Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faced off against a firestorm of questioning on Wednesday morning from members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who grilled her about her role in the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. But one senator’s brazen remarks stood out among the rest for being particularly aggressive and borderline inappropriate, according to his colleagues.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told Clinton that if he were in Obama’s shoes, he would have fired her for what he described as her “culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11.”
“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,” said Paul during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Wednesday. “I think it’s inexcusable,” he continued.
Shortly after the fatal attack in Benghazi that left four Americans dead last September, the State Department did acknowledge that it rejected appeals for more security at its diplomatic posts in Libya. Since that time, Clinton has pledged to fully cooperate with the ongoing inquiry into the attack, and she has repeatedly assumed full responsibility for the department’s missteps.
But Paul laid the blame on thick during his questioning, suggesting that it was Clinton’s negligence that directly caused the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. “Their lives could have been saved had someone been more available, had someone been aware of these things, more on top of the job," said Paul.
Almost immediately after the hearing, Paul began to face heavy criticism himself for what some viewed as too brash an approach.
“I can’t remember another time during a hearing when a senator referred to himself, ‘If I were president,’” said NBC Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly O’Donnell on Andrea Mitchell Reports Wednesday. “You do hear it on the campaign trail. That is really going beyond what we would normally hear.”
Others suggested that the senator’s remarks were overly theatrical and counterproductive.
“I don’t think in the wake of this kind of tragedy, with the security of so many people at risk, that grandstanding is helpful,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who is also a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, on Andrea Mitchell Reports Wednesday. “I think what’s important is for all of us to work together.”
Paul has expressed interest in running for president four years from now. He concluded his line of questioning on a less than optimistic note. “I don’t think the State Department’s capable of being in the war zone and protecting these people. I still don’t think that. I think another tragedy could happen,” said Paul on Wednesday. “Someone needs to take leadership.”