The Daily Rundown | January 24, 2013
>>> from washington. it's thursday, january 24th , 2013 . this is "the daily rundown." i'm chuck todd . apologies for the gravelly voice. i have beyonce's lip syncer standing by, shall i need her. anyway, let's get right to my first reads of the morning. secretary of state hillary clinton will be back on the hill today for what is likely to be her last appearance before congress as america's top diplomat. she'll introduce her likely successor, senator john kerry , whose confirmation begins just about an hour from now. three weeks after her release from a new york hospital after a concussion and a blood clot, clinton jousted with republicans and basked in the praise from most democrats. in more than five hours of grueling testimony at times, yesterday on both sides of capitol hill , on her handling of the benghazi attack. the testimony wasn't just the last impression clinton will leave with the public as secretary of state, it could be the beginning of the end of her four-year honeymoon with republicans . especially as we begin to determine to 2016 . yes, the word "honeymoon" might be a stretch, but consider how republicans have either embraced her or been indifferent to her over the past four years as they focused their energies on president obama . that clearly ended yesterday. clinton began her testimony with a rare public expression of emotion, talking about the deaths of ambassador chris stevens and three other americans in benghazi .
>> for me, this is not just a matter of policy. it's personal. i stood next to president obama as the marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at andrews. i put my arms around the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, the sons and daughters , and the wives left alone to raise their children.
>> but through most of the day, she was forceful, even combative, when she felt she needed to be, jousting with republican critics, including wisconsin senator ron johnson .
>> we were misled, that there were supposedly protests and then something sprang out of that.
>> 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?! it is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator.
>> later, johnson, who had been more than matched in the hearing room, told hometown radio station wtmj, that was because clinton was strategically dodging his questions.
>> it was theatrics, she doesn't want to answer questions, so she makes a big show of it.
>> and johnson charged in an interview with buzzfeed that clinton 's emotion was put on. "i think she just decided before, she was going to describe emotionally the four dead americans , the heroes, and use that as her trump card to get out of the questions." the senate hearing room was full of republicans with presidential ambitions past and future.
>> the answer s, frankly, that you've given this morning are unsatisfactory.
>> i think ultimately with your leaving, you accept the culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11. and i really mean that. 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. i think it's inexcusable.
>> florida senator marco rubio was also in the room. and if this is a preview of 2016 , some of his fans might be a little bit worried. compared to clinton , he came off as mild-mannered and somewhat of a novice.
>> the october 2011 meeting, at that meeting, did this issue come up with regards to the inability of the libyan government to protect our diplomatic institutions? did that issue come up at all in that conversation?
>> well, we, obviously, talked about a great deal about the deteriorating threat environment in libya. you know, when i landed in tripoli, i was met by the zintan militia. that was the welcome i had. all these guys, dressed completely in black, holding their automatic weapons . that was my welcoming party.
>> rubio told fox news last night, time will tell whether some of the things she said will bear out to be true or not. these things have a way of flushing themselves out. overall, clinton 's political strengths were clearly on display. she was prepared, tough when she needed to be, deferential when she wanted to be, and she displayed both raw emotion and a sense of humor. it's also worth noting that she's stronger today, politically, than she was four years ago. consider, she's leaving office with the highest approval ratings of her political career, 67%, according to a " washington post "/abc poll. we had her at 69 in the nbc news/" wall street journal " poll. a whopping 91% of democrats approve of the job he's done, and that fervor was on vivid display, as senate and house democrats fell all over themselves encouraging clinton to run in 2016 .
>> i know you will not go gently from the world stage.
>> you will be sorely missed, but i, for one, hope not for too long.
>> i salute you and i look ahead to 2016 .
>> i, for one, hope after a bit of rest, you will consider a return to public service , and should that return bring you to florida, i will look forward to welcoming you there.
>> i think i speak for all the freshman, we're not going to get much time to serve with you, but we hope in a few years, we'll get that chance to serve again.
>> other than president kennedy , i don't know of anyone who's had a better issue in latin america .
>> i wish you the best in your future endeavors, mostly.
>> that was from a republican, there. and yes, the residue of that fervor was even apparent in this slip-up from the white house podium.
>> you can square it by stating it clearly, which secretary of state clinton did and which president clinton has and i have, and others.
>> president obama .
>> i'm sorry, president obama has, secretary of state clinton , president obama , press secretary carney.
>> we'll see. but let's go on to the substance. with all of the testy exchanges, and of course the 2016 subtext, there were some important questions that came out of yesterday's hearing, and questions about the reign that john kerry 's likely to grapple with some time today, and we're surprised that hillary clinton didn't have to grapple with yesterday. she cast the benghazi attack as part of a larger rise of militancy in north africa , telling members of congress that arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security forces across the region.
>> when i was here four years ago, testifying for my confirmation, i don't think anybody thought that mubarak would be gone, gadhafi would be gone, ben ali would be gone. this is a great opportunity, as well as a serious threat to our country. so, yes, we now face a spreading jihadist threat.
>> and she used this foreboding language to talk about the current instability in mali .
