Washington • Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who chairs a House subcommittee on foreign operations, criticized Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for deflecting concerns during congressional hearings Wednesday while testifying on a Libyan terrorist attack that killed four Americans.
"She's very quick to say she takes responsibility but she's not willing to digest any of the criticism," said Chaffetz, who visited Libya following the attack on a quick fact-finding trip but who did not participate in Wednesday's hearings. "If she were to try to run for higher officer, this will be a major flaw on her record."
Clinton, who is leaving as head of the State Department, is a potential 2016 candidate for president, and Chaffetz noted that during her 2008 bid for the White House, she ran an advertisement questioning whether then-Sen. Barack Obama would be able to answer a late-night call about a world crisis.
"She ran the ad, 'What would you do at 3 a.m.?'" Chaffetz said. "It looks to me like she went to bed."
Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Clinton said that she was deeply involved in coordinating the response to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack and was in close contact with American officials as well as with the Libyan government.
There were "no delays in decision-making, no denials of support from Washington or from our military," Clinton said in her first testimony before Congress on the Benghazi consulate attack. "And I want to echo the [internal] review board's praise for the valor and courage of our people on the ground, especially the security professionals in Benghazi and Tripoli. The board said the response saved American lives in real time, and it did."
Moreover, Clinton said that nearly all the task force's recommended actions following the review are on track to be completed by March.
"A number are already completed, and we will use this opportunity to take a top-to-bottom look and rethink how we make decisions on where, when and whether people operate in high-threat areas, and then how we respond to threats and crises," Clinton said.
Chaffetz wasn't satisfied.
While the congressman praised Clinton for appearing, he said there were still many unanswered questions and some of her testimony "seems to be in conflict with the facts."
"Clinton is going to have to live with the fact that one of the massive terrorist attacks happened on her watch," Chaffetz said. "She could have reduced the consequences by listening to the security personnel on the ground, and that she did not do. It's no excuse for her to say she was unaware."
Chaffetz, as chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee panel on National Security, Homeland Security and Foreign Operations, says his subcommittee will be following up on the response to the Libyan attack and how the State Department is trying to boost its embassy and consulate security.