"? After all, it was 5:00 in the evening not 3:00 in the morning.

    January 27, 2014 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  7. Me


    "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.
    WOW you are high in the night or just a flat out liar, the burden of proof is on the one accusing Bush of lying, just as the burden of proof is on the prosecutor in a court case (ya now the one accusing one of wrong doing...crack a law book for crying out loud)!! I don't know for sure if he KNOWINGLY lied or not but fact is the intel told him there were WMD(at least it did at some point) even MANY dems believed there were JUST AS BUSH DID, I am giving Bush the benefit of the doubt, I really don't like what he did as president so it makes no difference to me if he is guilty or innocent, I still won’t like many of his policies (but I did like some). Liberals use him for every wrong you people do, the man has been out of office FOR OVER 5 YEARS now, get over it already!!! Man up and take some responsibility, it would give you a lot more creditability and based on polling numbers you people need it!! I have said it once and will say it again, political parties are the problem with American politics, they turn the population against each other and are counterproductive! Do away with them and many problems in politics will go away (not all by any means but a good amount will!)! You sniffy are simply a partisan hack, you will never see any wrong with any liberal policy so your opinion only matters to those who will listen, it means nothing in the real world! No one party will ever have ALL the answers, it will take a mix of all parties, too bad that looks like it will never happen….

    January 27, 2014 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  8. RobertD

    eh, I don't know.

    Hillary Clinton is a moderate Democrat on most issues, the problem is, that doesn't really represent change, just as the John McCain and Mitt Romney's of this world do not represent change

    It's a complex issue now, because we don't merely have us vs. them, or Democrat vs. Republican logic any more.

    Both Bush and Obama – support vast expansion of government power to monitor and control the citizens.

    And yet some of us, believe that in a democracy – the people are sovereign.

    I don't see Clinton doing anything, not anything significant at all on the issue of government overreach.
    And you know your Chris Christies of this world won't do anything either.

    Oh, the nominees will talk sincerely (as Obama did recently) but the words won't be backed by actions.

    I have to say I hope the democrats nominate a progressive and the republicans nominate a libertarian, and for once we don't have to deal with these staunch government statists.

    January 27, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  9. Bill

    Working in Obama Administration?

    January 27, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  10. sly

    Memo to Embassy workers in enemy lands: Next time the Sec of State tells you to get more security – DO IT FOOLS!

    Memo to Confederates in Congress: Next time President Obama asks you to fund increased Embassy security – DO IT FOOLS!

    You get what you reap, and these 4 fools in Libya asked for what they got. Sad. True.

    Hillary, you are the best American diplomat on foreign policy in 50 years, and you'll be a great President.

    January 27, 2014 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  11. Me

    The Real Tom Paine


    Silence DoGood

    @just saying
    "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?!

    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?
    Ya that is really going to help a lot now that it has been 10 years... Really, this is all you have, what Colin Powell thinks in retrospect?? LMFAO You have to do better than that, that is not proof, not even close! Hind side is always 20/20....

    January 27, 2014 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  12. Me


    are u in dream world.... Bush lied....period...
    PROVE it, period! I don't go around accusing someone of knowingly lying without proof, thanks!! You are the one living in a dream world!! See my other post, I don't really like Bush but I do believe in the rule of law, innocent until PROVEN guilty!!!

    January 27, 2014 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  13. bspurloc

    HOPEFULLY the gop doubles down on wah wah benghazi, oh wait they already did... i meant triples down on wah wah benghazi...

    January 27, 2014 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  14. Edston

    At this point, what difference does it make?

    January 27, 2014 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  15. Me

    The Real Tom Paine


    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?
    And yet you do the SAME thing against Bush, no evidence has been shown that he KNOWINGLY lied yet all you liberals are 100% convinced that he did. Hypocrites!!! Also, it does not matter when/how he used the gas, FACT is he obviously had them in the past in order to use them!! Therefore why would it be a stretch to think he still had them??? But by all means, don't use actual logic, use your emotions, when thinking about these things....

    January 27, 2014 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  16. unapologetic conservative

    Of course she hasn't driven a car, she drives a broom!

    January 27, 2014 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  17. tom l

    Just so we're clear, President Obama didn't lie about IYLYPYCKI even though his advisors debated whether to inform people that some might be losing their policies. This was common knowledge in the administration that there was no way for everyone to keep their policies. It turns out that millions have lost their policies (and I don't care whether they are "junk" policies – that's not for anyone to determine except for the policyholder). The administration debated and decided to continue with IYLYPYCKI. Then, when people started to lose their policies, as they had been warned about, what did he do? He said IYLYPYCKI....IF they meet certain standards. You just can't get around that. That is a man that knowingly lied and withheld information. That's wrong.

    January 27, 2014 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  18. rs

    Ya that is really going to help a lot now that it has been 10 years... Really, this is all you have, what Colin Powell thinks in retrospect?? LMFAO You have to do better than that, that is not proof, not even close! Hind side is always 20/20....
    UN weapons inspectors in Iraq before the war said there were no WMDs- that was a U.N. position.

    January 27, 2014 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  19. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the Repub/tea bag majority

    @Me: "Sniffit "Show me ONE piece of proof Bush LIED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! "

    Bush kept the cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars off the books – if that isn't lying, I don't know what is.

    January 27, 2014 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
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