The House Select Committee on Benghazi's day-long hearing saw Hillary Clinton answering questions on the State Department's role in the Benghazi attacks. For Republicans on the committee and Clinton's conservative detractors, the goal of the hearing is ostensibly to determine what really happened leading up to the Benghazi attacks once and for all. But they likely have the ulterior motive of hurting Clinton along the way. Even some of their own party members have accused the committee of politicizing the attacks to tarnish Clinton's presidential campaign. But what they perhaps underestimated was her steely resolve. In many ways, the Benghazi hearing could backfire on Clinton's detractors, and actually highlight the qualities that would make her a great president.
Since her testimony commenced, Clinton has remained consistently calm and respectful in the witness chair. She has answered every question without dodging the topic or getting defensive or heated. Even as committee chairman Trey Gowdy and ranking member Elijah Cummings started to raise their voices in a debate over what information should be released, Clinton stayed above the fray and kept her composure. It must be frustrating for Gowdy and the Republicans on the committee, who came to the hearing armed with about 50,000 emails and dozens of witness testimonies to trip Clinton up, to watch her handle each question like an absolute boss.
In fact, some observers on Twitter have noted that the hearing is almost like an inadvertent audition for the role of president.
And Clinton's crushing it. Not only are her answers comprehensive and reflective of a deep understanding of the complex international situation that led to the attacks, but her conviction in the actions she and the State Department took illustrates a leader who stands behind her decisions and thinks clearly under pressure. Clinton was also not afraid to utter the words, "I took responsibility," proving that she's not afraid to be held accountable. She told the panel:
I’ve lost more sleep than all of you put together. I have been wracking my brain for what more could have been done, or should have been one. When I took responsibility I took it as a challenge and as an obligation to make sure that when I left the State Department [we reformed measures].
But perhaps what will hurt her detractors the most, and inevitably help her campaign, is the hearing itself, which Cummings has called an "abusive effort to derail Secretary Clinton's presidential campaign." Even Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has suggested as much. The charge that the ongoing Benghazi investigation is nothing more than a smear campaign in disguise that's politicizing a tragedy that shouldn't be is further proof of the chasm between Democrats and Republicans, perpetuated by the latter.
Clinton addressed this fracture during her testimony, recounting a different time:
People rose above politics, a Democratic Congress worked with a Republican administration to say what have we learned. Similarly, when we lost more Americans, the bombings in east Africa, again, the Republicans and Democrats worked together.So again, I’m an optimist, congressman, I’m hoping that that will be the outcome of this and the effort so that we really do honor the effort, not only of those we lost but those who are serving as we speak.I would like to get back to that time.
Ultimately, Clinton is coming away from this hearing as a solid leader who took responsibility for her mistakes and is now willingly cooperating because she has nothing to fear or hide. Meanwhile, her opponents are starting to look more like petulant, fearful witch hunters by the minute.