Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tore into Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya, on Wednesday, saying that her planned departure indicates that she accepts “culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11.”
That comparison drew rebuke from Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where Clinton testified Wednesday morning. She is scheduled to give testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee later in the day.
“I think if some people on this committee want to call the tragedy in Benghazi the worst since 9/11, it misunderstands the nature of 4,000 Americans plus lost over ten years of war in Iraq fought under false pretenses,” newly elected Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said in response.
“As someone who voted against the Iraq War in the House and didn’t believe based upon what I was able to review that there was such information,” added Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), “I look when we talk about tragedies and certainly Benghazi was a tragedy, when we lost 4,486 american lives in Iraq and thousands who have been injured and changed their lives forever and increased the influence of Iran, I think from my own personal perspective, that was truly a tragedy, and so there are lessons to be learned here.”
Clinton also disparaged Republican criticism over the nature of the attack in Benghazi, arguing that politics shouldn’t be interjected into the oversight process.
“Let’s be honest with ourselves,” she said. “Let’s avoid turning everything into a political football. Let’s instead try to just say, look, this is unprecedented. We don’t know what’s going to happen in this new revolutionary environment across North Africa and the Middle East.”
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), on the other hand, used a different metaphor to describe the scale of the attack: the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986.
“I’ve kind of looked at it like the Challenger explosion where we lost those seven astronauts because of an O-ring and problems there. We didn’t see it coming but we could have seen it coming and should have seen it coming,” he said.
Clinton also had a testy exchange with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) earlier in the hearing, who questioned why State Department officials didn’t retrieve information from evacuated U.S. diplomatic staff on the eve of the attack.
“Senator, when you’re in these positions, the last thing you want to do is interfere with any other process going on,” Clinton said, her voice rising. “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?”
Watch the exchange below:
Igor Bobic is the assistant editor of Talking Points Memo, helping oversee the site's coverage of politics and policy in Washington. While originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Igor feels best at home on the beaches of Southern California. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.