WATCH: S.E. Cupp interviews Sen. Ron Johnson on Real News

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went before the House and Senate yesterday to testify on the September 11, 2012 attacks on the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya. While Secretary Clinton enjoyed some fawning questions from her supporters, she also faced pointed criticisms from her detractors.

One of the most dramatic moments came during questioning from Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), who asserted that Americans were “misled” about what occurred leading up to the attacks, a question that caused Secretary Clinton to lose her composure and shout:

CLINTON: With all respect, the fact is we have four dead Americans was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans. What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator.

On Real News last night, S.E. Cupp interviewed Senator Johnson to get his reaction to what transpired during the hearings.

CUPP: With us right now is Senator Ron Johnson. Thanks for joining us.

JOHNSON: Hello, S.E. How are you doing?

CUPP: Good. Firstly, and this is not a condemnation of everything Secretary Clinton said today, but I was incredibly offended by her reaction to what I thought was a very valid question from you, and I think we all know what difference it makes whether the attacks were spontaneous or terrorism. What was your reaction to her response?

JOHNSON: I was surprised by her reaction, but, again, I thought it was a pretty simple question and valid point that this administration, I think, purposely misled the American public for a couple of weeks. And we all know why they did it. They have this narrative that [Osama] bin Laden is dead, and Al Qaeda is on the run, and all is well with their policy of disengaging with the world. The point I was trying to make is: it didn’t have to drag on for two weeks – this question of whether it was a terrorist attack or sprung out of some protest. All that really needed to happen was a simple phone call to the evacuees. Ask them what happened, and they could have easily told them there was nothing happening outside of the consulate prior to these guys rushing the gate. When you read the Accountability Review Board report, it’s obvious there was no protest, and those people could have answered that question very simply with a very quick phone call. It is clear we could have avoided two weeks of controversy.

CUPP: And a number of senators in the hearing called some of Secretary Clinton’s responses “unsatisfying.” Rand Paul, John McCain, and others pressed for more answers and more accountability from the State Department. Were you satisfied?

JOHNSON: I don’t think we really got any more answers to our questions. We are going to continue put questions on the record, and we will try to get those responses. One thing that I will agree with Secretary Clinton on is the primary thing we ought to be doing is learn lessons from the failure – the failed leadership that really took a look at all of these requests and did nothing with them to beef up security. We should learn those lessons and apply them to all of our other diplomatic missions so we can protect Americans that are serving this nation honorably abroad.

CUPP: Help us understand, from your perspective then, why Benghazi happened. Was it politics? Was it a funding issue, negligence, incompetence, duplicity, all of the above? What do you think?

JOHNSON: I would say, certainly, a failure of leadership – the fact that those cables didn’t bubble up past a certain level. I believe Secretary Clinton when she said she didn’t see those cables, those pleas for reinforcements, and beefing up security. So that is a real problem when you’ve got an incredibly volatile region – let’s face it, a nation where we led from behind in, and we continue to lead from behind in. That’s part of the problem, S.E., when America doesn’t lead, there is a void. There is a vacuum that is created and bad people to flow in to fill that void. And that is basically what happened in Libya. Again, that is just a failure of leadership from the president on down.

CUPP: Secretary Clinton also discussed the recent attacks in Algeria and ongoing terrorism threats in North Africa at great length. She seemed to contradict the President’s insistence that Al Qaeda has been decimated and urged action in that particular theater. Do you expect that we’ll intervene in Mali?

JOHNSON: I have no idea. I know the French were expecting at least some support, and it seems like we haven’t given them that much from that standpoint at all. Secretary Clinton really specified her remarks in terms of Al Qaeda being decimated – primary Al Qaeda. But what she certainly did admit is that Al Qaeda is springing up in different nodes all around North Africa. Let’s face it: Al Qaeda is not on the run. It is growing. The threat to America is real, and we need to take that seriously. We have to look at that fact honestly if we are actually going to secure our nation.

CUPP: Lastly, Senator, a number of your colleagues across the aisle criticized Republicans for failing to fund adequate security in places like Benghazi. What is your response to that?

JOHNSON: Listen, this government spends enough money. If we can’t prioritize spending properly to protect those individuals who step up to the plate and defend our freedom, something is wrong here. And something is horribly wrong here in Washington. There is plenty of money flowing into this government. It is about prioritizing spending to do the things the federal government was designed to do and to stop doing the things our founders never intended the federal government to take upon itself.

The panel went on to dissect the Secretary of State’s behavior during her time in front of the House and Senate, and it became clear that Secretary Clinton’s response to Senator Johnson was the defining moment of the day’s events.

