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Why did Hillary Clinton ask 'What difference does it make'?

The quote has been largely used without context by conservative critics of Clinton

Feliks Garcia
New York
Thursday 21 July 2016 16:04 BST
Clinton testifies to Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2013 Saul Loeb/Getty
Clinton testifies to Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2013 Saul Loeb/Getty

A popular criticism of Hillary Clinton amongst conservatives at the Republican National Convention zeroes in on her role in the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya.

The attack claimed the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, and Ms Clinton has undergone thorough investigation by Republicans in Congress – who have all found no evidence of the former Secretary of State’s culpability.

Yet, the subject still remains a point of concern for prominent Republicans and their voters.

In his Wednesday night speech – which garnered massive attention for his lack of endorsement of Donald Trump – Texas Sen Ted Cruz said Ms Clinton “responds to the death of Americans in Benghazi, ‘What difference does it make?’”

Ms Clinton’s quote has come up numerous times during convention theatrics, but taken in full context, it is not nearly as dismissive as Ms Clinton’s opponents would like US voters to believe.

The, “What difference does it make?” quote comes from testimony during a 2013 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing when Republican senator Ron Johnson pressed Ms Clinton to answer a question about the cause of the attack.

Republicans blast Hillary Clinton in Benghazi report

Mr Johnson, who spoke at the convention Tuesday, continuously asked Ms Clinton whether or not she should have called people who were evacuated from the 11 September 2012 attack to determine whether it had been orchestrated or stemmed from a protest outside the embassy.

“No, again, we were misled that there were supposedly protests and that something sprang out of that – an assault sprang out of that – and that was easily ascertained that that was not the fact,” Mr Johnson said in 2013, “and the American people could have known that within days, and they didn’t know that.”

Ms Clinton, growing more frustrated with the senator’s line of questioning, gave a stern response.

“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans,” she said. “Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”

She continued: “It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator. Now, honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this, but the fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information.

“The [Intelligence Community] has a process, I understand, going with the other committees to explain how these talking points came out. But you know, to be clear,” Ms Clinton added, “it is, from my perspective, less important today looking backwards as to why these militants decided they did it than to find them and bring them to justice, and then maybe we’ll figure out what was going on in the meantime.”

The House Select Committee on Benghazi released its final report in June that found no new evidence of wrongdoing by Ms Clinton.

The 800-page report still criticised the Defense Department for their inability to respond to the attack in time, the New York Times reported.

“The assets ultimately deployed by the Defense Department in response to the Benghazi attacks were not positioned to arrive before the final, lethal attack,” the committee wrote. “The fact that this is true does not mitigate the question of why the world’s most powerful military was not positioned to respond.”

Democrats rebuked the committee, which cost more than $7m, calling it a political attack on Ms Clinton with the intent to thwart her run for the White House.

After the latest report was released, Ms Clinton said, “I think it’s pretty clear it’s time to move on.”

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