Ignatius: Republican criticism of Clinton on Benghazi could be 2016 prep
(CBS News) On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered emotional testimony, taking responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi that left four Americans dead. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius has written extensively about the attack and the administration's response and told "CBS This Morning" that the secretary "gave a good account of herself" in the "intense session."
The memorable moment of the hearing, Ignatius said, will likely be Clinton saying "We had four dead Americans" and poignantly asking "'What difference does it make?" when challenged by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., on the administration's early assessment that the attack stemmed from a spontaneous protest.
"I think it does make a difference," Ignatius said. "It's clear in hindsight that the U.S. simply didn't know enough about what was happening in Benghazi on the day that these four Americans were killed."
Cilnton told members of the House that she never saw Ambassador Chris Stevens' request for more security at the consulate in Libya. "1.43 million cables a year come to the State Department," she explained. "They are all addressed to me. They do not all come to me."
"The intelligence wasn't good. The diplomatic security wasn't good," Ignatius said. "Efforts to fix it had failed. In that sense, Secretary Clinton is taking responsibility but there is a deep obligation in the department to do it better. The issues will persist. It's got to be fixed," he insisted.
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Speaking to the possibility that those down the chain from Clinton in the State Department may face repercussions, Ignatius said "Anybody who tries to shortcut security issues is going to be in trouble ... the State Department is going to be a different place."
The State Department must adapt to a more broadly changing international landscape, Ignatius explained, adding "There's a new normal. We live in a world now with a very diffused and dispersed al Qaeda in which a lot of diplomatic facilities that we've had that we've assumed local authorities can protect are now vulnerable. What's the U.S. going to do about them?"
Sen. Johnson told Buzzfeed afterward that he believes Clinton's emotion when discussing the Americans who died in the attack was a calculated "trump card to get out of the questions."
Ignatius took issue with the comment, calling it an "after-the-fact attempt to belittle secretary."
"I thought those responses were genuine and not calculated," Ignatius said, offering another possibility for the aggressive Republican questioning.
"Republicans may -- looking to the future -- want to set down a marker and say to the most likely [Democrat] candidate in 2016, we're going to come after you," he said. "She showed ... she's going to be a tough opponent when she gets attacked."
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