June 2nd, 2014
01:14 PM ET
8 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. The Republican Party Is Dead To Me

    Keep running your yap's you republican saps. The more your voices are heard, the more determined many become to oust you and your party from power. Keep yapping, creeps.

    June 2, 2014 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    ""(Clinton) is more focused on blaming the so-called vast right-wing conspiracy than on the terrorists."

    The projection, it burns. It will be a wonder of the universe if Psych101 textbooks don't spend just as much time on these GOPers/Teatrolls as the Poli-Sci textbooks. Seriously. It's like straight out of the examples. The GOP/Teatrolls have spent ALL of their time trying to find a way to "prove" that it's all Obama and Clinton's faults. They acre nothing for whatever really happened and how to fix anything that failed. They decided before collecting even one piece of evidence that what went wrong is "we're not in charge" and how to fix it is "never let anyone not us be in charge."

    June 2, 2014 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "But Republicans say there are still questions left unanswered "

    Teatroll Rosetta Stone says: "We weren't given the answers we wanted to hear, so we have to pretend none were given."

    June 2, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  4. Tom

    Well duh! The reason the Republicans are attacking Clinton is because polls show she would trounce any of the wouldbe GOP candidates.

    June 2, 2014 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  5. just asking

    why wasn't hillary clinton interviewed by her hand picked arb??? we still don't know what hillary clinton's actions and words were during the entire length of this attack, whcih lasted many hours.

    but we do know one thing, she was the first to issue a statement using the video lie as the reason for the attack. and she stuck with the lie long after she knew it was a lie.

    i'd also like to know what she may have had to do with the jailing of the video maker as she mentioned it to the families of the dead. i want to know if she abused government power in order to bolster he rlie of the video tape.

    June 2, 2014 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  6. Dean

    Perhaps it's her arrogance and narcissim.

    June 2, 2014 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  7. MaryM

    The GOPers are very, very afraid of the Clintons. They know if Mrs. Clinton runs in 2016, she will win. You can start practicing now repubs.
    Madam President Hillary Clinton and First Gentleman, President Bill Clinton.

    June 2, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  8. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Fear and hatred plain and simple.

    June 2, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  9. conniesz

    Hillary will benefit from all of this because at this point any publicity is good publicity. When the election gets closer and there's an actual opponent she can make mince-meat out of her opponent and all they'll be able to do is repeat the old tired Bengazi chant – which the voting public will completely ignore by then having heard it way way too often to care anymore.

    June 2, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  10. Al-NY,NY

    why? Because they have NO ONE who can beat her. They'll beat this Benghazi drum til they're blue in the face. The only people that it matters to are the knuckle-dragging mouth breathers who parrot AM radio and Fixed News verbatim.

    June 2, 2014 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  11. rs

    Think it might be simple reality that she would cream any of the members of the clown car in a straight up election?
    After all, the GOP has nothing to run on but retread hate, conspiracy and lies.

    June 2, 2014 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  12. vikingwoman

    Oh I don't know, nerves!?

    June 2, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  13. Rick McDaniel

    Simple answer........CLINTON!

    June 2, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  14. rs


    Perhaps it's her arrogance and narcissim.
    Permit me to introduce you to one Mr. Ted Cruz, of the sovereign state of Texas.....

    June 2, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  15. Silence DoGood

    "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.
    Exactly right Ms.Clinton. If you try to chase these conspiracy theories, the right wing loonies will run you around forever. This is just like the Birther nonsense and hopefully will have just as much effect.

    June 2, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  16. Bill

    The GOP is petrified of Hillary and know they do not have any potential candidate (even JEB or Fatboy) who can beat her.
    By the way, what happen to the repeal Obamacare mantra? Sort of died on the vine, huh. A bunch of clowns without any policy prescriptions except to block, obstruct and bash. Never going to win on the national level with that. You would have thought the GOP would have figured that out by now, after losing five of the last six presidential contests.

    June 2, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  17. Steve, New York City

    Many on the right have proven time and again that they're really good when it comes to destroying things, but lacking when it comes to their ability to say or do something constructive.

    That being said, Miss Ego will definitely have to answer clearly and definitively about how Benghazi turned into such a mess. People might also revisit her voting in favor of the 2003 Iraq Invasion, rather than harshly questioning the claims of war criminals like president Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith and those other turds. Of course, it also seems that this vote had helped to sink her campaign in 2008.

    June 2, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    "they'll be able to do is repeat the old tired Bengazi chant"

    Well, sort of. The whole point of the lopsided Select Committee is so that no matter what the evidence is, the GOP/Teatrolls on the Committee can write a "report" that comes to all sorts of unsupported conclusions and functions as a book of "new and improved" Plan B(enghazi) talking points for 2016. That's pretty much where it's been headed since inception. The Dems will vote against the "report", refuse to sign off on it...maybe release their own report disputing a lot of the assumptions and conjecture and mischaracterizations of the evidence in the GOP/Teatrolls report...and the MSM will be giddy over the chance to treat both as equal, no matter what they say, so that it can be as controversial and sensational as possible.

    June 2, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  19. Mike

    The GOP is taking a page from the Obama play book. They are trying to define Hillary before she even starts running for President. It worked for Obama against Mitt Romney and it should work for the GOP as well.

    June 2, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  20. Kristina Wallace

    Could the so called "obsession" be because there isn't another viable democratic candidate at this time? The dems were "obsessed" with Chris Christie not too long ago-what's the difference? Quit trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. If the Democratic Party had anyone else in mind for the nomination besides an old woman who hasn't really done much except ride the coat tails of her cheating husband, then maybe the rift would be interested. Dems have Biden and Clinton-two old has beens.

    June 2, 2014 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  21. bob smith

    I will laugh for days if Hillary never runs in 2016. the GOP will have spent a billion dollars trying to shut her down and she doesn't show up. I hope Hillary drags it out until the last minute on whether or not she will run just so the GOP will continue to waste money time and energy on her.

    June 2, 2014 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  22. Dallas

    Fear! The GOP/Tea Bags are so fearful as the know if Hillary runs she will be elected. They have no agenda so they continue to dredge up anything that they think they can get traction with. They failed with Obamacare which is proving to be more and more successful each day and they have had countless interrogations about Bengahzi with the same result. Where were these hypocrites when Bush/Cheney were committing war crimes in Iraq? Go Hillary!

    June 2, 2014 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  23. GreyMan

    How much fault has been assigned to the Ambassador?

    June 2, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  24. Paul

    Benghazi? That's all they got on Hillary? Regardless of whether she tried or not to enhance the story for limited political fallout, those 4 people were still dead. Over 40 embassy employees were killed on W.'s watch. With the US having embassies in volatile parts of the world, these deaths, although regrettable should come as no shock.

    June 2, 2014 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  25. Johnjon


    June 2, 2014 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
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