Clinton campaign defends Libya comment in face of RNC attacks

Raleigh, North Carolina (CNN)Hillary Clinton's campaign pushed back Tuesday against Republican claims that a statement she made Monday disparages the four lives lost during the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.

Clinton, in explaining her view of foreign intervention at a Monday night town hall, argued no Americans were killed in the the 2011 NATO intervention of Libya.
Clinton was pressed by MSNBC host Chris Matthews about why she has supported a host of military interventions into the Middle East throughout her career. Clinton argued the war in Iraq, which Clinton supported but now regrets, is different than the air campaign used to oust dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
    "Libya was a different kind of calculation. And we didn't lose a single person. We didn't have a problem in supporting our European and Arab allies in working with NATO," Clinton said.
    "Now is Libya perfect? It isn't," she added. "But did they have two elections that were free and fair where they voted for moderates. Yes, they did."
    Clinton also explained Libya by arguing the U.S. "provided our unique abilities" while NATO ran most of the air missions.
    "They were really very much involved in helping to, you know, cordon off Libya and eventually defeating Ghadaffi and his forces," Clinton said.
    Clinton's campaign argues that the former secretary of state was clearly referring to the military intervention into Libya.
    "It's perfectly clear from her full comments that Hillary Clinton was saying not a single American life was lost during the Libyan intervention. We heeded the calls of our allies, our partners in the region, and the Libyan people and helped topple a murderous dictator who was prepared to massacre his own citizens, all without putting American boots on the ground," said Jesse Lehrich, a Clinton campaign spokesman.
    But Republicans jumped on her comment as a means of reviving their criticism of her role in the attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi.
    The Republican National Committee tweeted out a video of the comment on Monday.
    Clinton aides argue that the former secretary of state was referring exclusively to the U.S.-backed ouster in 2011. That mission saw no U.S. lives lost.
    "As she's said before, with regard to the later attack in Benghazi, the tragic loss of her colleagues who were working so hard to help the Libyan people is something that constantly weighs on her," Lehrich said.
    But the line gives Republicans yet another way to disparage Clinton's handling of Benghazi, a terrorist attack that has been an albatross hanging around Clinton's neck since 2012. Four Americans died during the attack, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
    Clinton has testified three times before Congress about the 2012 terrorist attack, most recently in an 11-hour session before the House's Select Committee on Benghazi in October 2015. The testimony was widely seen as a success for Clinton as she rebuffed hostile questioning.
    Throughout 2014, Clinton was asked about her tenure at the State Department and her biggest regret.
    "My biggest regret is what happened in Benghazi," Clinton said in January 2014. "It was a terrible tragedy losing four Americans, two diplomats and now it is public so I can say two CIA operatives."