Yesterday morning, Secretary of State Clinton took on GOP critics of her department's handling of the September terrorist attack in Libya.
Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson persistently questioned Clinton about what he described as UN Ambassador Susan Rice "purposely misleading" the American people.
"We were misled that there were supposedly protests and something sprang out of that, an assault sprang out of that and that was easily ascertained that that was not the fact," Johnson said, adding that "the American people could have known that within days."
Shouting in frustration, Clinton shot back: "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 decided they'd go kill some Americans?"
Sen. Johnson discusses his interaction with Clinton on Starting Point this morning, saying that he was "trying to be respectful" and that he was "a little surprised" at the Secretary's reaction.
Nevertheless, Sen. Johnson stands by his line of questioning, insisting that lawmakers "need to get to the bottom" of what happened because "the American people deserve the truth."
"This administration has been hiding behind an FBI investigation and a 60 day accountability report," Sen. Johnson says. "They were playing election politics, no doubt about it."
From the fiscal cliff negotiations to the controversy over UN Ambassador Susan Rice's potential Secretary of State nomination, it appears that the partisan gridlock on the Hill that frustrated Americans before the election has endured.
Former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman joins the Starting Point team this morning to weigh in on these various points of contention and to explain how he thinks the Republican Party should proceed following their election defeat.
"I think we have some structural issues. If at the end of this conversation we don't end up with a one sentence mission statement, we're toast," Huntsman says. "That one statement ought to be 'balance the budget and get out of people's lives.'"
The former GOP presidential candidate also draws attention to the unwillingness of many Republicans to run for presidential office.
"Where are the people that really bring something to the table that ought to be stepping up and running for office?" Huntsman asks. "Nobody anymore is willing to step in the arena and it's left to people who do it in part because it's a way to make money perhaps, there's a little entertainment value, or there may not be much else to do."
Regarding the contentious fiscal cliff negotiations, Amb. Huntsman says that he's confident a deal will be reached before the December 31st deadline.
"It always [gets ugly] right before a breakthrough. I’m an optimist – I think we’re going to have a breakthrough because the stakes are so high," Huntsman says. "I’m guessing most members of Congress are going to have a moment of clarity over the next few weeks."
Senior Member of the Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff published an op-ed in "Roll Call" this morning arguing that lawmakers have "lost sight of the vital objective" of the Benghazi consulate attack investigation in the "blur of partisan wrangling over 'talking points.'"
Rep. Schiff elaborates on his position on Starting Point this morning, saying that he thinks it's "unfair and unjustified to go after U.N. Ambassador [Susan Rice] for not asking deeper questions or probing the intelligence that was given to her by the CIA."
"Let's not forget that the director of the CIA himself at the time, as well as the director of National Intelligence, the top intelligence officials of the nation, both believed that when [Rice] went on the talk shows that the attack began as a protest," Schiff says. "I have to think this is unfortunately a continuation of the presidential campaign by other means. The election has taken place. Many of the same senators who spoke loudly of President Bush's right to appoint the cabinet of his choice should remember those positions and not apply a different standard to a Democratic president."
Rep. Schiff also weighs in on the fiscal cliff negotiations and calls by the GOP to reform entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.
"I don't think we should make structural changes to Medicare for the reason that Medicare isn't responsible for our current deficit and debts," Schiff says. "Medicare and Social Security need to be dealt with, but I don't agree with connecting those to the deficit and debt problem that wasn't created by those programs."
The battle about how to address the fiscal cliff continues to rage in Washington with just 33 days left until drastic spending cuts and tax increases are enacted.
On Starting Point this morning, Sen. John Barrasso insists that taxes shouldn't be raised on anybody and responds to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll that found that 60% of Americans support raising taxes on people with incomes over $250 thousand.
"The American people know their mind. They say lets tax somebody else. My concern is if those taxes are going onto small businesses," Barrasso explains.
The Republican senator also reiterates his opposition to the potential nomination of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to Secretary of State.
"I believe that she has disqualified herself as Secretary of State by going on five Sunday shows five days after the attack and truly giving bad information to the American people," Sen. Barrasso says. "As Secretary of State we need someone with sound judgment, ask tough questions, and should not be willing to just read talking points."
Hillary Clinton will step down from her role as Secretary of State in Obama’s second term and lawmakers are speculating that he may nominate U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as her replacement.
However, in the wake of the intelligence failures related to the September 11th attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, some Republican senators have already said they will block her potential nomination.
The Foreign Relations Committee is responsible for voting to confirm the next Secretary of State once a nomination has been made.
Georgia Republican Senator Johnny Isakson is a member of that committee and he joins Starting Point live from the capitol this morning to discuss why Rice has become a focal point for criticism.
