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 Carnivore

    The entire article is wrong. It is the Democrats that seem to have coronated her already. The reality is that she won't even run.

    June 2, 2014 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  2. Peace

    It is not how Romney was defined by Dems. They came up with something new to let people know. We were all excited to hear what we didn't know like his outside Bank Accounts, the dog Seamus, his Tax Returns etc. etc.. Who is excited to hear: Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi, that Hillary felt sick, that she has wrote book etc. etc.

    June 2, 2014 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  3. Hogarth

    The Republicans have cried "Benghazi" too often for it to be anything but political. At this point, it has been reduced to a buzzword that no one really knows the meaning of, sort of like "gluten".

    June 2, 2014 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "being burned to death.

    They died of smoke inhalation as is usually the case in a fire. There's no need for you to exaggerate and embellish.

    June 2, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  5. Treebeard


    Ask the members of our military what they think of Hillary. Just stop anyone in uniform, on the street, and ask. Not a prospect for Commander in Chief if they have a say.

    You make that up ?
    yes you did, the military loves Hillary, she has served on many boards
    and she knows the top brass well.
    She has always been 100% behind our boys.
    Google is your friend.

    June 2, 2014 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  6. mstipton

    It's just fear on their part. They know if she runs they don't stand a chance. (again)

    June 2, 2014 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  7. Melissa

    The GOP always does this around the time election campaigning begins. They start spinning hard hoping to ruin their opponent because they're high school bullies and always have been. The only Democrat that's a real threat to the GOP is Hilary Clinton so they are going to lie cheat and steal their heads off and keep repeating the same garbage over and over again until a much too large portion of the population actually believes it like good little slaves. This is what the GOP does, has always done, and will always do.

    June 2, 2014 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  8. jc

    Too bad the girls and boys over at Faux News are unhappy with Hillary. They just don't want her in their sandbox. I say, better get up and run....run very fast....because Hillary is about to beat your pants off in 2016....

    June 2, 2014 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  9. ritmocojo

    The GOtP seems to be very much at home on 'derange'.

    June 2, 2014 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  10. Name JK. SFL. THE GOP HOWDEE GOWDEE SHOW with special guest ISSA the CLOWN

    Look who's talking , Cruz and pubic, two of the biggest LOSERS in the GOP . Cruz FLEECING the elderly for donations during HIS 24BILLION goverment SHUTDOWN. What, do you think we all forgot about it???? And pubic, it goes without saying pubic, NO BODY listens to your GOP BS except 25% or less of the entire population .

    June 2, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  11. really CNN? that's a stupid question.

    What's up with the stepped up attacks on Clinton? She is leading in the early polls. The GOP has nothing to campaign on, no accomplishments, no record, no proposals- other than trying to insert themselves into the health care decisions of women, and making it more difficult to vote. Oh, and saying" No" to everything that might possibly benefit the citizens of this country.
    So that leaves them with smearing their likely opponent.

    June 2, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  12. Al-NY,NY

    She is like Jane fonda, she made a monumental mistake and won't be able to shake it for the rest of her life.
    If she had stood up and took the blunt of the blame along with the President, she would be a whole lot better off today.

    oh the naiveté!! If she had "stood up..." they'd be calling for Obama's impeachment and her head.....oh wait, they already are.

    June 2, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  13. bikermiker

    The GOP is becoming more irrelevant all the time. They have become a party of negative attacks and party lines telling everyone what they can't do. You can't marry if you are gay!! You can't get an abortion!! Don't even think of immigrating to this country!! Just a party of 'don't', 'can't' and negative attacks. Perhaps if they would spend all of their signifcant resources on coming up with solutions to real problems tha will benefit the entire population of the country versus the ever shrinking minority – they might be more appealing to more people. Who wants to vote for a party that is always so negative – and this from a former Republican voter – you lost me and I expect a lot of others.