>> this is going to be a very serious, ongoing threat, because if you look at the size of northern mali , if you look at the topography, it's not only desert, it's caves. sounds reminiscent. we are in for a struggle.
>> fears, of course, that mali will become a new place for al qaeda to hide and retrain. and though clinton accepted the responsibility for security lapses, ultimately, she did not accept the blame.
>> i do feel responsible. i feel responsible for the nearly 70,000 people who work for the state department . the specific security requests pertaining to benghazi , you know, were handled by the security professionals in the department. i didn't see those requests. they didn't come to me. i didn't approve them, i didn't deny them.
>> she captured offense in the findings of the independent review led by thomas pickering and admiral mike mullen countless times, but that wasn't good enough for many republicans .
>> how can this review be considered thorough when the person at the top, the secretary of state, was not part of the investigation?
>> madame secretary, you let the consulate become a death trap . and that's national security malpractice.
>> i think when you have a united states ambassador , personally warning about the situation over there, sending this cable to your office --
>> well, if i could -- 1.43 million cables a year come to the state department , and they're all addressed to me.
>> and then clinton offered a bit of candor when asked why u.n. ambassador susan rice made the sunday show rounds following the attack.
>> why weren't you the person to be appear on the sunday shows immediately following the attack. ambassador susan rice said that you decline. was that correct?
>> well, i have to confess here in public, going on the sunday shows is not my favorite thing to do. there are other things i'd prefer to do on sunday mornings.
>> don't we know that here, and don't our friends at "meet the press" know this. but more seriously, when it comes to north africa , i was surprised yesterday to not hear questions going all the way back to the decision to push mubarak out, when you look at all of the domino effect , mubarak and gadhafi, talked about ben ali , all of that, the impact and what has happened since the sort of chaos, if you will, that has allowed weapons to flow down to mali , the buildup of al qaeda in north africa . this is going to be a large foreign policy problem, national security issue, for the administration going forward and there will be a lot of questions for john kerry and others going forward on this issue.
>>> all right, back to domestic politics. speaker john boehner laid out his strategy for house republicans in a tuesday speech to the repon society, a moderate republican group.
>> we're expected over the next 22 months to be the focus of this administration, as they attempt to annihilate the republican party . and let me just tell you, i do believe that is their goal. to just shove us into the dustbin of history.
>> boehner also said that he had to give former college football coach and espn commentator lou holtz a pep talk after obama's inauguration.
>> last night, i get a three-page text from my good friend, lou holtz , who must have watched state of the union and then he watched all that blabber on tv last night. so about 9:30, i get this three-page text. i'm done, finished, the country's over with, we're not doing this again. i've already had this conversation with lou about nine or ten days after the election. he's moaning and groaning, and i said, lou, will you stop it, we're americans , we'll figure this out. and i just spent 15 minutes giving lou holtz a pep talk .
>> well, good news for republicans , lou holtz hasn't been the best predictor when it comes to college football , so maybe he's off on this prediction as well. anyway, boehner 's message to stick together before a group that is known for being more centrist was no accident. and boehner joked about his own vulnerability in his conference, making this joke after being introduced by former congressman mike hocksly.
>> when he gave me this introduction, he was talking about how no one questioned my integrity, no one questioned my patriotism, no one questioned my conservatism. huh. where the hell have you been?!
>> boehner successfully corralled those members yesterday, though. the house passed a bill to suspend the debt ceiling for four months until may 19th , avoiding a showdown over the federal borrowing limit. backing off a demand for dollar-for-dollar spending cuts. house republicans , instead, added a no-budget, no-pay provision to the bill, which would withhold lawmakers' paychecks if they failed to pass a budget and attempt to embarrass the senate and refocus the fight there instead of on the president.
>> breaching the debt limit, which some of our members have been pretty anxious to do. that's playing with fire . and no one really knows what will happen, but i'm not quite sure i want to look over the evening of the cliff.
>> boehner also promised the new house republican budget will balance in ten years. the guy leading that charge, paul ryan , broke his silence yesterday about the 2012 election.
>> the only regret i have is we lost. i think it's closer than you think. the big debate that reinvolvolves is, you know, they really did a phenomenal job on technology and turnout. and they should get credit for that. i don't see this as a rejection of our principles. i think we need to do a better job of applying our principles to the problems of the day, to show solutions to the country's biggest problems, and how they relate in people's everyday lives.
>> there you go. paul ryan , of course, will be david gregory 's exclusive guest on sunday on "meet the press."
>>> all right. good news, march madness fans. we can now focus on more of miami versus duke and everybody else, rather than debt ceiling. but does it end up leading to a may mayhem. one economic disaster gets pushed down the pike, but the debt deal doesn't solve the sequester problem. congressman tom price , vice chair of the budget committee , he joins me next.
>>> plus, battle of the sexes , groundbreaking change coming today for women in the military .
>>> but first, a look ahead at the president's schedule. at 2:30, he'll nominate former federal prosecutor , mary jo white as the next chairman of the securities and exchange commission and also renominate richard corddry to be director of the consumer financial protection board. can he get confirmed this time? last time he was put in the job by recess appointment. you're watching "the daily rundown," only on msnbc. so if