mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“The Benghazi Hearing Was A Self-Defeating Travesty”: Hillary Clinton Failed To Make A Case Against Herself

Hillary Clinton must have been mindful of the old adage that you never interrupt an enemy when he is making a mistake. She sat in the witness chair with the patience of Job, hour after endless hour, while the House Select Committee on Benghazi did all it could to make her our next president.

How much of a self-defeating travesty was last week’s hearing for the Republican Party? The answer is obvious from how quickly the GOP has sought to turn the page.

Had a glove been laid on the presumptive Democratic nominee, the Sunday talk shows would have been a jamboree of Clinton-bashing. As it was, chief inquisitor Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) could only grumble on “Meet the Press” that Clinton’s testimony lacked “wholeness and completeness,” by which he seemed to mean she failed to make a case against herself. Gowdy also said he regretted that the hearing was held publicly rather than behind closed doors.

Among the Republican presidential contenders, the most deliciously ironic reaction came from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who claimed Clinton was “unaccountable” because she left the Benghazi compound’s security arrangements to be handled by lower-ranking State Department professionals. As “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson pointed out, Christie gave a similar explanation to exonerate himself in the George Washington Bridge scandal.

Front-runner Donald Trump more wisely chose a pox-on-both-houses approach, observing in a CNN interview that the hearing was “very partisan” and “the level of hatred between Republicans and Democrats was unbelievable.” He used the occasion to paint himself as a “great unifier,” which will come as a surprise to the beleaguered GOP establishment.

Gowdy was chosen to head the Benghazi committee because of his experience as a prosecutor. Maybe he’s better at real trials than show trials. Presiding over Thursday’s marathon farce, he was a disaster.

His biggest mistake was failing to foresee the dynamics of the hearing: It was always likely that Clinton, not the committee, would dominate the room.

After all, this was hardly Clinton’s first rodeo. With all her experience at congressional hearings, both asking and answering questions, she knew it was the witness who had ultimate control over pace and tone. However aggressive the Republicans were in firing their questions, she answered calmly, slowly, almost sweetly. She was like a tennis player who just keeps lobbing the ball back across the net until her opponent becomes frustrated and makes a mistake.

Gowdy appeared to orchestrate the hearing so that his one tidbit of new information was revealed late in the day, when Clinton might be tired and more likely to stumble: a previously unreported e-mail to her daughter, Chelsea, blaming the Benghazi attacks on terrorists at a time when other administration officials were saying they began as spontaneous demonstrations.

But the committee member assigned to confront Clinton with the e-mail was Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and it was he, not the witness, who seemed cranky and out of sorts. Perhaps the pressure of heading the Freedom Caucus of rejectionist House Republicans is getting to him.

Clinton explained that she wrote the e-mail in question after the terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia reportedly claimed credit for the attacks — but before that same group denied responsibility. Jordan ignored Clinton’s response and went on sputtering about an allegedly “false narrative.”

Clinton had already won the narrative contest, however. Hours earlier, she told the riveting story of how, as a Benghazi diplomatic compound burned, State Department security personnel desperately searched through thick black smoke for diplomat Sean Smith and Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. They found Smith’s body but did not know for many hours that Libyans had taken Stevens to a hospital and tried, but failed, to revive him.

Gowdy’s committee couldn’t decide exactly what Clinton was supposed to have done wrong. At times, the Republican members suggested she was too detached; at other times, they accused her of micromanagement. The fact that a friend and former aide named Sidney Blumenthal sent Clinton a number of self-important e-mails is somehow unforgiveable, I gather, although committee members were at pains to explain why.

In a hearing that began at 10 a.m. and ended 11 hours later, hardly any time was spent on the one legitimate issue arising from Benghazi: the wisdom of U.S. policy in Libya. U.S. military support helped oust a brutal dictator. But we also helped create a failed state where terrorism quickly took root.

Does Clinton have any second thoughts? Maybe a serious committee will ask her someday.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 26, 2015

October 27, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“What I Learned From Watching The Benghazi Hearing”: No One Can Doubt That Hillary Clinton Has Got What It Takes To Do The Job

Yes, I watched the entire 11 hours – although I must admit that my attention lagged every now and then. The Republicans on the committee threw everything they had at Hillary Clinton. Here are my two big take-aways from all that.

The line of questioning that came from Rep. Jim Jordan wasn’t new…it’s been the big accusation against President Obama, Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton from the get-go. The claim is that all of them tried to fool the American people into believing that the anti-Muslim video that was sparking demonstrations all over the Middle East (both peaceful and violent) was the cause of what happened in Benghazi, when it was really a “terrorist” attack. I guess they forgot about the shellacking Romney took during the 2012 presidential debate when Obama allowed him to dig a disastrous hole with, “Please proceed, Governor.”

