Before I get into this, if you’re not up to speed on what the whole Benghazi controversy is about, Vox has a really great primer on the issue.
As the primer states, the number of investigations and hearings into the Benghazi incident is unprecedented. Check out these graphs:
Today, Hillary Clinton is appearing before the House Benghazi Committee to testify, and the media is playing it up like a wrestling match. “What Hillary needs to do is blah blah blah”. They keep saying the stakes are high for Hillary. They say emotions are high, and if she slips up just once, that sound bite will be repeated over and over again.
I don’t think the stakes are high at all. I think all Hillary needs to do is go in there and tell the truth. If the Committee beats her up, she’ll look good, and they will look bad.
The Committee has been under fire because members within the Committee have basically revealed that their raisen d’etre is to ding Hillary, rather than investigate what happened in Benghazi. In fact, a new CNN poll released today says that 73% of Americans think the Committee is politically motivated.
Is this political? Listen to this NBC reporter:
Here’s a livefeed which obviously won’t be working once the whole thing is over:
I’ll be having live updates as the day goes on…. if anything happens.
Gowdy (the chair of Committee) seems to be launching into an impassioned defense of the Committee’s existence, stating the goals of the Committee.
He’s very much in a defensive crouch. He strains to make the link between Hillary’s email and the “whole point” of the Committee — what happened in Benghazi. Also, he uses the word “truth” a million times.
Oddly, he’s bashing all the other investigative committees (all led by Republicans) in order to justify his own committee. Sounds like SOME Republicans were wasting taxpayer money.
Elijah Cummings (D-Md), the Democratic ranking member.of the Benghazi Committee, is speaking now… and he has turned it up to 11. A viscous attack on the Committee and its politically motivated investigation. He points out that Trey Gowdy cancelled interviews with DoD and CIA officials in favor of interviews with Hillary Clinton campaign staffers. Boom! Says “Republicans are squandering millions of taxpayer dollars on this abusive effort to derail Sec. Clinton’s campaign.” Pow! He makes the point that all the Republican-led national security committees already exonerated the administration. Bam!
As he wrapped up, Cummings mocked the accusation that Sidney Blumenthal was Clinton’s “primary foreign policy advisor on Libya” and noted that it been awarded four Pinocchios by the Washington Post.
The thing for Hillary to do now is be quiet, responsive and helpful. Cummings is doing the fighting.
Cummings is done. I’m trying to be objective, but Gowdy just looks like a guy who got spanked publically.
Hillary is talking. “I am here to honor the service of those four men…and the work their colleagues do every single day all over the world.” Unlike the two previous speakers, she talks about the people who died in Benghazi. HUGE points.
Hillary Clinton on death of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi: “I was the one who asked Chris to go to Libya as our envoy … after the attacks, I stood next to President Obama as they carried his casket”
Hillary Clinton on foreign policy post-2012 Benghazi attack: “America must lead in a dangerous world and our diplomats must continue representing us in dangerous places”
Hillary’s strategy is to rise above the din. She’s the only one paying tribute to those who died in the Benghazi attacks. She’s the only one talking about the history of embassy attacks. Her strategy is very effective. She’s coming off as the only grown-up. She says she “took responsibility” and “launched reforms to better protect our people in the field.”
“There is more to do, and no administration can do it alone. Congress has to be our partner as it has been after previous tragedies.”
Gowdy pats himself on the back for not interrupting Hillary’s opening statement.
And now we’re into the Q&A. Here’s the part where it get boring and everybody tunes out. Because nobody cares about details. In truth, THIS is how the an investigation SHOULD be.
9 more hours of this? Yawn. Don’t expect more fireworks or updates for a while.
Cummings destoys a talking point. He played a clip of Darrell Issa lying on cable television about Clinton denying requests for extra security in Benghazi. In truth, that decision was made without Clinton’s knowledge or input, as all previous investigations have already concluded.
Clinton clarified that all State Department cables carry a stamp with the secretary’s signature, so a signature stamp doesn’t indicate that she has seen something. She claimed that the State Department didn’t have enough money appropriated for their security requirements and so naturally they had to make decisions about priorities.
Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., presents piles of Hillary Clinton’s emails from 2011 and asks why so many from 2011 and so few from 2012 when Libya became a hot spot. Weird GOP pivot from “How could you use email for such sensitive work?” to “Why are there not way more emails about this stuff?” Is Sen Brooks upset that Hillary did NOT conduct classified business via email?? Clinton answers that she didn’t work primarily from e-mails (she didn’t even have a computer in her office, which to me is the biggest scandal to be revealed so far), and that she got classified briefings, met with staff, etc. That was how she got informed.
Hillary Clinton blows back against myth that she denied security requests from our embassy in Libya:
Generally speaking, the questions are Benghazi-centric and not email-centric. I’ve scanned a few popular rightwing blogs, and there seems to be little interest (other than repeating long-debunked talking points). The few that are following it seemed discouraged and angry at the “feckless” Republicans on the Committee who are “incompetent” at bringing Clinton down. These people just refuse to accept the possibility that Clinton didn’t do anything wrong.