“I think it was a rare misstep from her,” S.E. said in regards to Secretary Clinton’s “what difference does it make” remark. “‘What’s the difference’ is the reason we are having these conversations in the first place. ‘What’s the difference’ informs our public policy in areas like Benghazi. ‘What’s the difference’ – whether this happened spontaneously or was terrorism – should inform our decisions in making sure this never happens again. And, finally, ‘what’s the difference’ speaks to this timeline that we have talked about time and time again on this show of negligence, incompetence, and duplicity. ‘What’s the difference’ speaks to all three of those.”

Amy agreed with S.E., adding that she found the comments “shocking.” “It was jaw dropping, gob smacking,” she said. “I could not believe our Secretary of State was saying, ‘What’s the difference?’ It was absolutely stunning to me.”

While the exchange proved to be a rare moment of candidness from Secretary Clinton, Buck and Will agreed that her future political ambitions were the driving force behind the majority of her statements.

“It was stunning, but I have to also say that Secretary of State Clinton is not being held responsible,” Buck said. “I think she is already looking at the calendar and planning her 2016 run. This is not going to be sticking to her with any real political consequence.”

“I am not sure I can totally agree with your certainty that there is going to be no accountability for this,” Will responded. “As this goes on in time and this kind of reverberates, this could have serious consequences for her in 2016. ‘What’s the difference’ is pretty offensive.”

Guest panelist Ben Domenech noticed Secretary Clinton’s responses were quite retrospective given the fact that Clinton is still the standing Secretary of State.

“She is not addressing any of these responses to these senators, to these congressmen, from the perspective of someone who is still working within the government, within the administration,” Ben said. “But rather as someone who is looking back on it already and already looking on to the next thing.”

Ultimately, the hearings seemed to confirm a sad and unfortunate truth – there has been plenty of finger pointing under the guise of accountability but no actual accountability.

“She is claiming responsibility because she is not actually responsible,” Buck concluded. “She should have offered her resignation right away… but she didn’t because she knew she could get away with it.”

  • http://www.artinphoenix.com/gallery/grimm snowleopard (cat folk gallery)

    The entire testimony of Hillary, if one can call it thus, was nothing more than an affirmation of the distortions, discrediting and denials done by the administration from the start. 

    Lie upon lie, distortion upon distortion, all set to ensure that the truth of their failures and the treasonous actions of arms smuggling to terrorists in Libya and Syria never comes to the fore. Now John Kerry is following the same routine stating ‘we know what happened in Libya.’

    It is past time for the House of Obama to fall, and for justice on behalf of the dead in Libya to occur – weld the door shut behind the traitors of the admin once tossed in jail.

  • http://www.artinphoenix.com/gallery/grimm snowleopard (cat folk gallery)

    Hillary is being whitewashed for 2016, to be the democratic presidential nomination.

    The truth of the matter is this – the admin knew what happened and saw it in real time video transmissions. They allowed four men to die, and ordered the standing down of a rescue force to sacrifice the remaining embassy staff – only the gallant sacrifice of two SEALS prevented that massacre from occurring.

  • landofaahs

    I did find it interesting today that Glenn made comments on Hillary’s attire with the glasses to give her an air of intellectual ability.  Glenn, it does not go unawares to some of us who see you dress differently to give yourself those different airs.  Ask a Texan, Your either a cowboy all the time or you ain’t a cowboy.

  • landofaahs

    These people on the left are incompetent.  They ahve a flawed belief that if you treat evil people well then they will reciprocate. Their naivete has deadly consequences for a lot of people. 

  • Draxx

    H. Clinton is just answering questions with other questions, which is the First Practice in Covering Up Government Failures…

    Look at Obummer’s Press Secretaries – They always answer questions with questions without putting forth any truth!

  • Justone View

     This is theater for the lemmings that buy the acting of this administration.

  • http://youtu.be/XEjnyMyJYTI Sam Fisher

    She did not answer the question shocking. 

  • Anonymous

     I  think we make a big mistake if we think the people on the “left” are incompetent.  They are incredibly smart and when combined with devious intent and being evil to the core you have an extremely dangerous situation.  They will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.  Sadly, Benghazi is a vivid example of their intent; the outright lies that have been told, the obfuscating, parsing of words, etc.  They are like wild animals when cornered, they will do anything, go to any lengths to come out of a confrontation in a way that they perceive as a winner.  I believe Hillary missed the mark however with her outburst to Sen. Johnson.  But Sen.Johnson, like most of the GOP, seems to think Clinton is an honorable person.  Give me a break, the woman lied through her teeth throughout the entire proceeding.  A liar is NOT an honorable person no matter what position they hold.  The GOP would be well served to open their eyes and call a liar, a liar to their face in a public forum such as a Congressional hearing.  It may seem impolite, but we are talking about four dead Americans who were sacrificed due to some nefarious plot of Obama’s that went bad.  Congress MUST forget being polite and fight like you mean it or America will be over!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Barbara-Rogers/100000543576885 Barbara Rogers

