Both sides can claim triumph on Hillary's Benghazi testimony

In the short run, as the media will try to persuade the American people, Hillary “won” the confrontation with the Gowdy committee yesterday. But enough damaging information came out in the hearings to spell trouble for her later in the election campaign.

Nearly all on the left, and even a number of conservatives think that Hillary Clinton triumphed over the House Special Committee on Benghazi yesterday.  Scorn laced the reactions of the left, as in MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell proclaiming on air, “If this is all the GOP has on Benghazi, they have nothing.” The Kevin McCarthy-generated theme that this was all about politics, and the image of a woman being harassed for over ten hours and bravely triumphing fed the contempt being dished out for the GOP-led committee. Predictably, NBC News led its nightly newscast with the story of how “Hillary Clinton stood her ground in the face of withering GOP questioning”

 

This is almost certainly the narrative that will be drummed endlessly into the public, almost none of whom watched the entire hearing, which was mostly tedious. (I confess that I sampled throughout the day but could not bear to watch it for extended periods. And I am a political junkie very interested in the subject.) Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post offers a fair assessment of the short run consequences:

The newslessness of the hearing was a triumph for Clinton. There was no negative sound bite from her. No acknowledgement of error. No moment of real weakness or confusion about the events that unfolded on Sept. 11, 2012.  The hearing was, in a word, boring.  And that's exactly what Clinton wanted.

As with her first debate performance of this electoral cycle, Hillary proved that she is capable of taking several days to prepare canned answers for all conceivable questions in rehearsals with staff playing the role of antagonistic questioners. And she has the kind of iron will that prevented her from losing her cool under pressure, as she did momentarily in Senate hearings with her famous “What difference, at this point, does it make?” rant. That explosion of anger temporarily worked for her, silencing her questioners, and it was initially presented by the media as a triumph. But the victory did not last long and eventually the GOP used it against her, which is why she was careful to keep her cool this time around.

Probably the most damaging information brought out in the hearing was evidence that she knew on the night of the attack itself that it was terrorists, not a crowd enraged over an obscure internet video. As Kimberly Strassel recounts in the Wall Street Journal:

Two hours into Mrs. Clinton’s testimony, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan referred to an email Mrs. Clinton sent to her daughter, Chelsea, at 11:12 the night of the attack, or 45 minutes after the secretary of state had issued a statement blaming YouTube-inflamed mobs. Her email reads: “Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Queda-like group.” Mrs. Clinton doesn’t hedge in the email; no “it seems” or “it appears.” She tells her daughter that on the anniversary of 9/11 an al Qaeda group assassinated four Americans.

That same evening, Mrs. Clinton spoke on the phone with Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf, around 8 p.m. The notes from that conversation, in a State Department email, describe her as saying: “We have asked for the Libyan government to provide additional security to the compound immediately as there is a gun battle ongoing, which I understand Ansar as Sharia [sic] is claiming responsibility for.” Ansar al Sharia is al Qaeda’s affiliate on the Arabian Peninsula. So several hours into the attack, Mrs. Clinton already believed that al Qaeda was attacking U.S. facilities.

The next afternoon, Mrs. Clinton had a call with the Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil. The notes from it are absolutely damning. The secretary of state tells him: “We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack—not a protest.” And yet Mrs. Clinton, and Ms. Rice and Mr. Obama for days and days continued to spin the video lie.

The American people do not like being lied to, and this was a lie for the ages, a political lie intended to re-elect President Obama.  There are real victims of the lie, the families of the slain staff, whose coffins were desecrated with the lie by Hillary herself.

Hillary Clinton’s greatest vulnerability in the election is her lack of trustworthiness. The political ads almost write themselves. If she is willing to lie to the American people and to the victims of terror for political reasons, can she be entrusted with the nation’s security?

The hearings yesterday were not a horse race. They were another chapter in a story that has more than a year yet ahead of it.

In the short run, as the media will try to persuade the American people, Hillary “won” the confrontation with the Gowdy committee yesterday. But enough damaging information came out in the hearings to spell trouble for her later in the election campaign.

Nearly all on the left, and even a number of conservatives think that Hillary Clinton triumphed over the House Special Committee on Benghazi yesterday.  Scorn laced the reactions of the left, as in MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell proclaiming on air, “If this is all the GOP has on Benghazi, they have nothing.” The Kevin McCarthy-generated theme that this was all about politics, and the image of a woman being harassed for over ten hours and bravely triumphing fed the contempt being dished out for the GOP-led committee. Predictably, NBC News led its nightly newscast with the story of how “Hillary Clinton stood her ground in the face of withering GOP questioning”

 

This is almost certainly the narrative that will be drummed endlessly into the public, almost none of whom watched the entire hearing, which was mostly tedious. (I confess that I sampled throughout the day but could not bear to watch it for extended periods. And I am a political junkie very interested in the subject.) Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post offers a fair assessment of the short run consequences:

The newslessness of the hearing was a triumph for Clinton. There was no negative sound bite from her. No acknowledgement of error. No moment of real weakness or confusion about the events that unfolded on Sept. 11, 2012.  The hearing was, in a word, boring.  And that's exactly what Clinton wanted.

As with her first debate performance of this electoral cycle, Hillary proved that she is capable of taking several days to prepare canned answers for all conceivable questions in rehearsals with staff playing the role of antagonistic questioners. And she has the kind of iron will that prevented her from losing her cool under pressure, as she did momentarily in Senate hearings with her famous “What difference, at this point, does it make?” rant. That explosion of anger temporarily worked for her, silencing her questioners, and it was initially presented by the media as a triumph. But the victory did not last long and eventually the GOP used it against her, which is why she was careful to keep her cool this time around.

Probably the most damaging information brought out in the hearing was evidence that she knew on the night of the attack itself that it was terrorists, not a crowd enraged over an obscure internet video. As Kimberly Strassel recounts in the Wall Street Journal:

Two hours into Mrs. Clinton’s testimony, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan referred to an email Mrs. Clinton sent to her daughter, Chelsea, at 11:12 the night of the attack, or 45 minutes after the secretary of state had issued a statement blaming YouTube-inflamed mobs. Her email reads: “Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Queda-like group.” Mrs. Clinton doesn’t hedge in the email; no “it seems” or “it appears.” She tells her daughter that on the anniversary of 9/11 an al Qaeda group assassinated four Americans.

That same evening, Mrs. Clinton spoke on the phone with Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf, around 8 p.m. The notes from that conversation, in a State Department email, describe her as saying: “We have asked for the Libyan government to provide additional security to the compound immediately as there is a gun battle ongoing, which I understand Ansar as Sharia [sic] is claiming responsibility for.” Ansar al Sharia is al Qaeda’s affiliate on the Arabian Peninsula. So several hours into the attack, Mrs. Clinton already believed that al Qaeda was attacking U.S. facilities.

The next afternoon, Mrs. Clinton had a call with the Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil. The notes from it are absolutely damning. The secretary of state tells him: “We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack—not a protest.” And yet Mrs. Clinton, and Ms. Rice and Mr. Obama for days and days continued to spin the video lie.

The American people do not like being lied to, and this was a lie for the ages, a political lie intended to re-elect President Obama.  There are real victims of the lie, the families of the slain staff, whose coffins were desecrated with the lie by Hillary herself.

Hillary Clinton’s greatest vulnerability in the election is her lack of trustworthiness. The political ads almost write themselves. If she is willing to lie to the American people and to the victims of terror for political reasons, can she be entrusted with the nation’s security?

The hearings yesterday were not a horse race. They were another chapter in a story that has more than a year yet ahead of it.