June 2nd, 2014
01:14 PM ET
9 years ago

What's behind stepped up GOP attacks on Clinton

Washington (CNN) - The 2016 presidential election's some 2 1/2 years away. Even the unofficial start of the next race for the White House is still five months away. Yet Hillary Clinton has been, and remains, the object of Republicans' obsession.

Much of their criticism of the former secretary of state focuses on the September 11, 2012, attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which left U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. The incident - the first time a U.S. ambassador had been killed on duty in more than 30 years - happened during Clinton's watch as America's top diplomat.

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Now, with the much anticipated release of Clinton's memoir, "Hard Choices," just a week away, GOP attacks have increased.

Last week the chapter of the book that deals with Benghazi was leaked. As reported by Politico, the chapter highlights Clinton's defense of how she responded to the attack, as well as criticism of Republicans who Clinton says play politics with the deadly assault.

The pro-GOP opposition research shop America Rising is going up with an e-book titled "Failed Choices," which will be available on Amazon just as "Hard Choices" hits the bookshelves.

The e-book, which describes Clinton's memoir as political spin about her tenure as secretary of state, is a critique of her record at the State Department. The book, first reported by Politico's Maggie Haberman, who's also a CNN political analyst, has a chapter titled "Hillary's War: Libya and the Tragedy in Benghazi."

"We wanted to offer a frame for which people can view her tenure at the State Department that counters whatever spin she puts out on her Hard Choices tour. Hopefully it will be a resource for allies looking to discuss her tenure around the book tour in addition to something that cuts through the clutter for voters looking for a fact-based approach not 700 pages of fluff that papers over her failed record," America Rising executive director Tim Miller told CNN.

America Rising, formed early last year by a bunch of former top aides to 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee, pings Clinton on a near daily basis, countering the numerous pro-Clinton groups that have sprouted up since she stepped down as secretary of state at the beginning of February 2013. Clinton has said she'll decide by the end of this year whether she'll run for the White House, and if she launches a campaign, she'll instantly become the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination.

Once again, Clinton was a top topic on Sunday talk shows.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, speaking on "Fox News Sunday," said Clinton "has been playing politics with this issue from the very beginning" and that her book preview is part of an "organized political defense."

Priebus added that Benghazi disqualifies Clinton from running for president, adding that "I think she gets an 'F' as Secretary of State. Whether it is Russia, Iran sanctions … and now obviously Benghazi."

Priebus: Book, Benghazi politics, help Clinton make money

Sen. Ted Cruz was in lockstep with Priebus in another interview, accusing Clinton of being "all politics all the time" and called the Benghazi chapter "pure political spin."

"(Clinton) is more focused on blaming the so-called vast right-wing conspiracy than on the terrorists. The truth shouldn't be partisan," Cruz said on ABC's "This Week."

A veteran GOP consultant says the early attacks on Clinton may pay dividends in the future.

"It makes complete sense that the GOP would be working to define Hillary Clinton and making sure that she remains connected to the Benghazi tragedies because of her responsibilities as former secretary of state," said Ron Bonjean, who served as a top strategist and adviser to then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert and was press secretary to then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.

Clinton tour about to kick off

Clinton will read and sign her memoirs at a Barnes and Noble in Manhattan on June 10, the day the book goes on sale. That event will kick off a coast to coast book tour that many people are saying could be an appetizer for the main course, a second Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

A source at America Rising said Hillary Clinton's book is "certainly the top priority for everyone on our 2016 team."

"For the first few days, we will primarily focus on systematically breaking each chapter down and aggressively fact checking and pushing back on statements we identify as misinformation," the source added. "The remainder of the effort will consist of bracketing her book tour."

America Rising is not alone. The Stop Hillary PAC will also devote considerable resources and attention to Clinton's book.

"It is clear she is trying to recreate her story and dictate what the public understand and believes about her, whether it is true or not," said Garrett Marquis, the group's spokesman.

The group plans to go after Clinton's book in a number of formats, including direct mail to supporters. Marquis said the book helps the group raise money, which in turn helps reach more people.

"This definitely galvanizes those people who are already supporting us," he added.

Clinton's defense

Clinton said earlier this year 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.

And in the chapter in her book on Benghazi, Clinton writes, "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."

Clinton testified about the attack last year in front of House and Senate hearing. But Republicans say there are still questions left unanswered and the GOP-dominated House formed a select investigative committee on the attack.

Clinton, writing in "Hard Choices," appeared to suggest that she won't take part in the investigation or any of the committee's hearings.
"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," wrote Clinton.

Asked for comment on the new America Rising e-book, a Clinton spokesman deferred to the Democratic National Committee for comment.
DNC press secretary Michael Czin put out a statement saying, "the Obama Administration and Democrats are focused on making sure a tragedy like what happened in Benghazi never happens again.

"Republicans are obsessed with playing politics with that tragedy just to rally their far-right base," Czin added.

But Bonjean, the veteran GOP strategist, says the Republican game plan will continue.

"I think this is going to come in waves. These past few weeks have been one wave. It will subside for a while, and then come back. I don't think you're going to see Republicans ever week going after Hillary Clinton, but the need to keep her in the spotlight until she answers those questions is going to remain."

CNN's Ashley Killough, Leigh Ann Caldwell and CNN Senior Political Correspondent Brianna Keilar contributed to this story.

Filed under: 2016 • GOP • Hillary Clinton • Republican
soundoff (101 Responses)
  1. ricardo1968

    The fear is palpable. They will lie, cheat and steal to try and take her down, but everyone knows its BS and in the end it will help show people that the GOP has lost its fitness to govern. They have no vision for the country.

    June 2, 2014 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
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