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.

[twitter-follow screen_name='psteinhausercnn'][twitter-follow screen_name='danmericacnn']

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. You Got It

    Who cares?? Clinton has left a trail of broken promises, lies, and underhanded dealings from the time she entered politics in the 70's. Whitewater, Benghazi, Watergate (where she almost got disbarred), WH Travel fiasco, Rose Law firm, etc etc etc.
    Forget this chick, she'll be the worst yet if she's elected.

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

    "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."

    Despite anything the beltway gossip bobbleheads might have said on the subject...and IN know you're just spewing their usual "conventional wisdom" kind of nonsense...the fact is that Mittens defined himself by refusing to define himself. He defined himself as having no definition...etch-a-sketch, etc....severely conservative for the primary, magic moderate for the general....and in doing so, he massively exposed himself to being defined externally. It wasn't Obama's doing or fault other than to recognize where Mittens had left himself exposed and to appropriately, like anyone would, attack it. If the GOP/Teatrolls weren't so two-faced and pandering and squirrelly and refusing to be pinned down and refusing to actually believe in anything, consummate nihilists that they are, then they wouldn't have that problem. They're efforts to try to flip the tables on Hillary won't work for that reason: she hasn't failed to define herself the way Mittens did.

    June 2, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  3. Tony D

    Why is CNN obsessed with giving Hillary Clinton endless free press while not questioning anything she does, says or is responsible for?

    June 2, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  4. John

    Reagan 10 embassy attacks, Bush 13 resulting in 77 deaths, including 2 in one year in Riyadh....a better (although still unnecessary) question would be "Why wasn't Bush prepared for the 2nd Riyadh attack?....Obama has set a 100 year record for the fewest foreign embassy attacks and also the fewest foreign embassy deaths....And this is the biggest scandal the GOP can come up with?...........what am I missing?

    June 2, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  5. Doug

    The GOP has made me not care about the 2016.If it's Hillary or OJ Simpson I'm voting who ever isn't the Republican.

    June 2, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  6. salty dog

    Yup, we did absolutely nothing for eight years, now elect us! Or we'll sick the rich on you, done, and done. They seriously think they can do nothing but blame the other guy, won't so much as utter the word compromise, and then tell us how uncompromising Obama was, brilliant!

    June 2, 2014 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  7. DJ Reality

    GOP has to start their attack on Hillary now. They don't have anyone to put up against her if she runs. Not a soul in the GOP could beat her... And they know it!

    June 2, 2014 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  8. sonny chapman

    Hate blinds humans. The Repubs. Hate for Obama didn't work; he was re-elected. The Repubs. Hate for Bill Clintob didn't work, he's still around & more popular than ever(TY George W). The Repubs. Hate for Hillary won't work either. Maybe Repubs. should try to Adopt to an ever changing world, instead of trying to reinvent the 1950s.

    June 2, 2014 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  9. Victor

    How about just realism? Mrs. Clinton is more of the same and voted YES on Iraq.

    People can crow about "bad intelligence" or "lies" (depending on your political affiliation sadly) but the fact remains HIllary voted YES.

    There were plenty of Democrats and 2 or 3 Republicans that had the wisdom and integrity to make an unpopular decision by voting NO. We should be looking to people like them, and that means NO on Hillary Clinton.

    June 2, 2014 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  10. Red

    Benghazi!!!! Ayeeeaaaaaarrrrghhhh!!!

    June 2, 2014 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  11. Brian


    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."


    The Obama playbook? You have just described the GOP strategy in every national election since the 80s. Do you not remember Willie Horton or the Swiftboat folks? They are just mad that it quit working.

    June 2, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  12. Runtime Al

    She's a shoe-in. You can bet the house. The time is right for a female prez right after a black prez. History or Herstory will be made. And there is nothing anybody can do about it. The Clintons are headed back to the White House, where they so rightfully belong. Chew on that Tea-baggers!

    June 2, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  13. Prejudice keeps people from seeing the obvious

    Everybody's overthinking this, I think.

    The traditional path to the Presidency of the United States is (wait for it) through the Secretary of State position! This is because the POTUS' main responibility under the US Constitution is foreign policy.

    The first person widely considered a POTUS candidate who has held that seat in decades now is Hillary Clinton. Of course people who understand how power moves around DC consider her more likely to win the POTUS seat now than she was previously.

    June 2, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  14. Claude

    The Republicans figure it will take two whole years of throwing pooh at Hillary, just to cut her down to where she's polling even with whatever under-qualified sap they nominate.

    June 2, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  15. Patrick

    Again which terrorist attack under Bush was blamed on a video and not even called a terrorist attack?

    Which attack under Bush was down played during an election?

    None of them were. Those attacks were called what they were terrorist attacks. Under Obama the attack was not called a terrorist attack. It was downplayed since an election was a few weeks away.

    June 2, 2014 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  16. luvUamerica

    The GOP and Tea Party (Rep. King), have investigated thoroughly the Benghazi assault on our embassy. They have come up with nothing. They have spent thousands of hours, spent millions of dollars investigating it. And they have come up with nothing. They have continuously tried to dig for dirt, and they have come up with nothing.

    It is very sad when people who serve our country, be it civilians or military get hurt or killed. And he fact is that, the GOP has turned a tragedy into a political gimmick. Now, that is worse than the incident itself.

    The GOP has no ethics, they don't really care our people who serve., they have no plans for our future, they have no ideas, and all they can do is to pull anything that is good in America down to the dirt. It is ugly politics. It is ugly politics because the GOP has become an empty barrel. You beat on it, and it makes a lot of loud noises.

    June 2, 2014 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  17. William Bellah

    Bill never had sex with that woman and Hillary never said "we are going to contain China". We need wiser people who are less apt to shoot off their mouths, the consequences can be costly.

    June 2, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  18. just asking

    why is the left wing media and democrats so obsessed with ignoring and covering up hillary clinton's lies, incompetence and gross negligence with regards to benghazi? this is the woman who claimed obama was not ready for that 3am phone call but when it came for her, she was no where to be found and 4 americans died. and nobody knows what obama did a well.

    are we all supposed to just forget this and pretend it didn't happen because we have to have another first in the white house? wouldn't a better question be, why are some people so obsessed with making sure we have a real, qualified he white house?

    June 2, 2014 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  19. 1776usa2016

    The GOP has turned into the Nut House.

    Seems every candidate they have is crazier than the last.


    June 2, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    "What's behind stepped up GOP attacks on Clinton?"

    Dirty politics. I think the best thing that Hillary Clinton could do would be not to run at all. Let the Republicans make all of this unforgettable noise, and then announce that she never had any intention of running at all. Say that she just wanted to see how low they would go, and make America see Republicans for the shysters and grifters that they are.

    June 2, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  21. 52pan

    "What's behind the stepped up attacks on Clinton?" She's guilty of letting 4 people who were not combatants die from torture and being burned to death.

    June 2, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  22. Don Sporns

    Why is GOP obsessed with Hillary? It is natural to be obsessed about someone who you know is going to crush you in the election.

    June 2, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  23. sonny chapman

    Hey Just Asking- Maybe it's YOU that's misreading the facts that yield your opinions.

    June 2, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  24. Peace

    Do republicans think people are all that stupid? Their strategy has already starting to backfire. I wish they could know the question a lot of people are asking themselves. Why attacking Hillary like that and why now even before announcing that she will run? This annoys women a lot and wondering why can't they promote the person they want to run from their Party instead of going after her?

    June 2, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  25. krazygrrl9

    The more they attack her, the more I want her to be my president.

    June 2, 2014 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
1 2 3 4 5