Well, to watch to Fox News last night, you would think Hillary got pilloried by the committee. Not surprising, but I wondered if they heard the same things I did. The common theme was that “Hillary lied” about Benghazi, although I listened really hard (on Sirius radio) in the hopes that someone would explain exactly what she lied about. And on that point, I’m still a little vague.
A lot of what was discussed, particularly on Hannity, had to do with the supposed “stand down” order that was given to the military to NOT go into Libya and rescue the ambassador and other embassy workers. I don’t know why they harp on that. First of all, it has been debunked over and over again by the military and the CIA and other congressional committees looking into it. There was no feasible military rescue operation once the violence had started. Secondly, Hillary wouldn’t be giving the “stand down” order even if there was one. So I don’t know what that was about.
I think the biggest “ding” against Hillary is that she “knew” (at some point) that the embassy over-run in Benghazi was not a spontaneous protest about a video. But she pretended that it was, because it would look bad for the Obama administration if it was a pre-planned terrorist attack (and it was merely two months before election). I don’t really understand this at all. Four embassy employees (including one ambassador) being killed in Libya looked bad for Obama, no matter what. Plus, the timeline is sketchy. Even the CIA thought (for 24 hours or so) that the embassy was attacked as the result of a protest over a video (that’s what was causing similar protests in Egypt). And in truth, some people in the protest were there because of the video; they were arrested and admitted so. And finally, even if all that is a legitimate complaint, it’s a political one. How the Obama Administration “spun” (or even mis-spun) Benghazi in the 24-48 hours AFTER it happened is not going to help prevent future embassy attacks.
Anyway, when you step back from the weeds, Fox News and the conservative pundits made it clear that this was all about Hillary, Hillary, Hillary. Not about the 4 dead people. It really didn’t change anybody’s mind, I’m sure. It is telling that Fox News, unlike CNN and MSNBC, cut away from the hearing mid-day. (God forbid they let their viewers see what is happening when they can just tell their viewers what to think during Hannity).
The general consensus outside the Fox News bubble was that the Committee really didn’t touch Hillary, or do itself any favors. Speaking at a press conference, even the Committee leader, Rep. Trey Gowdy, had a hard time saying that anything “new” came from Hillary’s testimony:
And even conservative pundits thought it didn’t speak well of the Committee. Like Erick “Eric” Erickson at Redstate, who called the hearing “a waste of time” and a “carnival road show of back bench congresscritters playing to the cameras and Hillary Clinton working hard to play persecuted victim”
Then there’s conservative Byron York, whose report on the day was entitled “Benghazi Bust:
So a hearing billed as an epic, High Noon-style confrontation — granted, the hype came from the media, not Republican committee members themselves — instead turned out to be a somewhat interesting look at a few limited aspects of the Benghazi affair. In other words, no big deal. And that is very, very good news for Hillary Clinton.
Well-known conservative writer John Podhoretz, a former speechwriter for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, was unimpressed at times
Why doesn’t Pompeo just go over and swear her in for president now–if he goes on like this he’ll practically get her elected
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) October 22, 2015
Obviously, CNN and MSNBC noted that Hillary did well, and remarked how this has been ten days for Hillary (great debate, no Biden entry, etc.). But as for the hearing yesterday and Hillary, I’ll return to Erick Erickson:
So we’ll go through today’s hearing and the GOP will think there were sterling moments of gotcha brilliance. The Democrats will think there were sterling moments of fundraising opportunity for Hillary Clinton. The press will ignore it all. And the 70% of Americans not on twitter or following the hearings today will go on with their lives.
All in all it was a bust for Gowdy and the Benghazi committee, to the point that conservative pundits were griping about how poorly the Republicans fared against Clinton. Anyone who doubted that the committee was a partisan exercise in Clinton-bashing came away free of doubts. The only sliver of good news for the Republicans is that it likely won’t matter. The notion that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton engineered some sort of evil Benghazi cover-up is already assumed to be true in the minds of conservatives and Republican voters. The fact that Gowdy and crew spent the day stepping on rakes and scoring own-goals in a failed attempt to “prove” it won’t change their minds. And the House GOP won’t put the brakes on the investigation because the committee’s utility as a vehicle for strategic press leaks outweighs the bad press it’s enduring at the moment. The Benghazi committee will grind on, performing much the same role it always has.