But overall, this argument tells us a lot about Republicans. Clinton got into trouble during a previous Congressional investigation about Benghazi when she basically asked why all that mattered. From a reality-based perspective, she had a point.

It seems that for Republicans, the death of a U.S. Ambassador and 3 other Americans wouldn’t matter as much if they were the result of protests rather than a terrorist attack. That kind of thinking is exactly why they get so perturbed that President Obama won’t call ISIS “radical Islamists.” It’s all about the words you use rather than the actions those words describe.

For as long as I can remember, Republicans have been trying to scare us with the words they use to describe our adversaries. During the Cold War and McCarthy hearings, it was all about “communists.” Reagan called the Soviet Union the “evil empire” and George W. Bush talked about the “axis of evil.” Instead of going after those who were responsible for 9/11, the Bush/Cheney administration launched a “global war on terrorism.”

Given all that, Republicans know that Benghazi isn’t an adequate vehicle for fear mongering unless we call it a “terror attack.” If, instead, it was the result of an angry mob reacting to an anti-Muslim video, that dilutes the message. But in the end, as Clinton said, what difference does it really make? Would our response be any different if there was a slight change in what we learned about what motivated the attackers? I’d suggest that a reasonable response (not the kind we got from Bush/Cheney to 9/11) would not.

As is often the case, reality is a bit more nuanced than Republicans try to paint it. We learned that when one of the leaders of the Benghazi attack – Ahmed Abu Khattala – was captured.

Despite extensive speculation about the possible role of Al Qaeda in directing the attack, Mr. Abu Khattala is a local, small-time Islamist militant. He has no known connections to international terrorist groups, say American officials briefed on the criminal investigation and intelligence reporting, and other Benghazi Islamists and militia leaders who have known him for many years…

On the day of the attack, Islamists in Cairo had staged a demonstration outside the United States Embassy there to protest an American-made online video mocking Islam, and the protest culminated in a breach of the embassy’s walls — images that flashed through news coverage around the Arab world.

As the attack in Benghazi was unfolding a few hours later, Mr. Abu Khattala told fellow Islamist fighters and others that the assault was retaliation for the same insulting video, according to people who heard him.

In other words, one of the leaders of the attack had no known connections to international terrorist groups and used the video as a tool to recruit fighters to join in the attack. On the other hand, it was not a spontaneous reaction from protesters. It was a planned attack. People like Rep. Jim Jordan seem incapable of grasping that kind of nuance. Here he is lecturing former Secretary Clinton:

“You picked the video narrative. You picked the one with no evidence. And you did it because Libya was supposed to be…this great success story,” he said during one of his filibusters. “You can live with a protest about a video. That won’t hurt you. But a terrorist attack will.”

That, my friends, is the best distillation of Republican confusion about Benghazi that you’ll find anywhere.

The other thing I learned from watching the hearing is all about Hillary Clinton. I’ve always known that she is smart. But two things I’ve heard about her – especially during this campaign – is that her age is an issue and she tends to be evasive rather than direct when she feels challenged. Those two critiques were banished as completely irrelevant on Thursday.

The kind of stress a president deals with is only secondarily physical. It is mostly emotional. We need to know that the person we elect to that position is capable of keeping their cool when a lot of difficult things come their way. At 67, Hillary Clinton just withstood 11 hours (minus breaks) of people coming at her with every kind of attack and negative insinuation they could find. She did something I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have done under those circumstances…kept her cool and answered every question with intelligence and patience. Here’s how Jeb Lund summarized it:

She didn’t lose her cool under circumstances that would have sent any of us screaming for the exit or climbing over the dais to try to brain someone with a shoe. She was by far the most prepared person at the hearings and the most fluent in the details. She said the two funniest lines of the day, broke into a big natural grin, delivered a fairly riveting account of the fog of war during the events of the compound attack, and became visibly affected when talking about those harmed during it. The Republicans on the Benghazi committee just inadvertently put her through an 11-hour stress test of her intelligence, patience and composure as a leader. They just vetted their own opposition, and they did it through such a protracted, disingenuous, confused and obnoxious display that even people who have every right to feel ambivalent about her doubtless felt a twinge of sympathy.

