LIMA — US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton repeated on Tuesday her statement taking sole responsibility for security at all of America’s diplomatic missions, an attempt to clear a political obstacle for her boss, President Obama, ahead of his second debate with Republican Mitt Romney.
‘‘I take responsibility,’’ Clinton said in a written statement. ‘‘I’m in charge of the State Department’s 60,000-plus people all over the world [at] 275 posts.’’
She would not answer questions on the statement.
With only weeks before the presidential election, outrage has crystallized around Vice President Joe Biden’s remark in last week’s debate with Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan that ‘‘we weren’t told’’ about requests for extra security at the consulate where assailants killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Congressional hearings revealed that the State Department was aware of, and rejected, several requests for increased security in Benghazi. Spokesmen for both the State Department and the White House took pains Friday to make clear that Biden’s ‘‘we’’ referred to the White House, where such requests would not go.
Clinton backed up Biden’s assertion. ‘‘The president and the vice president certainly wouldn’t be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals,’’ she said Monday.
Three investigations into the attack are being conducted: an FBI probe into the deaths of the four Americans, an independent inquiry by a panel appointed by Clinton, and the congressional hearings.
Republican senators said Clinton’s claim was ‘‘a laudable gesture,’’ but they put the responsibility for the Benghazi attack and what they called ‘‘an escalating pattern of attacks this year in Benghazi’’ squarely on Obama and his national security team.
‘‘I think it’s very laudable that she should throw herself under the bus,’’ Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said Tuesday. ‘‘But first of all, responsibility for American security doesn’t lie with the secretary of state. It lies with the president of the United States.
‘‘It’s either willful deception or a degree of incompetence and failure to understand fundamental facts on the ground . . . either one of those is obviously totally unacceptable,’’ he told FOX News.