When the State Department revealed on Saturday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had fainted last week and suffered a concussion due to a stomach virus, the announcement left more questions than answers regarding Clinton's health. Her absence will raise even more questions from the congressional hearings on the terrorist attacks in Benghazi next week.
Clinton will not testify at those hearings.
This is the second time Clinton will not be able to answer key questions about Libya because of her health. Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said Clinton was first asked to go on the Sunday shows after terrorists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi but was too worn down to do so. Rice ultimately went on the Sunday shows in Clinton's place and parroted the administration's lies about how an anti-Muhammad video caused the attacks. Those Sunday show appearances would be largely responsible for Rice having to withdraw her name from consideration as Obama's next Secretary of State.
On December 10, the State Department announced Clinton would cancel an important trip to Morocco due to a stomach virus.
"Since she's still under the weather, we'll be staying put this week instead of heading to North Africa and the Middle East as originally planned," State Department spokesman Philippe Reines said in a statement on December 10.
Reines' comments that Clinton was "still under the weather" indicated Clinton had been sick for some time. It has since been revealed Clinton caught the stomach virus on a trip to Europe, but Reines gave murky answers when initially pressed about the severity of Clinton's condition.
Last Thursday, reporters asked Reines if Clinton had been hospitalized, and Reines simply responded that “she had seen her doctors and was home, without additional details.”
Clinton, as Secretary of State, not only holds the most senior position in the cabinet but is also fourth in the line of succession after the vice president, Speaker of the House, and president pro tempore of the Senate. But Reines still declined to answer why he was not as forthcoming last week about Clinton's health.
On Saturday, Reines, according to Politico, finally answered reporters by telling them that Clinton “was not and never had been hospitalized” but still “did not respond to questions about why Clinton’s fainting was not disclosed sooner.”
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), whom Obama will nominate as his next Secretary of State and is the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced on Saturday they have excused Clinton from testifying before their respective committees next week.
A spokeswoman for Sen. John Kerry said the Massachusetts senator "was relieved to hear that the Secretary is on the mend, but he insisted that given her condition, she could not and should not appear on Thursday as previously planned, and that the nation’s best interests are served by the report and hearings proceeding as scheduled with senior officials appearing in her place.”
Ros-Lehtinen said it was "unfortunate" that Clinton would be unable to testify next week before her committee and hoped Clinton would eventually appear before the committee.
"We have been combing through classified and unclassified documents and have tough questions about State Department threat assessments and decision-making on Benghazi," Ros-Lehtinen said. "This requires a public appearance by the Secretary of State herself. Other cabinet secretaries involved should also be held publicly accountable.”
The Accountability Review Board, which is appointed by the State Department, “is expected to complete its report on the Benghazi attacks this week,” and the “board’s two leaders, Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen are scheduled to provide a closed-door, classified briefing for the two congressional committees on Wednesday.”
Clinton, though, will not be able to answer any questions from members of Congress about Libya or about the Review Board's Benghazi report, which will ultimately put a bigger spotlight on the missteps her State Department may have taken leading up to the terrorist attacks (Clinton has already taken "responsibility" for the State Department's failures that resulted in the deaths of four Americans in Libya). But Clinton's absence will also intensify questions about her long-term health, especially in light of her recent comments that indicated she does not have any intention of running for president in four years.
When asked if she had plans to run for president in 2016, Clinton told Barbara Walters in an interview last week that, "I really don't believe that that's something I will do again."
“I am so grateful I had the experience of doing it before," Clinton added.