Jim Jordan (R-Oh) is laying into Clinton (and not letting her respond) about why the attacks happened. He openly states that Hillary was part of an administration lie saying that the attack was caused by a protest against a video, rather than a pre-planned terrorist attack. His focus is on statements and emails coming from Clinton within the first 24 hours of the attack, when, of course, nobody was quite sure why. Clinton to Jim Jordan: “I’m sorry that it doesn’t fit your narrative, congressman. I can only tell you what the facts were.” She points out that even today, you can’t get into the head of every attacker to determine why they attacked the embassy, and some were there because of the video. And not for nothing, but the CIA initially thought it was the video as well.
Gowdy banging Secretary of State about emails from Sydney Blumenthal. He’s saying that the Obama team rejected Blumenthal to work in State Dept., but that Hillary used information from Blumenthal anyway. (Ironically, this is just after Gowdy insists that this isn’t a prosecution where you try to prove something). Not sure what relevance this has to Benghazi, and Hillary says so. It will not help us understand security at the Benghazi mission or why we didn’t know an attack was imminent. It’s just an attempt to undermine Clinton’s reputation by linking her with Blumenthal. I think everyone watching this show understands that.
Fireworks at the end before the break as Cummings demands a recorded vote to release Blumenthal transcript. He says that if Gowdy is going to ask questions about the Blumenthal emails, why not release his testimony so people can understand the context? Cummings and Schiff accuse Gowdy of selective releasing of emails to make Hillary look bad. Gowdy adjourns. In a snit. He threatens more and bigger Blumenthal drama to come. I’m still not sure what this is all about or why it has anything to do with the Benghazi attacks. I guess Gowdy is trying to say that Blumenthal advised Clinton on Libya, and he shouldn’t have been so important. Yet, Clinton has already testified (today and many times before, as well as in her book) that Blumenthal was not her primary source on Libya. Actually, at one point Gowdy claimed Blumenthals emails are relevant because former Libya ambassador Chris Stevens, who died in the Benghazi attack, had to read them. As if to say, “well Chris Stevens read these emails, and just look what happened to him.” It doesn’t come close to passing the laugh test. And I assume Republicans know it. Or maybe the objection is that Clinton had more access to Blumenthal than Stevens? No, that’s dumb too. Anyway, if Blumenthal’s emails are so important, the Committee should release his deposition transcript.
Aaaaand why CNN is going downhill….
I like Josh Marshall’s take on how things are at halftime:
Listening to the questions from Republicans questioning Hillary Clinton, it’s hard not to step back and ask what it is they’re even trying to prove or what their point is. The lines of questions are disjointed and they’re pressing points she either freely concedes (yes, it was terrible and she’s ultimately responsible) or the point of which isn’t even clear (why did Sid Blumenthal send you so many emails?). It’s not going well for the committee at all. And what’s most revealing about the testimony so far is that they definitely get that: they know it’s going badly for them. And that’s led to a rather churlish and defensive tone to the whole proceeding that’s further deflated any sense that this is more than a clown show where the clowns are struggling. As I’ve now said several times, it’s a world of difference that this happening post-McCarthy and not pre-McCarthy. The questions wouldn’t necessarily have been different. The arguments from the GOP would not have been any better. But now the assumption from the press is that Hillary is on the upswing (both in her poll numbers and on the ‘Benghazi’ question) and the committee members are on the defensive. At least to a degree, she’s been vindicated in this whole drama and the committee has been discredited. *** Because of all this, Republican committee members just seemed pissed because this was supposed to be awesome – after all, a committee designed to bring down Hillary and circulate all those numskull conspiracy theories about Chris Stevens wearing a chest cam and how President Obama was watching everything happening live on his iPhone. Hillary’s yet to get at all flustered and has even had the opportunity to gently explain to Republican members how the State Department works. She looks poised; they’re radiating spittle.
But Gowdy hinted at some kind of Blumenthal-related bombshell in the next segment… is it something actually damaging? Or is it one of those insinuation-if-you-read-between-the-line things that maybe could be damaging if you hold it up to the light at just the right angle?
Hearings restarted about an hour ago. No flashbangs, a little more about Sid. But we can all relax because Chuck Woolery has weighed in:
Peter Roskam (R-Il) is asking questions now and….
Very true. And of course, this relates to security at Benghazi how?
Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam:
Let me tell you what I think the Clinton Doctrine is. [Reads from prepared card.]I think it’s where an opportunity is seized to turn progress in Libya into a political win for Hillary Rodham Clinton. And at the precise moment when things look good, take a victory lap, like on all the Sunday shows three times that year before Qaddafi was killed, and then turn your attention to other things.
See? This hearing is nothing more than a disinterested investigation into the events surrounding the Benghazi attacks of 9/11/2012. You partisan naysayers who think it’s just about attacking Hillary Clinton on national TV should be ashamed of yourselves.
And now we’re on another break.