People will continue to have their policy differences with Clinton. But no one can doubt that she’s got what it takes to do the job.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 24, 2015

October 25, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Fundamental Attribution Error”: What Hillary’s Benghazi Hearing Revealed About Life Inside The Republican Bubble

You’ll be forgiven for not knowing who Sidney Blumenthal is. If you don’t, and you tuned in midway through Hillary Clinton’s testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, you might have concluded that Blumenthal is either a high-ranking al Qaeda leader, a Soviet spy, or some combination of Bernie Madoff and Ted Bundy. In any case, you might have concluded that he’s a world-historical figure whose actions must be understood if America is to move forward into the future.

The ridiculously lengthy discussion about Blumenthal illustrates the problem Republicans have had with this entire investigation: They’re stuck in their own bubble, unable to see what things might look like from outside it.

In case you don’t know, Sid Blumenthal is a former journalist and longtime friend (and sometime employee) of the Clintons. For a variety of reasons, some more legitimate than others, Republicans regard him as a singularly sinister character. When it emerged that he had sent Hillary Clinton lots of emails about Libya (and other matters), they could barely contain their glee, going so far as to subpoena him to testify privately. He apparently failed to give them what they wanted, because up until now committee Chair Trey Gowdy has refused to release his testimony to the public. This is a replay of what happened in 1998 during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when independent counsel Ken Starr forced Blumenthal to testify about what he knew in that case (if you want a lengthy explanation of Blumenthal and his relationship to the Clintons, go here).

The point is that, from within the Republican bubble, Blumenthal’s connection to Benghazi, even if it consisted only of sending Hillary Clinton emails about Libya in general, proves that something fishy was going on. So naturally they’ll waste an hour or two of her testimony talking about the fact that he sent her lots of emails, which proves that…he sent her lots of emails.

This is what happens when you start an investigation that you’re sure will uncover evidence of nefarious goings-on. When you can’t find any malfeasance, you convince yourself that even mundane things are nefarious, like the fact that Hillary Clinton has a friend you don’t like.

Consider another topic of discussion at the hearing: the different stories that came out in the immediate aftermath of the attack explaining why the attack had occurred. The situation was chaotic, in large part because there were nearly simultaneous incidents at other American diplomatic outposts in the Middle East, growing out of protests of an anti-Muslim video that appeared online. At first, the administration said the Benghazi attack was like those in Cairo and Tunis, but it later became clear that it was more organized and planned (though the perpetrators may have opportunistically launched the attack precisely because so many protests were going on in so many places).

How should we understand the administration’s changing explanation? Was it mere spin? A reflection of the information that was available? Or was it scandalous? Throughout, Republicans have treated the Obama administration’s response as though it were not just scandalous, but possibly criminal. For instance, in May of last year, we learned of a memo that a White House communication official wrote at the time, encouraging staffers not to say Benghazi represented a failure of administration policy. In other words, a guy whose job it is to craft spin crafted some spin. But Republicans reacted as though they had caught Barack Obama personally killing those four Americans. “We now have the smoking gun,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham. “It’s the equivalent of what was discovered with the Nixon tapes,” said Charles Krauthammer.

A similarly enlightening discussion was brought up in Clinton’s hearing, with Republicans expressing such faux-outrage you’d think they were talking about one of the most diabolical propaganda campaigns in human history, and not a few comments that a few administration officials made to a few television shows. At another point in the hearing, a Republican congressman spent nearly 15 minutes aggressively interrogating Clinton over whether — brace yourself — her press secretary tried to make her look good to reporters. Only a truly diabolical figure could contemplate such a thing.

We’re all tempted to assume the worst about our political opponents. They can’t be just people we disagree with or even people whose values are different from ours. If we’re partisan enough, we end up thinking that everything our opponents do is for the worst motives. Those people on the other side don’t even make mistakes; when they screw up, it just shows how venomous their very hearts are. It’s the political version of what psychologists call the “fundamental attribution error,” in which we attribute our own actions to circumstance, but we attribute other people’s actions to their inherent nature. If I cut you off in traffic, it’s because I didn’t realize you were in my blind spot; if you cut me off, it’s because you’re a jerk.

And if Americans died at Benghazi, well it just had to be an outgrowth of Hillary Clinton’s infinite capacity for evil. She got emails from a guy we don’t like? Proof of just how wicked the whole thing was! Somebody in the administration described the events in a way that turned out to be inaccurate? Yet more proof!

Many conservatives watching the hearing no doubt concluded that it reinforced everything they think about Clinton: that she’s dishonest and untrustworthy, that she’s surrounded by unsavory characters, and that she is utterly at fault for the deaths of those four Americans in Benghazi. They also probably thought the Republicans on the committee were heroic in their efforts to pin her down.

