Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today gave her first comments in two weeks on the deaths of four Americans in Libya, saying that “no one wants to find out exactly what happens more than I do.”
Clinton’s brief remarks on Libya — made, she said, “on a personal note” — came at the beginning of a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC.
Clinton has avoided most of the political heat aimed at the Obama Administration on security in the run-up to the attacks and explanations afterward. She did not testify at Wednesday’s House Oversight Committee hearing on the attacks to the U.S. consulate in Libya. Clinton last addressed Benghazi at an Oct. 3 meeting with the Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan, when she noted — as an aside to her remarks about Kazakstan — that the State Department had formed an accountability review board to address Libya. “No one wants to detemine what happened that night in Benghazi more than the President and I do,” Clinton said then.
In line with the CSIS conference’s theme — North Africa and the Arab spring — Clinton warned that “we must not only focus on the headlines; we have to keep in mind the trendlines,” she said, referencing democratic transitions in the region. “It is important to look at the full picture — to weigh the violent acts of a small number of extremsists against the aspirations and actions of the region’s people and governments.”
Clinton also condemned Thursday’s killing of Qassem Aqlan, a longtime employee of the U.S. embassay in Yemen. “We had another terrible attack yesterday,” said Clinton. “We are working with Yemeni authorities to investigate this attack and to bring those responsible to justice as well.”
Despite the building attention on Libya — with the high-profile House Oversight hearing Wednesday, followed by the emotional “Anderson 360’ interview with the mother of a Benghazi victim — Clinton has kept mostly out of view on the issue.
Obama campaign aide Stephanie Cutter did more press yesterday on Benghazi than Clinton has this month. In advance of the vice presidential debate Thursday, Cutter did four cable television hits — one on CNN, one on Fox News, and two on MSNBC — in which she was asked by hosts and pundits to defend the administration’s stance on Libya.
Cutter, the unlikely frontwoman for media attention on Benghazi, got heat for her comment that the “entire reason [Libya] has become the political topic it is, is because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.” And shortly after the interviews, rumors of Cutter’s resignation cropped up on Twitter from conservative critics.
Whether or not the attacks on the consulate have been politized, those critical of the administration’s handling of Benghazi remain unsatisfied with the answers they’re getting.
Becca Watkins, Deputy Communications Director for the House Oversight Committee, told BuzzFeed that the committee members are unsure the State Department “has a plan to move forward based on the lessons learned from this tragedy.”
“So far, that hasn’t happened. We don’t have full information about what occured, and the committee is continuing to pursue multiple leads,” she said. “There is concern about the administration cherry-picking intelligence that suits a favored narrative.”
But in her remarks at CSIS this morning, Secretary Clinton said her newly-appointed accountability review board was still working “as thoroughly and expeditiously as possible,” adding that “we cannot afford to sacrifice accuracy to speed.”