Clinton’s Opening Benghazi Statement and Initial Answers

In Hillary Clinton’s opening statement at today’s Benghazi hearing, she began by extolling the virtues of Ambassador Chris Stevens and explaining why he wanted to serve in Libya and why he was in Benghazi taking risks with his life. In Clinton’s estimation, it’s critical that our diplomatic staff be engaged in dangerous places and willing to put their lives on the line in order to talk to people.

She then went right for the throat by bringing up the attacks on our personnel in Beirut during the Reagan administration that killed over 250 people. She also mentioned other attacks on our diplomatic corp that took place during the administrations of her husband and George W. Bush. In other words, why is this particular attack the focus of such obsessive attention?

She then talked about the 29 recommendations she received as Secretary of State from the Accountability Review Board (ARB) on how to improve our diplomatic safety and claimed that every one of them was on the way to implementation by the time she stepped down.

She then talked about how proud she had been to serve as Secretary and said “We should debate on the basis of respect, not fear.”

She called on the committee to be worthy of people’s trust and wrapped up.

At that point, Chairman Trey Gowdy kind of complained about how long she had taken to speak and recognized Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois.

Clinton’s first response was to defend our decision to get involved in Libya. She talked about the intensity with which our European and Arab allies requested our intervention and said that we didn’t initially say ‘yes’ but conducted significant research before coming to a decision.

Roskam, interestingly, questioned Clinton’s judgment in advocating intervention, and especially in using the State Department’s diplomats to conduct what was essentially a coup. He accused her of “convincing” the president to intervene over the advice of other advisors like Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Clinton responded that she didn’t agree to go ahead with the coup until after she had consulted extensively with our allies. She mentioned that the Arab League had agreed to our intervention and that the first planes to fly were French planes.

Roskam told her she was underselling herself and that she had not only overcome internal dissent within the State Department and prevailed upon the president to intervene, but she had actually convinced the Russians to go along with a UN Resolution (that the Russians would later regret).

Clinton agreed that she had done these things but reiterated that it was what our allies wanted us to do and that it was ultimately the president’s decision.

What this line of questioning, while interesting, has to do with Benghazi is not obvious. What it has to do with Hillary’s presidential campaign is glaringly obvious.

Roskam finished up by correctly pointing out that Libya today is a disaster.

It was then Elijah Cummings’ turn (again), and he decided to discuss the Accountability Review Board (ARB) led by Ambassador Pickering. In other words, they’re going to discuss the only thing that matters, which is how to prevent a recurrence of an attack like Benghazi on our diplomatic staff.

Cummings then played a clip of Darrell Issa lying on cable television about Clinton denying requests for extra security in Benghazi. In truth, that decision was made without Clinton’s knowledge or input, as all previous investigations have already concluded.

Clinton clarified that all State Department cables carry a stamp with the secretary’s signature, so a signature stamp doesn’t indicate that she has seen something. She claimed that the State Department didn’t have enough money appropriated for their security requirements and so naturally they had to make decisions about priorities.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.