This morning on "Starting Point," Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) addresses the criticism of Amb. Susan Rice in the wake of the September attack on a U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. He explains why he signed a letter with 97 lawmakers in the House standing against Rice as a possible candidate for Secretary of State.
"From where I sit right now, the credibility for Susan Rice to be our Secretary of State has been damaged by this," Rep. Burgess says. "It may have been damaged by the administration itself. It may have been an error for the administration to put her out there rather than someone from the State Department or rather than a campaign spokesperson."
"But what it appeared to - to the great masses out here is that Susan Rice was put out there to place a story line into the - into the print or into the national media that was, in fact, inconsistent with the facts. And that is something that has been very, very difficult for her to get around," he adds.
Rep. Burgess also criticizes media outlets for not showing more scrutiny in the days after the attack in Benghazi.
"I don't understand why - why you in the media have not been more critical of the fact that your outlets were used in a way to put forward information that, you know, everybody now believes was not correct and we believe it was known that it was not correct at the time it was put out there. So that's what's so troubling about this," Rep. Burgess says.
Soledad counters that media outlets in general have been working to figure out what happened in Benghazi, and as is now reported members of the intelligence community have said that they gave Rice talking points that were altered. Soledad asks if the intelligence community should bear the bulk of the blame.
"Well, it had to fit within the narrative of the President's campaign at the time that al Qaeda was on the run. It was no longer a threat. So to have put someone out there, saying al Qaeda and Ansar al Sharia was responsible for this or was sponsored by al Qaeda that would have been - they would have fit with the narrative that had been really the main talking point since the Democratic convention," Rep. Burgess says.
Soledad asks if race or sexism has anything to do with the criticism against Amb. Rice. Rep. Burgess says that's "absolutely false."
Rush transcript available after the jump.
One week after resigning as as CIA director, General David Petraeus testified this morning that the September 11 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi was a terrorist attack committed by al-Qaeda linked militants.
Soledad spoke with Florida Congressman Connie Mack prior to Petraeus' testimony this morning about the White House's handling of the investigation in the days following the incident.
"This is one of those issues that the American people deserve to know the truth and right now the administration has a problem in that it doesn't look like they were being honest with the American people," Mack says. "This is a big problem for the administration. It looks like they were spinning a story that just wasn't true."
The Congressman also discusses the controversy over the information distributed by General Petraeus and UN Ambassador Susan Rice, saying that the discrepancy in accounts is an "issue of leadership."
This is something where the President needs to come to the american people and be very straight forward about what happened," Mack says. "As commander in chief, this is an opportunity for him to look the American people in the eye and say that, in my opinion, mistakes were made, we're sorry for that, here's the truth of what happened and we're going to make sure it never happens again."
Congressman Joe Heck (R-NV), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, joins Starting Point this morning to discuss the upcoming Congressional hearing on Benghazi and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s possible nomination as Secretary of State.
In responding to a question about assertions made by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham that they would not support Rice's nomination, Heck instead places blame on the White House.
“You can't put somebody [Ambassador Rice] out as the face of the issue on all the Sunday morning talk shows and then turn around weeks later and say she knew nothing about the incident, had nothing to do with it,” Heck says.
Soledad O’Brien asks the Congressman if Ambassador Rice’s relation to Benghazi was comparable to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s knowledge of nuclear weapons in Iraq.
“Nobody came out and said that Condoleezza Rice had nothing to do with the situation. Here's the difference, it's that they put forward really a sacrificial lamb in Ambassador Rice, somebody that could go out and make statements and they could claim deniability after the information was proven to be wrong,” the Republican congressman explains.
“So why was [Ambassador Rice] put out as the face of the administration on this issue? We have to get to the bottom of not only the response to the attacks in Benghazi, but also to the ultimate failures of the intelligence community recognized the threat and prepare for the threat to mitigate the attack,” Heck says.
The Republican congressman also adds that the goal of the congressional hearing today is to “get a clear timeline” of the consulate attack in Benghazi, “because there's still a lot of conflict between what the administration and intelligence community saying on how this attack evolved.”
On "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien" this morning, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) says veterans who are angry over handling of U.S. Consulate attack in Benghazi could sway the election.
"I've been travelling all over the country," Sen. McCain says. "Veterans are angry. They're angry, they're upset. They don't trust Barack Obama. There's 1.6 million of them in Florida, for example. I think they could have an impact on this election. I know it's all about jobs and the economy, but I have never seen veterans as upset and angry as they are over Benghazi.
Fmr. NY Gov. George Pataki says Obama Campaign's Jen Psaki 'blew off' criticism of the Pres.'s handling of Libya attack.
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