The Last Word | January 23, 2013
>> today was the day republicans have been waiting for, today, the day they could finally prove their conspiracy theory about how president obama and susan rice and hillary clinton conspired to hide the truth from the american people . all they had to do was get hillary clinton to crack under the awesome pressure of testifying to congress. something she actually mastered 20 years ago.
>> capitol hill , locust of dysfunction, hall of smoke and mirrors .
>> secretary clinton will face answers that republicans have wanted to ask for months.
>> is the u.s. involved with transferring weapons to turkey?
>> to turkey.
>> they were just throwing everything against the wall.
>> we were misled.
>> we were not given a clear picture.
>> no one has been held accountable.
>> had i been president at the time.
>> senator rand paul.
>> i would have relieved you of your post.
>> it was a pukefest.
>> i have said many times i took responsibility.
>> what difference at this point does it make?
>> we have seen these kinds of dramas before.
>> i am particularly pleased to appear before you, mr. chairman, making sure we are all moving forward.
>> we want to express our thanks to you for the presentation day.
>> this one was pretty tough.
>> our conference will look to vote on a measure tomorrow.
>> the yes are two.
>> that will temporarily extend the debt ceiling.
>> the ayes are 245, the nays, 144.
>> up until now, they have been about politics.
>> the american people won't accept an increase in the debt limit without significant spending cuts.
>> if we don't cut spending.
>> it hands the president his second major win.
>> republicans have come to our new majority to fix what is wrong.
>> there is an amazing amount of soul-searching going on.
>> my friends it was a puke fest.
>> they blinked, we welcomed the outcome of their retreat.
>> nothing exposes congressional ignorance and incompetent actions better than a congressional hearing . you actually have to know something to sound impressive in a congressional hearing . it is not just reading speeches, it is interactive. asking a question of the chairman of the federal reserve or making any kind of statement to him when he is actually there to respond is a grand opportunity to look and sound like an idiot. an opportunity that many senators and house members have taken over the years. witnesses at congressional hearings in the house and the senate tend to know a little more, in fact much more about the subject at hand than the members of the committee listening to them. today, the most experienced testifyer under pressure in modern washington history took the hill.
>> good morning, mr. chairman.
>> mr. chairman, i have greatly appreciated all of this effort that has gone into making sure that we are all moving forward and trying to realize the hope of providing health security for every american.
>> the pressure is on potential presidential candidates in high profile hearings.
>> we have now set the bar so low that modest improvement in what was a completely chaotic situation, to the point where now we just have the levels of intolerable violence that existed in june of 2006 is considered success. and it is not. this continues to be a terrible foreign policy mistake. and now we are confronted with the question, how do we clean up the mess.
>> senator obama knew he needed to have a presidential level of credibility in such hearings. republican senator marco rubio has been talking tough about benghazi for months.
>> one of the narratives that the obama campaign has laid out, osama bin laden is dead, they re retreated. you start to say do they allow any story to emerge that counters that narrative. is that why they told us that benghazi was a popular uprising , because it ran counter to their campaign narrative.
>> and so the pressure was on senator rubio to deliver to all his fans all the fire and brim stone they had a right to expect. he was not just facing the secretary of state, who took responsibility for what happened in benghazi . he was facing possibly the next democratic nominee for president. tonight, the marco rubio fans could not be more disappointed.
>> one of the things that i'm more interested in exploring to you, how information flows within the state department . were you ever asked to participate in any sort of internal or inter-agency meeting before this attack with regard to the deteriorating security situation in libya ? did this issue come up with regard to the inability of the libya government to protect our institutions? did that come up?
>> of course, or, absolutely, there was a constant conversation, senator.
>> before the attack in benghazi , what had we done specifically to help them build their security capacities?
>> well, there is a long list and i'll be happy to provide that to you, because it is filled with, you know, training, with equipment. with the kind of planning that they had not done before. and i would be happy to send you the detail on that, senator.
>> the most experienced senators, when facing a strong, experienced witness, do not make the mistake of actually asking questions. they use their five minutes to make speeches instead, and leave as little time as possible for answers.
>> why is it that the administration still refuses to provide the full text of e-mails regarding the talking points ? why do we care? because if the classified information had been received, it gives an entirely different account of the events. by the way, as i said at the time, i just happened to be at the talk show , people don't bring rpgs and mortars there.
>> and then the surprise, the congressman whose name you didn't know, who makes you turn and say who is that? that happened to me today when i heard this.
>> let me just say, i'm actually an air force pilot, one of a handful of republicans to vote to support the president's position in libya . i think we did the right thing there. the air basis 1,044 miles from benghazi , it is an f-16 base, airplanes could have been in the air, there could be nonviolent things that they could do of to dispurse crowds that i know well.
>> that is republican kinzinger, who won a swing district, where he has to appeal to democrats and republicans. he served in iraq, and is currently a pilot in the air national guard . he is part politician, part super hero . he once tackled and disarmed a man who slashed a woman's throat. the attacker was arrested and the woman survived. he was named one of time magazine 's 40 under 40 rising stars of american politics . marco rubio should be very, very worried about adam kizinger.
