Clinton comes out swinging in last stand as Secretary of State - KMSP-TV

Clinton comes out swinging in last stand as Secretary of State

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Four months after the attack in Benghazi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent five and a half hours on Capitol Hill answering a cascade of questions from two congressional committees.

Wednesday's hearing provided few answers, and instead saw a portrayal of political theater.

Clinton has already adopted all the security recommendations that came out of the Benghazi investigation, but while she was praised by Democrats, she took plenty of heat from potential future rivals.

As she made her last stand as secretary of state, Clinton tearfully said the buck stops with her when it comes to the attack that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and four Americans dead.

"I stood by sisters, brothers, sons and daughters and wives left alone to raise their children," she said.

Yet, Clinton also came out swinging as Republicans rehashed the early comments of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who said the attack was a spontaneous demonstration.

"We were misled that there were supposedly protests and something sprang out of that -- an assault sprang out of that," said Sen. Ron Johnson, a tea-party backed Republican from Wisconsin. "That was easily ascertained that that was not the fact. The American people could have known that within days."

Clinton responded animatedly, punctuating her frustration with her hand on the table.

"With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because some guys out for a walk one night decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?" she asked. "It's our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again."

Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, blasted Clinton over diplomatic cables, including one from Ambassador Stevens saying, "Our consulate could not be defended from a coordinated attack." Clinton testified she never saw them.

"Had I been president at the time and I had found you did not read the cables from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post. I think it's inexcusable," Rand said.

Clinton endured a battery of criticism from Republicans, including possible presidential nominees like Sen. Marco Rubio and former presidential contenders, like Sen. John McCain.

"It's wonderful to see you in good health and as combative as ever," McCain quipped.

If Republicans had expected a political pinata, they quickly learned otherwise; although, when pressed for details, Clinton repeatedly referred to a classified report.

"I recommend everyone read the classified version that I can't go into," she said.

Clinton suggested the real actors are still unknown, but U.S. intelligence agencies are reportedly looking at a connection between he al-Qaeda group in Libya and Islamist militants in Mali because it is believed that the weapons used in the Benghazi attack may have come from the same source as those used in the hostage crisis in Algeria.

"Benghazi did not happen in a vacuum," Clinton said. "The Arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security forces across the region."

Clinton, a possible presidential candidate herself in 2016, enjoyed a 67 percent favorable rating in a recent poll, with only 26 responding unfavorably. Those numbers are better than Vice President Joe Biden's.

While Clinton may be stepping down as secretary, it's unlikely she will permanently exit the political sphere. Her last official appearance will be on Thursday as she introduces nominee John Kerry.

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