Clinton’s testimony was closely watched in part because some Republican senators have said they would not be prepared to vote on the nomination of Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts to replace Clinton until they received satisfactory answers from the Obama administration on Benghazi. Beyond that, perceptions of how Clinton handles the hearings are expected to follow her as she exits the State Department – influencing her record as secretary of state and certainly resurfacing if she decides to make another run for president in 2016.
On the Senate side, Clinton repeated her earlier acceptance of full responsibility for the Benghazi tragedy that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including the US ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.
“As I have said many times since Sept. 11, I take responsibility,” she said in her opening statement. “I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger, and more secure.”
The important task now, she added, was to move forward and make the changes – including granting the secretary of state the authority to shift existing State Department funding to needs, like increased security, that may arise – that she said could help head off similar tragedies in the future.
Clinton offered a broad assessment of instability and terrorism risks likely to exist across North and West Africa for years to come, and said the US would continue to grapple with balancing security challenges with the need to remain engaged in the world’s riskiest environments.
“This is going to be a very serious, ongoing threat,” she said. “We are in for a struggle, but it is a necessary struggle.”