CNN's Gergen Says Benghazi Will 'Long Be Forgotten' If Clinton Runs In 2016

On Tuesday's Starting Point, CNN's David Gergen smiled on Hillary Clinton's "wonderful farewell" at the State Department and touted her "very powerful position" for a 2016 presidential run. As CNN noted, Gergen once worked as an adviser to President Clinton.

When asked if anything from Clinton's term as Secretary of State would come back to haunt her as a presidential candidate, Gergen replied "I don't think so. The Benghazi affair, I think, will long be forgotten unless there's some smoking gun we have no idea about."

Gergen echoed fellow Clinton admirers in the media, fawning over Hillary's relationship with Obama and praising her work as Secretary of State:

"But, you know, look at the public narrative, the public narrative, the public has basically concluded she did a very good job. (...) And the dignity in which she carried herself, the fact that she and President Obama did seem to go more from the team of rivals to the team of friends, all of that, I think, has stood her in good standing and I think her record as secretary of state will be a strong plus, not a minus."

"She's having a wonderful farewell, and I think she's probably enjoying every minute of it, and frankly, she deserves it," Gergen gushed.

He also cited Gallup's "Most Admired Woman" poll which Clinton topped for 11 straight years:

"As you well know, when Gallup takes the poll of the most admired woman in the world, she had -- and this is a U.S. poll, she has been number one for 11 straight years. 11 straight years, it's remarkable. The best record of any woman on the Gallup Polls, which stretches all the way back to 1948."

A transcript of the segment, which aired on Starting Point on January 29 at 8:15 a.m. EST, is as follows:

[8:15]

JOHN BERMAN: So, she's got this town meeting today, Secretary Clinton does. She's also got a series of interviews, one interview after another, after another, after another. What's she doing here?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN senior political analyst: She's having a wonderful farewell, and I think she's probably enjoying every minute of it, and frankly, she deserves it.

BALDWIN: Have other secretary of states done this in the past? We were trying to think this morning, or is this sort of a first, all these interviews and this very open –

(Laughter)

GERGEN: Well, I don't think we've ever seen a secretary of state have a farewell interview with the President of the United States sitting next to him or her on 60 Minutes. That is a first. So, yes, there's other a lot – I think this is basically unprecedented. The speech that she's giving tomorrow is very important with the Council on Foreign Relations on America's leadership in the world and that I think is a more traditional way of saying farewell.

It's a time to sort of sum up her views of where this country is going, where the world is going, and what role we should play. And I – you know, she's long believed that we should have a more muscular role than, perhaps, even her successor will have. We'll wait and see.

SOCARIDES: David, it seems to me that the big shift here, you know, there are a lot of people who'd like her to run for president, myself included, but the big shift, you know, for a long time she said she wasn't running. She wouldn't run. She was just going to take it easy, but now when asked about it, she seems to say, well, you know, we'll have to wait and see. That's a big change, no?

GERGEN: You're right. There's been a morphing that's been going on here, slight, subtle changes. I think the truth is, she doesn't know. Everybody who knows her well tells me she hasn't made up her mind. She does want this rest. I think there's going to be a question of her health that she has to consider, and at some point, she'll have to come forward and people will want to know what her health records are if she decides to run. She's going to be under pressure to make a decision sooner rather than later. She can't wait, I think, more than a year or so because there are going to be so many other aspirates. But, here's the deal. She's got – she starts often in an enormously popular position.

As you well know, when Gallup takes the poll of the most admired woman in the world, she had -- and this is a U.S. poll, she has been number one for 11 straight years. 11 straight years, it's remarkable. The best record of any woman on the Gallup Polls, which stretches all the way back to 1948.

So, she's in a very powerful position, but then she has to weigh it against another proposition and that is, she has to get some sense of how well the Obama administration is going to perform this second term.

If you think about it, since the Roosevelt/Truman years, we've had five occasions when one party has held the White House for eight straight years. And in the next election, the out party has won four out of those five, only in one instance when Ronald Reagan was succeeded by George H.W. Bush did the end party win a second time.

So, you see, that depends to some considerable extent on the performance. Does this economy come back? Does it remain anemic? What happens to jobs? That sort of thing. So, I think the calculations here are not as simple as it may appear on the surface. She's got to – and a little more time would, perhaps, give more clarity to our path.

FRANK FOER, editor, The New Republic: Is there anything from her record as secretary of state that could come back to haunt her as a presidential candidate?

GERGEN: I don't think so. The Benghazi affair, I think, will long be forgotten unless there's some smoking gun we have no idea about. What will be chewed over – but you know, a number of conservatives have now, like Brit Hume, has said her record as secretary of state is much less impressive than people are supposing.

But, you know, look at the public narrative, the public narrative, the public has basically concluded she did a very good job. Yes, she didn't have a lot of big triumphs. She didn't get a Nobel Prize for some particular breakthrough in the Middle East, but, she's had a very substantial record and the public looks upon her.

And the dignity in which she carried herself, the fact that she and President Obama did seem to go more from the team of rivals to the team of friends, all of that, I think, has stood her in good standing and I think her record as secretary of state will be a strong plus, not a minus.

BERMAN: All right. David Gergen, nice to see you this morning. Thank you for joining us to join in the speculation. We're only too eager to talk about 2016.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014