Speaking at two events today taking place during the same hour in Washington, D.C., Hillary and Bill Clinton presented a united front to defend Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy record at the State Department and take aim at Karl Rove for his accusations that the former secretary of state has “brain damage.”
“First, they said she faked her concussion and now they say she is auditioning for her part on ‘The Walking Dead,’” Bill Clinton told PBS’ Gwen Ifill at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s 2014 Fiscal Summit.
“You know, whatever it takes,” Bill Clinton added. “Look, she works out every week, she is strong, she is doing great. As far as I can tell, she is in better shape than I am. She certainly seems to have more stamina than me. There is nothing to it. I was sort of dumbfounded.”
He said that it did take his wife “six months” to get over the concussion and that she has always been forthcoming about her condition.
If she has brain damage, he said, “I must be in really tough shape because she is still quicker than I am.”
Clinton did note, though, “when a question is asked, it has to be answered in a serious fashion if it raises a serious issue, even in a ridiculous way. ”
“After that, you just have to trust the people and get back to the business of what’s really in the public interest,” he said.
Bill Clinton’s comments came nearly 48 hours after former Bush adviser Rove wondered whether Hillary Clinton suffered brain damage after a fall in 2012. Rove walked back on that charge Tuesday, but said he believed Hillary Clinton should be more forthcoming about her health which forced her to postpone her congressional testimony surrounding the four deaths at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Hillary Clinton’s team fought back hard against the claim, calling Rove’s accusations “a form of sickness,” and said the GOP is “scared of what she has achieved and what she has to offer.”
BILL CLINTON CHALLENGES BENGHAZI INVESTIGATION:
Bill Clinton also gave a long defense of his wife’s role in the Benghazi incident today, saying that, in his opinion, Hillary Clinton “did what she should have done” and that “secretaries of states never were involved directly in these security decisions.”
He also mentioned American diplomatic personnel killed in the Bush administration, which were never as public as the Benghazi investigation has become.
“The last time we had one of these things made public was when I did it after the Africa embassy bombings in 1998,” Clinton said. “And so, most Americans don’t even know how many American diplomatic personnel were killed when President Bush was president. They don’t know what, if any, after action review was done, they don’t know if any recommendations…were made, what, if any, action was taken to implement those.”
Bill Clinton added that his “advice” to everybody involved is to not be as “defensive” and to “realize what this is and to answer the questions.” He also continued by saying that former U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, who died in the Benghazi attacks, was aware of the safety challenges that came with his job.
“[Stevens] knew as much about it as anybody and made the decision that he would go,” he said.
HILLARY CLINTON DEFENDS HER RECORD:
During the same hour, Hillary Clinton, giving a speech blocks away at the American Jewish Committee Global Forum, also defended her foreign policy record at the State Department, speaking directly to the work she did to lay the groundwork for the Iran nuclear negotiations and peace in the Middle East.
Hillary Clinton’s comments come amid criticism from the GOP that her accomplishments as secretary of state were limited. Last month, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked at a press briefing to name one accomplishment during Clinton’s State Department years and came up short.
But in her speech at AJC today, Hillary Clinton not only spoke directly about her achievements but suggested that the work she did in Iran — including reinstating the P5+1, facilitating backchannel negotiations, pushing for crippling sanctions, and convincing some of the world’s top consumers of Iran’s oil to diversify– helped “position” Secretary of State John Kerry towards success.
“When I left as secretary and passed the baton on to Secretary Kerry, we were positioned to really explore whether we had set the table well enough to see changes that were sufficient to meet our legitimate objections to Iran’s behavior and its future plans,” she said.
In addition to Iran, Clinton also spoke about Israel and the “endless meetings…vigorous discussions…and endless phone calls” she made on behalf of the country. She added that of all the hard choices she had to make, this was not one of them.
“One constant that will remain fixed is the partnership and friendship between the US and Israel. That is not a ‘hard choice,’ she said.
Clinton’s speech, which focused on the number of “hard choices” she faced as secretary of state, appeared to be a preview of her forthcoming book titled, “Hard Choices.”
Despite her husband’s remarks, however, Hillary Clinton did not mention her health or Rove’s allegations.