I believe that if the Benghazi hearings have taught us anything, it's that it's very difficult to figure out exactly what happened at a specific time and place, and even harder to accurately assign blame. But with the leak of former Secretary of State Colin Powell's private emails, the public is getting a frank appraisal of what the many Benghazi hearings amounted to: a partisan "witch hunt" — and this is a coup for Hillary Clinton.
In an email exchange between Powell and his State Department successor, Condoleezza Rice, leaked by the website DCLeaks.com and published by Buzzfeed, Powell pulls no punches in his evaluation of the events in Benghazi and their political aftermath. "Benghazi is a stupid witch hunt," Powell wrote. "Basic fault falls on a courageous ambassador who thoughts [sic] Libyans now love me and I am ok in this very vulnerable place," he said, referring to Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, who was killed in the attack.
Clinton doesn't escape entirely unscathed — Powell also noted in the email that "Blame also rests on his leaders and supports back here. Pat Kennedy, Intel community, DS and yes HRC," referring to then Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential nominee. But his assessment of shared responsibility and the opportunistic investigation leaves little room for doubt that the Benghazi hearings were nothing but political calculus.
In a strange fashion, the fact that Powell's sentiments were made public against his will adds to the credence of his comments; if he had made the same comments in the context of having endorsed Clinton, they might not carry the same weight and force that they do now. However, if he had said them, say, a year ago when the hearings occurred, they certainly could've been more impactful on Clinton's campaign.
To his credit, Powell made no attempt to deny that he made the statements, and said to NBC News that "the hackers have a lot more."
While the Powell email leak might be a vindication for Clinton and her lately-embattled campaign, the multiple and extended Benghazi hearings have already done considerable damage to the Democratic candidate. The scandal has proliferated, highlighting possible improprieties with classified information, transparency laws, and the relationship between Clinton and her family's Clinton Foundation.
This could all end up being a case of too little, too late for Clinton, whose once massive lead last month has shrunk in September. But having Powell's condemnation of the hearings might be the best thing her campaign could have hoped for — short of Powell's actual endorsement.