In a fiery exchange with Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson at the Senate hearings on last September's attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Republican claims of administration incompetency — or a cover-up — "the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen."
"We had four dead Americans!" she said. "Whether it was attack preplanned by terrorists or it because of a guy out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill Americans ... What difference does it make?!"
Earlier, the secretary held back tears described the caskets of the attack's victims returning to the U.S., telling members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that for her, "this is not just a matter of policy… it's personal."
In September, four members of the U.S. diplomatic mission to Libya were killed in a terrorist attack on the Benghazi consulate. Initial confusion about the nature of the attack — which happened as protests were occurring in the city over the infamous anti-Islam "Muhammad film" — meant that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, working off of C.I.A.-prepared talking points on talk shows the Sunday following the attacks, incorrectly claimed that the assault had been spontaneous.
It wasn't, and suddenly, a conspiracy theory was birthed: the Obama administration was Covering Something Up, for reasons that have become increasingly arcane (a conspiracy to swing the election! They don't understand the threat to the U.S.! They don't love America enough! They're all liars!). That, or they were just incompetent and Heads Deserved to Roll.
This was the foundation of the point that Johnson was challenging her on — an insistence that she should have known the difference between a spontaneous and planned attack. She didn't take very kindly to it.
Clinton told the senators that if they wanted the fault the administration, the problem lay in its failure to communicate how "unclear" the picture was at the time:
The secretary explained that she didn't select Rice for the shows, and "wasn't involved in the talking-points process" (which wasn't unusual). But she took responsibility for the inadequate consulate security. From her prepared statement:
As I have said many times since September 11, I take responsibility. Nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger, and more secure. Taking responsibility meant moving quickly in those first uncertain hours and days to respond to the immediate crisis and further protect our people and posts in highthreat areas across the region and the world. It meant launching an independent investigation to determine exactly what happened in Benghazi and to recommend steps for improvement. And it meant intensifying our efforts to combat terrorism and support emerging democracies in North Africa and beyond.
It'll never be enough for the freak-out artists of the gutter right:
The hearings also found Senator Rand Paul referring to "the original 9/11," as though it was a Rush lineup and it just hasn't been the same since Osama died:
And we might be headed into Mali soon? Asked about France's interventionist campaign in Mali, Clinton told the Senators that "[w]e cannot permit northern Mali to become a safe haven" for terrorists. If you liked intervening in Libya, you'll love intervening in Mali.