Thursday's House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing delivered what oversight hearings so often do. One party was on the offensive; the other party was cheerleading the politician on the hot seat. As the questions kept coming, there was no smoking gun; in between bipartisan bloviating, however, there were some damning revelations about what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton knew and when she knew it.
Two gaffes set the tone for the hearing. The first came from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who told Fox News: "Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought."
Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy did not appreciate McCarthy's candor — as it allowed Clinton boosters to dismiss the committee as overly partisan. The hearing was partisan; Republicans asked probing questions. With the notable exception of Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Democrats chastised Republicans for asking probing questions.
The second gaffe came from Clinton during the first Democratic presidential debate. Asked to name the enemy she is proudest of making, Clinton replied, "Well, in addition to the NRA, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, (and) the Iranians, probably the Republicans." To the Republican part, the audience responded with cheers and laughter; it seems partisanship isn't always evil.
Vice President Joe Biden has chastised Clinton for describing Republicans as "enemies" instead of "opponents" — and rightly so. If Clinton did not spend every minute of her waking life trying to outsmart the other party and often failing, the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi and the deaths of Americans Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods would be considered a national tragedy, not a political football.
Three days after the attacks, Clinton spoke before the four draped caskets of the Benghazi fallen and denounced violence sparked by "an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with." It was a presidential election year. The Obama administration preferred to sell the fiction that the deaths were the result of a protest sparked by Islamophobia over what it knew to be the truth — that the Americans were killed by armed terrorists.
The House Benghazi Committee released new information that shows that from the very start, Clinton knew the video was not responsible for the attacks. On the night of the attacks, before she learned of the deaths of Doherty and Woods at the CIA annex, Clinton emailed her daughter, "Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an (al-Qaida)-like group." The next day, according to State Department notes, she told Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil: "The attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. ... It was a planned attack, not a protest."
Do I blame the Obama administration for these deaths? No. I blame al-Qaida affiliate Ansar al-Sharia for the violence. I blame Clinton and the Obama administration for trying to paper over a threat to U.S. national security. When the administration should have been sending out a posse to get the killers, the State Department was pointing in the wrong direction.
No doubt Clinton will benefit from the optics — a bank of congressmen looking down on a lone woman, who kept her cool as their barrage of queries pushed into overtime. It's not every day that the former first lady and secretary of state can play the underdog.
Democrats love to see Clinton as a martyr, even if she is on the hot seat because of her own bad decisions. She decided to do State Department business on her own email account with a private server. She destroyed emails she deemed private. She claims to have handed over all relevant correspondence, but her pal Sidney Blumenthal produced emails the State Department had not delivered to investigators. So yes, it takes a committee to pry information out of her. Where Democrats see an underdog, Republicans smell a rat.
Email Debra J. Saunders at [email protected] To find out more about Debra J. Saunders and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.