WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton defended her response to the deadly 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, writing in her new book that she will “not be part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans.”
Clinton’s upcoming book, “Hard Choices,” is both a rebuke to Republicans who have seized upon the terrorist attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, and a roadmap for Democrats to defend the Obama administration’s reaction to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack. Should Clinton run for president in 2016, her four years as secretary of state — including the deaths in Benghazi and the follow-up inquests — could be a driving factor in that campaign.
Republicans have accused the Obama administration of stonewalling congressional investigators and misleading the public about the nature of the attack in the weeks before the presidential election. Republicans have used the attack as a way to first undermine President Barack Obama’s re-election bid and, later, to perhaps tarnish the still-uncertain Clinton bid to replace him in early 2017.
“Those who exploit this tragedy over and over as a political tool minimize the sacrifice of those who served our country,” Clinton writes in the 34-page chapter, which was obtained by Politico.
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said that “until the book is released, there’s nothing to say. And once it’s released, it will speak for itself.”
The former first lady and senator from New York is the leading potential Democratic presidential candidate if she decides to run again. Looking to weaken her well before she announces her plans, Republicans have been tireless in criticizing Clinton’s response to the Benghazi attack.
Clinton writes that she takes responsibility for the deaths, but adds that there has been “a regrettable amount of misinformation, speculation and flat-out deceit” by some in politics and the media.
“I will not be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans. It’s just plain wrong, and it’s unworthy of our great country,” Clinton writes. “Those who insist on politicizing the tragedy will have to do so without me.”
Clinton’s book offers something of a playbook for her supporters to defend her as she weighs a potential presidential bid.
On Friday, her top advisers met with friendly Democratic strategists, foreign policy academics who work in Washington’s vast think tank network and allies to give them a preview of the more-than-600-page book. Joining that group was former National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor, who is helping Clinton’s team during the book launch.
Clinton’s timeline of the Benghazi attack is one of the most anticipated sections of her forthcoming book, which will be released June 10, and is expected to offer what she sees as the most accurate and politically helpful version of events.
Already, Clinton’s team has released excerpts about her appreciation of public service and memories of her late mother. The piecemeal approach to releasing bits and pieces has not only built buzz for the full publication but also ensured journalists would give each theme its own attention.
By devoting an entire chapter to Benghazi and releasing it ahead of the full book, Clinton wins increased attention to her accounting of that night.
Obama and Democrats have accused Republicans of politicizing a national tragedy, and the president’s allies have argued that there is no new information following more than a dozen public hearings and the release of 25,000 pages of documents.
Multiple independent, bipartisan and GOP-led investigations have faulted the State Department for inadequate security in Benghazi, leading to four demotions. No attacker has been arrested.
The House voted earlier this month to establish a select committee to conduct what will be the eighth investigation into the attack, a panel that Democrats reluctantly joined.
The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon, said Friday that questions about actions by the State Department, White House and other government entities needed to be examined and answered by the newly formed panel. Asked about the military specifically during an interview set to air Sunday on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program, McKeon said he was satisfied with its actions.
Secretary of State John Kerry will testify about Benghazi before the House Oversight Committee next month.
Clinton says she respects the oversight role of Congress but adds, “Many of these same people are a broken record about unanswered questions. But there is a difference between unanswered questions and unlistened to answers.”
The Obama administration has said it attempted to provide the public with the best information available after the attack, which came as U.S. embassies, consulates and other facilities in the Muslim world were facing angry demonstrations over a YouTube video mocking Islam’s prophet, Muhammed. Administration officials originally attributed the Benghazi attack to a similar protest that extremists launched but retracted that account following criticism.
Clinton writes that there were “scores of attackers that night, almost certainly with differing motives. It is inaccurate to state that every single one of them was influenced by this hateful video. It is equally inaccurate to state that none of them were. Both assertions defy not only the evidence but logic as well.”
Clinton also writes that she didn’t see cables requesting additional security, a point she made during her congressional testimony in 2013. The secretary of state’s name is routinely attached to State Department correspondence but often is not consulted on it. Lower-level department officials have said they were responsible for specific security decisions related to Benghazi.
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