The Cable

Clinton: Benghazi was my greatest regret as secretary of state

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when asked Tuesday to name her most lasting regret from her time as secretary of state, referred to the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi.

"My biggest question to you was, firstly, are you planning on writing your memoirs already? And if you are, following in the footsteps of Madeleine Albright in hers -- where she says that her lasting regret was in Rwanda -- what would you say was your lasting regret?," Clinton was asked by a British Pakistani student during her Tuesday morning "Townterview," one of a number of farewell events she is holding during what will likely be her last week at the State Department.

"Well, certainly the loss of American lives in Benghazi was something that I deeply regret and am working hard to make sure we do everything we can to prevent," Clinton responded. "When you do these jobs, you have to understand at the very beginning that you can't control everything."

Clinton also said there are "terrible situations" playing out in the Congo and Syria and said she wished there were clear paths for the international community to solve those crises as well.

"But I take away far more positive memories," she said. "And yes, I will write a memoir. I don't know what I'll say in it yet."

Tuesday's event at the Newseum was the 59th of Clinton's "Townterviews," a combination of a town hall meeting and an interview, which have become a hallmark of her strategy to engage more with publics, not just governments, during her tenure in Foggy Bottom.

Clinton said there has historically been a lack of international focus on North Africa that is now changing in light of the expanding activity of Islamic militants in that region.

"It does have the potential, however, of expanding beyond the region, which is why, I think, you're seeing an international concern and coalition coming together to support the people of Mali, to stand by the government of Algeria, to work with the government of Libya, so that they themselves are given the tools they need to combat this extremist threat," she said.

Referring to her testimony before the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations Committees last week, Clinton said those committees have been hampered by increased partisanship, resulting in a lack of productivity on Capitol Hill when it comes to foreign policy.

"You can be partisan, you can have a strong sense of the rightness of your position, but democracy and certainly legislative bodies require compromise, and you can't let compromise become a dirty word because then you veer towards fanaticism," she said. "I mean, we were just talking about extremists who think it's only their way, they're the ones who have the truth, none of the rest of us have any kind of claim on what is real, in their views."

She also gave a noncommittal answer when asked if she would run for president in 2016.

"Well, I am not thinking about anything like that right now," she said. "I am looking forward to finishing up my tenure as secretary of state and then catching up on about 20 years of sleep deprivation."

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