But it’s hard to imagine lots of Americans who would agree, unless they are already committed Republicans. It wouldn’t be the first time Republicans thought they were doing great, while the rest of America saw the situation a little differently.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, October 23, 2015

October 24, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Exposed Their Own Ignorance Of Basic Government”: Benghazi Hearing; While Republicans Barked And Snarled, Hillary Smiled

To watch Hillary Clinton’s Republican antagonists during Thursday’s public hearing of the House Select Committee on Benghazi was to wonder how they could possibly behave the way they did. As representatives of the American people, they not only failed miserably to fulfill the responsibilities entrusted to them, but exposed their own blithering ignorance of basic aspects of government.

Determined as they were to encourage doubt about Clinton’s presidential candidacy, they instead elevated her and raised hard questions about their own knowledge, character, temperament, and intellectual capacity to serve in Congress. After months of “investigating” Clinton, the Republican committee members have developed only a dim understanding of simple phenomena — like the many and varied sources of information, beyond emails, that are available to the Secretary of State. Only someone very dense, very poorly informed, or both, would believe, for instance, that she had received “most of her intelligence about Libya,” or any other subject, in unclassified email traffic.

Often the sheer mindlessness of their inquiries was stunning: Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) asked Clinton whether she had been alone “all night” at home on Sept. 11, 2012, while the tragic events in Benghazi occurred. Rep. Mike Pompeo inquired whether the late Ambassador Chris Stevens had ever visited Clinton’s home or possessed her “fax number.” Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) demanded that Clinton admit that as Secretary of State she had overseen American policy toward Libya. Several of the Republicans interrupted her rudely, upbraided her for looking at notes, even while they read from their own notes, and demanded that she give “Yes or No” answers to their queries, as if they were prosecutors grilling a perp.

The lines of inquiry that the Republicans pursued were muddled, directionless, and confusing, seemingly even to them. As the Democrats repeatedly pointed out, after all the tumult over Clinton’s emails, the proceedings of this committee so far — following several legislative and administrative investigations — revealed nothing new about the terrorist attack on the US compound in Benghazi, its prelude, or its aftermath.

So what might American taxpayers have gleaned from those 11 hours of hearings, the culmination of an expenditure of 17 months and $4.8 million? They learned that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the committee chair, is obsessed with someone named Sidney Blumenthal, a friend of Clinton who sent her emails about Libya and other topics. He’s not just weirdly preoccupied, as anyone could see, but truly obsessed to the point of choking rage.

Those who have followed Gowdy’s conduct during the months leading up to this moment will find this Blumenthal business all too familiar. Having discovered that Blumenthal sent some emails to Clinton about Libya, largely incorporating information he had gathered from retired intelligence personnel, the chairman and his colleagues sought to fabricate a conspiracy theory of the Benghazi attack that somehow involved him.

Actually, “conspiracy theory” is too coherent a description of their aimless maundering on the topic of Sidney (who also happens to be my friend).

Gowdy appeared to believe – or perhaps pretended to believe – that if only the Secretary of State had ignored Blumenthal’s emails, the Benghazi attack might somehow have been prevented. According to this theory, she was paying too much attention to him, and not enough to Stevens.

In fact, as Clinton patiently attempted to explain over and over, she naturally delegated decisions about the safety of the Benghazi compound and personnel — and all perilous diplomatic posts — to the State Department’s security staff. Moreover, her communications with Blumenthal were, and are, entirely irrelevant to the matters that Gowdy purports to be investigating. Should Gowdy ever really wish to know why it is difficult to protect our embassies, consulates, and foreign service officers abroad, he might investigate himself and all the other Republicans who – as Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) acknowledged on Thursday – voted repeatedly to slash hundreds of millions of dollars from the State Department’s security budget.

As I noted in Politico months ago, back when Gowdy first embarked on the Blumenthal trail, this isn’t the first time that the former Washington Post and New Yorker journalist has driven Republican politicians to manic distraction. Like Clinton herself, he is a demonized figure in certain circles – but every time they go after him, they risk humiliation or worse.

Among the many low points of the Clinton hearing was the moment when Gowdy first refused a committee vote on releasing Blumenthal’s deposition before the committee, and then whipped a party-line vote to keep it under seal. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member who led his fellow Democrats in eloquently protesting the committee’s many abuses, asked Gowdy what he is hiding.

