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February 10, 2016

Top Hillary Clinton National Security Quotes from ABC Interviews

Clinton testifies during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the attacks against the U.S. mission in Benghazi on January 23, 2013. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Clinton testifies during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the attacks against the U.S. mission in Benghazi on January 23, 2013. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Speaking with Dianne Sawyer on Monday evening and “Good Morning America” today to hype her book “Hard Choices,” 2016 Democratic presidential frontrunner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had plenty to say on a broad array of topics, from Monica Lewinsky to her own health and finances. Here, though, are her thoughts on everything national security-related, from Russia to Iraq to, of course, Benghazi.

On being “proud” of her work as Secretary of State under President Barack Obama, despite occasional differences:

“I think we restored America’s leadership at a time when it was in quite dire straits.”

On her vote in favor of the Iraq War, which she “absolutely” regrets, and placing her “confidence, my vote, in the wrong place”:

“I think I should have said sooner and more plainly, more clearly I was wrong.”

“I tried to evaluate and analyze all the different elements. I voted to give the president the authorization. I thought he would use it differently, nevertheless I did cast that vote.”

On former Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ remarks in his book “Duty” that she told Obama she only opposed the Iraq surge for political reasons:

“I think he perhaps either missed the context or the meaning because I did oppose the surge.”

“The public had given up. This is not politics in electoral, political terms. This is politics in the sense of the American public has to support commitments like this. I opposed the surge.”

“I don’t in any way doubt what he heard. I’m just saying that there was a much broader context than that.”

On Russian Vladimir Putin’s remarks about her being “weak,” and Putin overall:

“Well, I saw that, and he’s not the first male leader who’s made a sexist comment like that. He and I frankly disagree, and we have done so publicly.”

“Putin really has a winner-take-all, zero-sum-game approach to international relations.”

On breaking Russia’s hold on Crimea:

“I don’t think we are in a position to advocate making him with military actions. But I am a strong supporter of tough sanctions that create an economic cost for Russia and for him personally, and his cronies.”

On threats to America broadly:

“We have to be very thoughtful as the United States of America where we send people, why we send them, what we expect from them, and how we do the best to protect them. We cannot eliminate every threat, every danger.”

On whether nuclear talks can produce an agreement with Iran, saying she favored the sanctions that brought Tehran to the table:

“I think it’s going to be very difficult, but it’s a lot better than what we inherited where there was no international consensus and Iran was just, you know, pursuing its nuclear ambitions including building underground facilities.”

On Benghazi criticisms’ influence on whether she’ll run in 2016:

“Actually, it’s more of a reason to run, because I do not believe our great country should be playing minor league ball. We ought to be in the majors. And I view this as, really, apart from, even a diversion from the hard work that the Congress should be doing about the problems facing our country and the world.”

On saying “At this point, what difference does it make?” about the cause of Benghazi in congressional testimony:

“Well, in the moment, it did not. In the moment, what we had to be focused on was saving American lives.”

On her level of responsibility for the Benghazi attack:

“Well, I certainly would give anything on earth if this had not happened. And I certainly would wish that we had made some of the changes that came to our attention to make as a result of the investigation. But I also am clear in my own mind that we had a system and that system, of course, ended with me. I take responsibility, but I was not making security decisions.”

“What I did was give very direct instructions that the people who have the expertise and experience in security.”

“I mean, I’m not equipped to sit and look at blueprints, to determine where the blast walls need to be or where the reinforcements need to be. That’s why we hire people who have that expertise.”

“I believe that there were systemic problems within the State Department. Clearly if we had known that earlier, perhaps we could’ve done some changes that would’ve prevented, at least hopefully could’ve prevented, what happened. I’ve obviously thought about this long and hard.”

On whether she will again testify before Congress, to the House’s select Benghazi panel:

“That’s going to be up to the people running the hearing. We’ll see what they decide to do, how they conduct themselves, whether or not this is, you know, one more travesty about the loss of four Americans, or whether this is, in the best tradition of the Congress, an effort to figure out how – what we can do better.”

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