    WHAT A BUNCH OF CRAPPOLA

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Barbara-Rogers/100000543576885 Barbara Rogers

    WHAT A BUNCH OF CRAPPOLA

  • Anonymous

    It all sounds like a chicken yard when something has invaded their yard with intent to eat them. WHY NOT talk about the real problem: that Obama, and his zars and his selected aids, are working deligently to destroy the USA. Everyone with their antenna up knows Obama is a dedicated Muslim and he has no problem lying to us to forward his agenda. He has Muslim Brotherhood people in the White House and is allowing them access to governing our country. Recent reports of the MB working into our Education System is a current example. Unless we have someone with the courage of our founding fathers “take a stand” against this imposter president, then we will surely become a 3red world country soon. Obama stated goal; “to utterly transform America (Change)” is on track. Treason has been committed and Obama (and his cohorts) needs to be removed and tried as a criminal ASAP!

  • Anonymous

    In this life or the next Obama, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, etc. etc. etc. will be held accountable for all of their deplorable acts, lies, murder, corruption; I could go on and on. They think they have gotten away with these things. Let them think so in all their arrogance. It will come to pass that one day the families of these fallen heroes will have their justice as well as the American people be relieved of and free of these arrogant tyrants. One day they will fall on their sword. God bless us all!

  • Anonymous

    YUCK!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Caruso/1587245855 Sandy Caruso

    Suppose George W or any other Republican had been POTUS when Benghazi went down.
    The press would have had an absolute meltdown over the sidetracks, delays, and denial tactics that went into play from this administration. Bush, Secretary of State (Powell) and Secretary of Defense (Rumsfeld) would have been lynched and hanging from the White House
    covered porch by now. It was REAL time video feed…how much ‘investigation’ needs to be done? Release the video and let the American people decide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Caruso/1587245855 Sandy Caruso

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ‘testifies’????  Is that what you call it? I call it distort, throw a fit when real questions are asked and LIELIE!

  • Anonymous

    Another gutless Republican who is afraid of his own shadow.  I was so proud of Rand Paul – we need more like him that aren’t afraid to speak up for what you believe and feel.  Maybe he should be our choice for 2016? ….

  • http://www.facebook.com/harold.caton.1 Harold Caton

    a act was put on by the sec hillary ,it was not beleveable in any way , the why were we there
    needs to be answered

  • http://www.facebook.com/harold.caton.1 Harold Caton

    the supplying of weapons and arms to Muslim Brotherhood needs to be addressed

  • http://www.facebook.com/harold.caton.1 Harold Caton

    you are right on the mark ,a lie must be addressed it is a lie and if we put up with lies we then are not doing ower job, this was not a bump in the road this happened and was a crime to let them die without sending aid to people under fire,it makes a difference if patroits  are exposed
    and left to die 

  • Anonymous

    If anybody thought that Clinton, or any democrat for that matter, would tell the truth is just dreaming. Do you all expect her to say “yes, your president screwed up and we followed”? Of course, they will keep lieing until hell freezes over and by then all of this will be forgotten. This is exactly why Obama and the media are avoiding ANY discussion about the true problems in America, especially the economy. Look how the media are responding to this day of testimony, and guess how many Americans will believe it. The republicans are at fault for not asking the BIG question repeatedly until they get a yes-or-no answer!

  • Furious citizen pilot

    Johnson misses the real reason.  They did not want any of this discussed BEFORE the election.  They had to protect the great Obama.

  • Anonymous

    Political parties aside -  I was increasingly angry that NO ONE asked the HARD questions.  Statements were made by Republican senators but I didn’t hear “Who told the Seals to stand down”?  Why wasn’t that asked?  Our representatives ALL dropped the ball.  The Dem Senators might as well have not even been there. I didn’t hear one question of any importance being asked.  Johnson, McCain, and Paul did make an attempt but didn’t get to the basic facts of this issue.
    The Dem senators just smoothed h.c.’s feathers and kept telling her what a wonderful job she has done. A person with an IQ of 6 could see through all of this but the main stream media just  fawned over her as did the senators.
    What a sad state of affairs this sitting government has placed America/Americans

  • Anonymous

    There appears to be too many “layers” of command in all of government, especially the so called “state dept”.  We need to trim all gov. agencies down to less than half for starters … then maybe we can operate better.  The feds are way too big and costing the hard working American Tax Payer and small businesses too much.