    June 2, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  14. RealityCheck

    It's much easier to attack leader than to have a plan. If Paul Ryan's plan was so incredibly fantastic, why isn't he out making a case for it still? Hint: it was total fantasy. If Obamacare is such a failure why isn't there a counterplan to both take it apart and provide health care? I suppose it is a safer strategy to keep up-and-coming GOP leaders out of the spotlight now to avoid long smear campaigns, but the party has to start coming up with more substance to get independents.

    The GOP also has to forget about its so-called "base" when it comes to national politics and look at the bell curve - most people are not in the tails.

    June 2, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  15. readerpan

    Reince Priebus and Ted Cruz attack Hillary???? That should be enough to convince any thinking voter to support her.

    June 2, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  16. KC Yankee

    Hillary's only issue is her age. The rest of it is just noise. She's got vast experience. She's mean enough to be a president and a politician. She knows all of her enemies like the back of her hand because she's been fighting them for decades. These are all characteristics that a president needs, although we pretend they don't. The only possible hitch is that we Americans, having been stupified over the years by bad food, relentless political advertising, and our own insatiable greed, really do love us some young, good-looking presidents. On the plus side, the Republicans have yet to come up with anyone who isn't an absolute moron, a thug, or both.

    June 2, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  17. sly

    Losers spend all their time trying to avoid their next loss.

    Winners spend time on solutions, such as affordable health care, deficit reduction, spending decreases, withdrawal from Iraqi wars.

    Republicans will be lucky to get 15% againest Hillary, our next great President.

    June 2, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  18. underwaterops

    I do have to wonder if Clinton is having a good time baiting the right, and misdirecting interest and attacks – just so that some personal favorite can get close to the primaries without getting plastered early and often.
    If she doesn't run, then I will know she was having some fun with the right at their expense.

    June 2, 2014 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  19. Evangelos

    It continues to amaze and appall me that the far-right Fox-RNC echo chamber continues to pour out a daily flood of hysteria, hate and conspiracy-wackiness over the tragic loss of 4 American lives in Benghazi...

    WHILE continuing to cheer, support or overlook the THOUSANDS of American lives lost under Cheney-Bush on 9/11 (despite numerous clear warnings), and the THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS more American lives lost in the unnecessary and bungled war and occupation of Iraq.

    Utter hypocrisy and gamesmanship: 4 > 20,000, in GOP math.

    June 2, 2014 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  20. DH

    Yes, Repubs are terrified and should be. They have zero plans, zero creditable health plan, zero immigration and they keep passing every other week abortion restriction laws and voter suppression laws in RED STATES!!! Do they think we can't see them?!!!

    They are going to lose seats in Nov because the American people are sick of their doing nothing and them winning 2016 is out of the question.

    June 2, 2014 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  21. Tru

    The GOP obsession is not just with Hillary; it's with anyone who has common sense. Folks with common sense need not apply for membership in the current GOP. These people prefer Trump, Palin, Beck, Limpbaugh, Akin, Cruz, Santorum, Newt and others of this ilk over the likes of General Colin Powell or Jon Huntsman. This current crop of republicans are pathetic!

    June 2, 2014 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  22. MB

    Benghazi was supposed to be a secreet CIA operation and the Repubs know it and know they will NEVER get public answers about it and Hilllary cannot tell them as she was NOT in charge of the CIA so they are holding hearing after hearing for nothing because they have no plans for America other than destroying the middle class in favor of the 1% -divide and destroy the Repub party has become almost anti-American in their hate

    June 2, 2014 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  23. Treebeard


    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.

    President Obama : I drove down the road and took a right.
    President Obama: I took a right after driving down the road.

    Republicans: See he is lying !

    June 2, 2014 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  24. herchato

    A politician playing politics with an issue? All politics all the time? Pure political spin? Cruz and Priebus have done a great job of pointing out the obvious about all successful politicians.

    June 2, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  25. DaveinIL

    "Yet Hillary Clinton has been, and remains, the object of Republicans' obsession"
    It seems like they're just following the lead of the media like CNN who have made her their obsession (after MH370, of course).

    June 2, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
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