>> the other question i have, too, i'm laying a few out for you. the team, the foreign response team, was that your situation not to deploy that, was that logistics? i'm worried about the strategy of leading from behind. if the united states ambassador in libya , and i say this respectfully can't get a message forward to the secretary of state about his concern about security, in one of the most hot zones in the world, i worry about a lead from behind strategy. and if we have no assets on alert that can respond in a seven-hour lull in two different attacks in the most hot -- one of the most hot spots in the country -- in the world, on 9/11, on the anniversary, is the lead from behind strategy failing, because i really want american leadership to be strong. i believe in freedom, and i believe we're the people that are going to be able to take freedom around the globe.
>> he was asking perfectly reasonable questions in which he inserted the irrelevant but partisan phrase leading from behind, in order to appeal to his base, which is a smart move for him. but here is secretary clinton's answer.
>> thank you for your service, and here is there, a lot packed into that. let me see what i can cover quickly and then we'll get the rest to you in writing. dod took every action it could take, starting from the time that the president directed secretary panetta and chairman dempsey to do so. again, i turn to the argument, that is the factual based finding, the board found for delays or arguments, quite the contrary, the safe evacuation of all u.s. personnel from benghazi 12 hours after the initial attack, and subsequently, it was the result of exceptional u.s. coordination and military response and helped save the lives of two severely wounded americans. now, having said that, i think it is important we do more to coordinate with dod along the lines of what you're talking about. because who knows what is going to be facing us in the next months and years?
>> joining me now, krystal ball, host of msnbc's "the cycle." krystal, not a single dot was connected to any other dot in the republican conspiracy theory dream of what happened here.
>> and they have been waiting for this moment, for so long. and they got absolutely nothing because hillary clinton is so good in these situations. here is the thing that is so amazing about her and about her career in politics. you know, out of her husband's scandal and out of the republican absolute hatred of her, she becomes a senator and great senator. out of her presidential loss, she becomes secretary of state and is never more popular or esteemed. this was supposed to be the start of her political undoing coming into 2016 , i think she emerges looking better than ever before. we're all reminded of just how capable and how serious this woman really is.
>> steve clemens, she is also very difficult to lay a glove on as a witness in congressional hearings , which everybody learned in 1994 , when she went around with the health care bill. the bill, it turned out, was doomed. but her presentation and her testimony was unshakeable. authoritative, clear, and left no question unanswered. and we saw that today.
>> well, lawrence, when she was running for president i went back and studied her record to try and see whether or not she was a passive legislator or had skill sets, and she really drilled down. i actually went to find the boring and least visible moments of hillary clinton 's senate career when she was the leader of the environment and pickup works committee. and what you saw her do on the witness stand today she did as a senator in the committee. she had drilled down into such detail, into issues that you and i and most of the viewers tonight would not be interested in. and so she exhibited something today that is just part of her dna, and her ability to really know thoroughly something so that people like ron johnson and rand paul and hers who tried to throw her off her game. they looked embarrassing. this is not only somebody who is one of the most popular politicians in the country, but somebody who for obvious reasons had drilled down so deeply into this issue that they were the ones that began to look immature, versus a very profound, capable, person that hillary clinton displayed.
>> steve , i am so glad you mentioned public works , because that is a lot of what people consider very boring stuff. i used to be the chief of staff of that committee, and i can attest to a certain amount of bore hearings. barbara boxers, others take committees like that and turn them into real forums for real learning, crystal, especially in the hearing process. this, today was one of those hearing situations in both bodies in the senate and the house, where the adversesarial side, where they were hoping to prove and could only have proved in a perry mason moment, where miracle just cracks and confesses.
>> you're right, you discovered it. it was in the kitchen with the butter knife. look, she came in fully prepared, be and they were relying on basically unreliable fox news and drudge reports, to make their case initially against susan rice and later, hillary clinton . when you are actually faced with the facts and hillary clinton herself, their argument doesn't stand up to scrutiny. i think that was clear today.
>> and steve what you have to find today is a motive for susan rice or hillary clinton or president obama , or any one of them in the administration is to mislead, to actively try to prevent false facts about what happened in benghazi . and no one has ever come close to suggesting any kind of motive.
>> no, i think that is absolutely right. hillary clinton demonstrated what a professional she is by saying she absolutely takes responsibility. and with the review board's work, she has gone to sort of look through this question of what ought to be a direct reporting of crises up to the secretary level. but also what has not received as much attention, she is warning there are other facilities out there today. very true on the day the tragedy occurred. people died, ambassador stevens and three other great americans died in this conflict. and we today have under-resourced defenses for other facilities. and she said we need to fix this. and those members of the gop who were launching the attacks on her, some of them have been part of the process of trying to undermine diplomacy of the state department for years. and this is time to actually step up and resource the department as it should be.
>> coming up, hillary clinton 's future and how it might collide with joe biden 's future.
>>> and in the rewrite tonight, wayne lapierre attacked president obama 's statement about absolutism in his inaugural address . the blood-drenched lobbyist for the nra actually quoted a liberal supreme court justice in making his case last night. i will show you tonight why wayne lapierre was absolutely wrong about that supreme court justice and why he is absolutely wrong about the second amendment. and dear friend of the show here tonight to talk about what the president's inaugural address meant to him. and anything else george wants to talk about it whenever he wants to talk