It seems that Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) was not the only Republican to get an earful from outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Wednesday’s hearing on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
The former Democratic New York Senator also squared off with tea party darling Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), told Clinton, “Had I been president at the time … I would have relieved you of your post” and accused her of not taking responsibility for the failures that led to the loss of four U.S. personnel including Ambassador Chris Stephens in the attack.
Clinton replied that her department has been more than cooperative with the independent investigation into the tragedy. She insisted to the first-term Kentucky senator that she has taken responsibility for the failures that occurred and followed up with administrative action.
In his questioning of the Secretary of State, Paul compared the Benghazi raid to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
“One of the things that disappointed me most about the original 9/11 is that no one was fired. We spent trillions of dollars, but there were a lot of human errors. These are judgment errors and the people who make judgment errors need to be replaced, fired, and no longer in the position of making these judgment calls,” he said.
He went on, “I’m glad that you’re accepting responsibility. I think that, ultimately, with your leaving, you accept the culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11. And I really mean that.
Had I been president at the time, and I found that you did not read the cables from Benghazi, you did not read the cables from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post. I think it’s inexcusable.”
It was about this time that Clinton began to smirk to herself.
Paul went on saying that perhaps it was excusable that Clinton did not “read every cable” from Benghazi in the months leading up to the attack. And while he claimed to not “suspect” the Secretary of “bad motives,” he said he felt she had been a failure at her job.
He then asked if anyone is taking weapons out of Libya to Turkey.
“To Turkey?” Clinton replied, looking genuinely puzzled. “Uh, no, no-one’s ever raised that with me.”
Addressing the substance of Paul’s remarks, however, Clinton said, “With respect to personnel, Senator, first, that’s why we have independent people who review the situation, as we did, with the Pickering and Mullen [Administrative Review Board]. All four individuals that were identified in the ARB have been removed from their jobs. Secondly, they’ve been placed on administrative leave while we step through the personnel process to determine the next steps. Third, both Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen specifically highlighted the reason why this is complicated. Because under federal statute and regulations, unsatisfactory leadership is not grounds for a finding of breach of duty.”
“The ARB did not find these four individuals breached their duty, so I have submitted legislation to this committee, to the Congress to fix this problem so future ARBs will not face this situation,” she said.
“But here’s the problem,” Paul said. “The review board has all these recommendations, but there’s one thing they failed to address, and I think you’ve failed to address and that sets us up for another tragedy like this is they should never have been sent in there without a military guard.”
“Well, Senator,” Clinton replied at length. “The reason I’m here today is to answer your questions the best I can. I am the Secretary of State and the [Administrative Review Board] made very clear that the level of the responsibility for the failure that they have outlined was set at the Assistant Secretary level and below.”
She continued, “The administration has sent officials to the Hill more than 30 times. We’ve given as much information, we’ve been as transparent as we can. Obviously we will continue to brief you and others to answer any and all questions that you have about going forward. The reason that we put into effect an accountability review board is to take it out of the heat of politics and partisanship and accusations and to put it in the hands of people who have no stake in the outcome.”
“The reason I said ‘Make it open. Tell the world.’ is because I believe in transparency,” she concluded. “I believe in taking responsibility and I have done so. And I hope we’re going to be able to see a good, working relationship between the State Department and the Committee going forward.”
Watch the video, embedded via YouTube, below: