All-Star Panel: Clinton to blame for Libya security?

All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 16, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Everyone had the same intelligence. But I have been around long enough to know that it takes time to assess all the information that you have. And as the intelligence community has now said, their assessment over the last now more than a month changed. So, the fog of war, the confusion that you get in any kind of combat situation -- remember, this was an attack that went on for hours. Our post was overrun by the significant number of armed men.


BAIER: Hillary Clinton talking to our own Wendell Goler. What about this story? Where it's going -- the Libya story? Let's bring in our panel. Joining me from here on Long Island, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard and Kirsten Powers, columnist for The Daily Beast, and in Washington syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Let's start with Charles. You have heard what Secretary Clinton said, you've heard what Robert Gibbs and the Obama campaign have said. What about this day, Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, look, what the secretary just said in that explanation is clearly implausible. If the changing stories were a result of accumulating information which brought clarity, then you would have had a straight line of more and more truth in the statement, sort of a cleaning up of the mistakes. But, in fact, as you showed in the timeline that you did last week and the week before, they went here and there and back and forth, completely uncoordinated. And as late as two, three weeks later they were giving incorrect attacks.

Now, having the secretary of state fall on her sword for the president works for one of two scandals. It works, perhaps, for the scandal revolving around lack of security and at a very exposed embassy in a dangerous area where Al Qaeda was on the rise. It's plausible that the White House wasn't aware, although I'm not sure it's probable.

But on the second scandal, of the cover-up, and the stories and the fictions about the mob and the demonstration which never existed, that does not in any way insulate the president. Not only is he not outside of the story, he was part of the cover-up. He was the one who said at the U.N. a week later who made six references to video, in denouncing it. He was the one who two weeks later was on "Letterman" and spoke about the attack in Libya in the context as a result of the video.  So there is no way he gets out of that scandal no matter what the secretary had [INAUDIBLE], because he is a principal in that cover-up.

BAIER: Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: If you listen to the secretary of state's argument it's just completely specious. It's one of these arguments that sounds like it could be true until you start breaking it down, the way that Charles just did. What she is trying to do, is she's sending a little rabbit out for everyone to say, "oh, press go look at this, I'm going to take responsibility," and that's the end of the story. But that's not the end of the story because she's only talking about one part of the story, which is why wasn't there enough security.

And I don't think, I know there are Republicans that are blaming the White House for this. It's not the president's responsibility to approve security for a consulate. That argument is not working for me. It is Hillary Clinton's responsibility and she should take responsibility for it. But that has nothing to do with the things that Susan Rice said, that has nothing to do with the president standing up at the U.N. and blaming the video. It has nothing to do with what was the pre-9/11 intelligence. If the post 9/11-intelligence that they gave to Susan Rice was so wrong, why aren't people being fired? Those are the questions that they need to answer.

BAIER: Alright Steve, Andy Card, I brought this up with Robert Gibbs, Andy Card is not one of these guys that's throwing a lot of grenades out there, usually --


BAIER: By any stretch. And today, for him to say what he said on air, on the record, I thought was pretty significant. For him to say that he believed that the White House would know, that it would go all the way up the chain, that these threats, the bombings at the consulate, the U.K. ambassador, the significant threats there on the ground in Libya would make it up the chain.

HAYES: Yes. Yeah, I think if you have any familiarity at all with how a White House handles intelligence or handles a matter like this, you understand that what Andy Card is saying is absolutely correct. Put yourself in the West Wing on September 11, on September 12, on the 13th. You have one job. We need to know what happened.  And we need to know it now. It is inconceivable to me, that we were able to read about intercepts, about discussions between Al Qaeda terrorists, about the details of the operation which showed immediately that it was preplanned, premeditated, that it wasn't only a spontaneous assault.

We were able to read that in the newspapers on September 12, on the 13th, on the 14th, all of the days leading up to Susan Rice's appearance. We knew it seems more than the White House knew, more than the -- if you believe the White House -- the intelligence community knew.

There are two possibilities here. Either what the White House is saying is correct. They do have some cover from the intelligence because the intelligence was rotten for more than a week. Or if you believe Joe Biden and Stephanie Cutter in your interview last week, the intelligence was bad for two full weeks. So if you believe that, then somebody in the intelligence community needs to be fired tomorrow. And if you don't believe that -- there are lots of reasons not believe that.

BAIER: Kirsten, I want to talk to you politically as a Democrat and as Hillary Clinton falling on her sword here essentially, Hillary the candidate back in 2008 said something very different about foreign policy. Take a listen, quickly.


CLINTON: This is one of the most important elections in our country's history. I believe we need a president who believed what Harry Truman believes that the buck stopped in the Oval Office. It will do what I can to run the government and manage the economy because I think we need a president who is hands on, not hands off.


POWERS: Sure, the buck stops on certain things but the buck does not stop with the president on approving security for consulates and she is taking responsibility. She is saying the State Department is responsible for that. And that is correct. The other things that we've been talking about, that buck stops with the president.

And the one thing that Hillary said that I just wanted to highlight though, was she said that it takes time to assess. Fox News has reported, Eli Lake has reported that within 24 hours people knew that this was linked to Al Qaeda. So, how much time do they need? The argument they are making does not hold water.

BAIER: Ok Charles, I want your thoughts on this again on the other side of the break. And we'll preview tonight's debate. Keep it here on "Special Report."

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