But of course Cummings already knows the answer: In that closed deposition last June, Gowdy and company asked Blumenthal dozens of questions about wholly irrelevant but highly political matters, such as his employment by the Clinton Foundation, Media Matters, and Correct the Record – even though Gowdy has publicly claimed that he had no interest in those subjects. To release Blumenthal’s testimony would risk exposing the committee chairman’s bad faith and clumsy deceptions.

By the time Rep. Trey Gowdy finally gaveled the hearing to a close, there was little doubt that Hillary Clinton’s composed, dignified demeanor – and the contrast between her and the Republicans — had notched another political victory for her. She had movingly recounted the events of that awful night in Benghazi, explained her actions in detail, firmly defended the honor of Accountability Review Board chairs Tom Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen, and pleaded for a return to statesmanship. Her strong performance rallied skeptical liberals to her side, while furious conservatives whined in despair.

And when it was over she rose from the witness chair, smiling and greeting friends, while Gowdy stalked out, stone-faced and perspiring, as if he had seen his own demise.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post, October 23, 2015

 

October 24, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“This Hearing Was A Dreadful Mistake”: GOP’s Benghazi Committee Comes Unglued

It’s easy to forget that when the Republicans’ Benghazi Committee initially sought testimony from Hillary Clinton, GOP officials wanted her to provide private, closed-door testimony. The former Secretary of State was eager to answer questions publicly, for all the world to see, but Republicans desperately wanted the discussion to be kept far from public view.

And after watching this farce unfold today, we now know why.

It’s hard to say exactly when today’s hearing descended into total farce, but it was arguably when Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), for reasons that didn’t appear to make any sense, quizzed Clinton repeatedly on her correspondence with informal adviser Sidney Blumenthal. The New Republic’s Brian Beutler highlighted the problem.

Republicans have intoned darkly about this relationship and played up, in deceptive fashion, Blumenthal’s influence over Clinton’s policy in Libya – despite the fact that he has no Libya expertise, and has apparently never been there. Republicans even deposed him for hours. But here’s the catch: while they continue to make an issue of Blumenthal’s relationship with Hillary Clinton, and their email correspondence, they’ve refused to release the transcript of that deposition, where he had a full opportunity to contextualize it.

Today, after Gowdy pressed Clinton on this – reinforcing every suspicion about the entire exercise being brazenly partisan and political – Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) couldn’t take it anymore. The Maryland Democrat insisted that if Republicans are going to reference Blumenthal’s role, then the committee has a responsibility to release the full transcript of Blumenthal’s testimony to the public.

Gowdy refused and a shouting match ensued. The far-right chairman, however, simply couldn’t defend his position or explain why GOP lawmakers insisted on keeping relevant information hidden from view.

It was arguably a low point in the hearing, but it had plenty of competition in the category.

It’s practically impossible to go through the several hours’ worth of exchanges we’ve seen so far, but I sincerely hope that it’s dawned on Republicans that this hearing was a dreadful mistake.

Whether GOP lawmakers realize it or not, they created a platform for the leading Democratic presidential candidate to speak before the nation and appear knowledgeable, articulate, compassionate, and competent. Simultaneously, the committee’s Republicans, who spent months preparing for today’s epic showdown, were hopelessly clueless and small.

Which strategic genius in Republican Party thought it’d be a good idea to pit Hillary Clinton against obscure, unprepared, far-right members of Congress? Why on earth would the GOP go out of its way to make the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination look like the adult in the room?

Clinton has often been blessed by incompetent opponents, but this is ridiculous.

What’s more, it’s too common. In early August, congressional Republicans scheduled hearings on the international nuclear agreement with Iran, and despite having months to prepare their best arguments and sharpest questions, they had nothing. Slate’s William Saletan attended all three hearings and came away flabbergasted: “Over the past several days, congressional hearings on the deal have become a spectacle of dishonesty, incomprehension, and inability to cope with the challenges of a multilateral world…. I came away from the hearings dismayed by what the GOP has become in the Obama era. It seems utterly unprepared to govern.”

A month later, congressional Republicans scheduled hearings on Planned Parenthood, and once again, they had months to prepare, organize their thoughts, coordinate their lines of attack, read their own charts, etc. And yet, they again seemed hopelessly lost.

As we discussed in September, conservative partisans should see congressional Republicans as poor allies, in large part because they don’t seem to do their homework especially well. They create opportunities to advance their interests, but then let those opportunities pass as a result of negligence and incompetence.

Disclosure: My wife works for a Planned Parenthood affiliate, but she played no role in this report and her work is unrelated to the September congressional hearing.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, October 22, 2015

October 23, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: