Benghazi hearing changed perception of Hillary Clinton. What took so long?
“Sure [Fred Astaire] was great, but don’t forget Ginger Rogers did everything he did backwards … and in high heels!”
That line is often mistakenly attributed to the actress Ginger Rogers herself, although it actually came from a 1982 Frank and Ernest cartoon and was used as a line in a speech by Texas Gov. Ann Richards at the 1988 Democratic National Convention. But the message is unmistakable: Women have been succeeding at accomplishing great things, often facing greater odds than men, and often in men’s shadows and in the face of criticism. The list of those women includes (but obviously isn’t limited to) Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Much already has been written about how former Secretary of State Clinton decimated her Republican inquisitors during her appearance before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Chairman Trey Gowdy developed the worst case of flop sweat since Richard Nixon faced John F. Kennedy in a 1960 televised debate. The other GOP representatives, looking less like statesmen and stateswomen and more like smarmy middle schoolers as the day wore on, became fixated on her emails, Sidney Blumenthal, and what was said at what time on what day. They demanded to know why she didn’t control every single aspect of the State Department and why she couldn’t be in contact 24/7 with diplomatic staff in 270 countries.
In the 11-hour marathon, Clinton calmly explained how the State Department worked; how she needed to delegate tasks to other professionals; and how the Obama administration and the state department used bits of information to piece together the complete story of what happened to U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans the night of Sept. 11, 2012. She had to repeat the same answers over and over, telling her questioners that “I’m sorry if the facts don’t fit your narrative.” She was poised, prepared, and positive.
As the day wore on, Clinton never lost her cool (let’s admit it; most of us would have been glaring, raising our voices, and throwing things). After the session was over, a frazzled Gowdy admitted that he hadn’t heard anything new from Clinton and that he would have to “check the transcript.”
(Side note: Tell me you don’t think Trey Gowdy looks like Draco Malfoy.)
No one figured there would be any new information. The GOP representatives were hoping for an “AHA!” moment that could be used in a negative campaign ad. They hoped to make her look angry, flustered, tired, and probably “too old” to be president. They failed miserably at all of those of those aspirations. The widespread opinion on Clinton’s success came from right-wing as well as mainstream media, from Republican operatives as well as Democrats. The one laughable reaction came from Drudge, which played a clip of Clinton coughing, claiming that it raised health concerns about the candidate.
If anything, Hillary Clinton looked — dare we say it — presidential. Like her or hate her — and there are those on the right who will never get over Clinton hatred — you’ve got to admit that your view of Clinton is different today than it was before her Benghazi hearing appearance. Those who would swallow glass before voting for a Democrat are looking on her with new respect. Democrats who are “feeling the Bern” for the Vermont senator saw an opponent that many say they could vote for if their candidate doesn’t win. Small-dollar donations to her campaign skyrocketed in the hour after the hearing ended, as did her number of followers on social media.
California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she thought Clinton’s appearance before the committee had won her the election, even though it’s a year away. Eric Erickson of Red State opined that the hearings were a waste of time.
Clinton remained calm for 11 hours of questions, while GOP presidential hopefuls Ben Carson and Donald Trump complained that three hours was too long of a debate for them, demanding that it be shortened. Can you imagine any of the GOP candidates lasting for 11 hours before such scrutiny?
The most amazing reaction to the Benghazi-a-thon has come from members of the media, many of whom just now seem to be noticing, “Hey, that Hillary Clinton is pretty competent.” A CNN opinion piece by someone who describes herself as a “lifelong Republican” has the headline, “Benghazi hearing: The high-tech lynching of Hillary Clinton.”
“I can state unequivocally after watching Thursday’s Benghazi House committee hearing and considering the email transcripts, media statements, debates and intense partisan focus on the former secretary of state for the past few years that she has been treated unfairly,” writes lawyer Sophia A. Nelson. “Unprofessionally. And frankly, disrespectfully. … In the final analysis, I believe that history will record that Hillary Clinton was one of the brightest and most patriotic women ever to serve in public life. Whether she becomes president, or whether she is found to have violated the law on how she handled her emails at the State Department, Clinton is one tough cookie.”
All of a sudden, pundits and reporters who used to dismiss her and claim that her campaign was in a downward spiral are saying that Clinton stood tall while the GOP committee members looked small.
It wasn’t that long ago that the GOP meme — often repeated in the media — was “Yeah, but can you name any actual accomplishments during Clinton’s time at State?” During the course of her testimony, the former secretary listed them, including developing the Libya policy. Other accomplishments, despite what you hear from former Hewlett Packard executive and GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, who loves to use that line, include developing the sanctions against Iran that brought the country to the bargaining table. The reason she visited so many countries as secretary of state was to re-establish relationships that had been broken during the George W. Bush administration. More than once, she offered to send her book, Hard Choices, to the GOP representatives so they could learn more about Benghazi. I think the Republicans are going to have to develop a Plan B to go after Hillary Clinton. And it’s not going to be easy.
Hillary Clinton will never match Ginger Rogers’ dancing skills, but she’s certainly dancing around her GOP opponents today.
(Note: I could have posted a photo from Clinton at her Benghazi grilling, but how often do you have a chance to run a photo of Fred and Ginger in Top Hat?)