All-Star Panel: Thoughts on State Dept. testimony on Libya attack

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 20, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER, R – TENN.: We've read the cables. You were fully aware, and either you send people there with security, or you don't send them there. I don't understand why you didn't send a notification up with the cables coming in, with concerns about security.

THOMAS NIDES, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: We are constantly evaluating our security posture. We are constantly reevaluating where we need funds.  And we're constantly evaluating the current situation on the ground in all of our countries. As you know, as you are well aware we have risks all over the world. And we're constantly evaluating, determining at the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, two hearings up on Capitol Hill on Benghazi today, some fireworks, as two deputy secretaries, not Secretary Clinton, testified on this unclassified report, 39 pages, pretty scathing overall, but not a ton of specifics. It did lead to four State Department personnel, officials resigning. We're back with the panel. Charles, your thoughts on this testimony today?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Just watching that, think of the optics and the political implication. What Corker had said should have been addressed to the secretary of state. It's her department. She said I'm the one who is responsible. I'll take responsibility. And instead we have two underlings whom nobody has ever heard of. I'm not denigrating them as officials. I'm just saying of the political impact and the optics.

If the Corker statement had been made to the secretary of state, I think it would have had a lot of resonance. So I think her absence is a really important event in what it prevents from her perspective and the administration, which would be a huge embarrassment. The Corker statement is true. How can you do this? How can you send somebody into Benghazi when you completely misread the situation and we end up with the first ambassador dead in 30 years? The question that would have been asked of the secretary of state is, did you know anything about Benghazi? And did you do anything about it? Now, she could plausibly say no, and that is a believable answer. But it would have been important for her to say it and for the nation to actually hear it.

BAIER: I mean, we reported many times on this cable classified cable, and an emergency meeting in Libya, Juan, sent up the chain. There was talk about that today at this hearing. Senator Rubio asking what levels did that cable get reviewed? They talked about whether it got to the sixth floor or the seventh floor of State Department. The seventh floor is where Secretary Clinton's office is. And it was a little vague about whether it made it all the way to the seventh floor. So, the question is whether Secretary Clinton -- she says she's going to testify and Senator Kerry says she's going to testify. What does that mean in January of next year?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: I don't know that – I mean, she doesn't have the title at that point. She's not secretary of state. I think the political consequences might be less for her if it was found that she did have this knowledge. But there is no indication from the official report that she did have any knowledge. They do not point to her. The big difference today –

KRAUTHAMMER: They don't address --

WILLIAMS: -- is that what you have is a situation that was at once so politically excitable, and today it came off as rather sober hearing in which you have the state department ultimately saying give us more money. Don't cut our budget so that we can have better security, more Marines, more construction money.

But all the suggestion that there was a slow response, from Washington, or that there was a lack of interagency response -- that the defense folks didn't help or the people nearby, the CIA folks didn't help, none of that, none of that from the report, none of that from Republicans on the Hill today. There was some --

BAIER: Systemic failure.

WILLIAMS: Systemic failure inside the State Department.

BAIER: To provide security.

WILLIAMS: Well remember, the report said --

BAIER: Four people resigned.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, but because they didn't have a good sense of the fact that in Benghazi there were radical elements mounting, changing the environment there and they did not respond quickly. And that Ambassador Stevens had unusual latitude in his movements around there. They don't know why this was. And somehow he had asked for additional support in Tripoli, specifically. But basically, all of these allegations that have been made so excitedly in the course of the campaign have melted away.

BAIER: Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: False. Not true.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely.

HAYES: Look, the allegations on the lack of security were demonstrated again and again and again in this report. And it's the only thing that makes this report even somewhat worthwhile. Otherwise, the report in terms of assigning blame, in terms of fixing blame, they did none of it. They seemed in my reading of the report, to go out of their way to avoid blaming senior leadership at the State Department. It was a systemic failure.

But then they go and they blame, as Charles says, basically unnamed bureaucrats. We still don't know the names of some of the people who have taken leave of their posts at this point. They blamed nobody. They didn't answer the big questions. Hillary Clinton still has not answered the big questions.

And remember, if we look at this episode as three distinct parts, the before, the during, and the after. This dealt with the before and answered some of the questions but didn't tell us much we didn't know. Didn't deal much with the during, and I thought left a number of unanswered questions about the during. And didn't do anything at all about the after. We need these answers from Hillary Clinton. She has to answer them directly, she has to testify. I don't think she'll be able to get out of it, even though there is some speculation that she's going to try again. I think she's going to have to testify and will have to get these answers.

BAIER: That is it for the panel. But stay tuned for your end of the world forecast. 

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