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

“Republicans Punish Their Own For Speaking The Truth”: Sometimes, The Biggest Sin You Can Commit In D.C. Is To Tell The Truth

“A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth — some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.” — journalist Michael Kinsley

So another Republican congressman has come forward to admit that his party’s Benghazi obsession is little more than an undisguised effort to damage the presidential campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner.

In a radio interview on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) defended his colleague, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who had acknowledged that obvious truth as well.

“Sometimes the biggest sin you can commit in D.C. is to tell the truth. This may not be politically correct, but I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people and an individual: Hillary Clinton,” said Hanna.

Well, of course. Anyone who has been paying the slightest attention already knows that the unending series of Benghazi “investigations” began as a way to embarrass the administration of President Barack Obama, including his then-secretary of state. When Clinton announced her presidential campaign, the investigations began to center on her (and are now more focused on her use of a private email server).

If you only dimly recall the origin of the GOP battle cry “Remember Benghazi!” it started with a tragedy. On Sept. 11, 2012, Christopher Stevens, then U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans were killed in separate assaults by Islamic jihadists on U.S. installations in Benghazi, Libya. Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979.

The incident deserved a thorough probe to see whether there was anything that could have been done to prevent the deaths of diplomatic personnel in the future: Was security too lax? Intelligence ignored? The area too dangerous for diplomats?

But in the days after the deaths, it became clear that leading Republicans were much more interested in scoring their own attacks on Democratic targets than investigating the “Battle of Benghazi,” as it has been called. For one thing, they focused on such superficial and unimportant details as whether Susan Rice, then the president’s national security adviser, had clearly described the assault as “terrorism” or merely extremism. It’s not at all clear what difference that makes, but that line of attack derailed any shot she had at succeeding Clinton as secretary of state.

With that, Republicans were emboldened. And they haven’t given up their efforts to sink some notable Democrat with even a tenuous link to Libya and its national security implications.

They’ve not had any luck so far. After seven congressional and two executive-branch investigations, there has been no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, malfeasance or cover-up. The last was an exhaustive probe conducted by the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee; it found no evidence that either the U.S. military or the CIA had acted improperly. There was no delay in sending a military rescue team, as many conservatives have insisted.

So there was no genuine surprise at what McCarthy told Fox News in a September interview:

“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,” McCarthy told Sean Hannity.

Still, he paid dearly for the slip. Criticized by Republican leaders for dropping the gauzy veil over their nakedly partisan smear campaign, he was forced to abandon his plan to succeed John Boehner as speaker of the house.

McCarthy was supposed to keep up the pretense that the House Select Committee on Benghazi is conducting a high-minded probe free of partisan tilt. And that pretense continues. Clinton will appear before the committee later this month.

If there is any better example of the excessive and stultifying partisanship that has laid waste to Washington, it’s hard to know what that may be. After all, it can hardly be considered shocking that an American diplomat was killed in a dangerous country full of Islamic militants. Tragic, gut-wrenching, awful, yes. Shocking, no.

Still, the GOP’s listing and rudderless Benghazi ship — white whale on the horizon — sails on.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, October 17, 2015

October 18, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, House Intelligence Committee, House Select Committee on Benghazi | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“The Ignorant Inquisitors”: Capitol Hill’s Angry Little Men Keep Making Hillary Clinton Bigger

Anyone truly concerned about the safety of U.S. diplomatic personnel abroad – and that should include every American – has fresh reason for fury over last September’s disaster in Benghazi and its aftermath. But the target of public anger should not be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose conduct has been exemplary ever since the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three of his brave colleagues lost their lives last September. Far more deserving of scorn are the likes of Rand Paul (R-KY), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and all the other grandstanding, conspiracy-mongering, ill-informed politicians who questioned her Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

Four months after the tragedy occurred, Republicans on both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee still seem to be obsessed with the talking points provided to UN Ambassador Susan Rice before she appeared on television to discuss the incident. According to Republican folklore, unsupported by facts, the Obama White House engaged in a conspiracy to conceal the true nature of the terrorist attack by mischaracterizing it as a “demonstration.” The continuing focus on that trivial issue – long since explained by Rice herself, as well as retired General David Petraeus and others, under oath – understandably provoked an exasperated Clinton to scold Johnson, one of the dimmer idols of the Tea Party.

When the Wisconsin Republican began to harp on this topic yet again – interrupting her answer, after stupidly asserting that Clinton could have resolved any questions about the attack with “a very simple phone call” to the burned-out Benghazi compound – she responded sharply:

With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because there was a protest or was it because there were guys who went out for a walk one night who decided they would kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and to do everything we can to make sure it never happens again.

No doubt Clinton’s utterly sane retort will undergo dishonest editing, in the style of James O’Keefe, to make her sound cavalier or arrogant. But it is the Republicans in Congress whose attitude toward the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his fallen comrades has seemed cynical and false, ever since they first sought to exploit the incident politically during the presidential campaign. Meanwhile, having historically supported reductions in federal spending on diplomatic security, they have done nothing useful so far to enhance the safety of Americans serving abroad. Worse still, their questions to Clinton indicate that very few of them, even at this late date, have bothered to learn the basic facts surrounding the Benghazi incident.

By contrast, Clinton has assumed responsibility in a meaningful way ever since September 11 – which is to say that she has taken action to ensure a serious response. As required by law, she empowered an independent investigation, which resulted in dozens of recommendations for improved security and held several high-ranking State Department officials to account for the lapses in Libya. It is worth noting that Thomas Pickering, the distinguished former diplomat who led the probe, fixed culpability for the security flaws at Benghazi at “the assistant secretary level,” rather than with Clinton herself. Nobody in Washington understands the workings of the U.S. foreign service better than Pickering, who served in top positions under both presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Certainly not Johnson or Paul, who rather comically asserted that “if [he] were president,” he would have fired Clinton. Always hard to imagine, a Paul presidency seemed even more remote when he quizzed her about obscure right-wing conspiracy theories involving Syria, Turkey, and Libya.

As Joan Walsh observed in Salon, those irate and ignorant inquisitors on Capitol Hill appeared small and peevish in their confrontation with Clinton, a woman whose serious, diligent, tireless approach to public service has armed her with an enduring popularity at least three times greater than her Republican adversaries in Congress. Their feeble attempts to cut her down, echoed by the usual loudmouths on radio and cable television, only make her bigger.

If they persist, she probably will be president someday.

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, January 24, 2013

January 25, 2013 Posted by | State Department | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Abhorrent”: Libyan Ambassador’s Death Should Not Be A Political Issue, Says Dad

The father of Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya who was killed in the attack in Benghazi last month, said his son’s death shouldn’t be politicized in the presidential campaign.

“It would really be abhorrent to make this into a campaign issue,” Jan Stevens, 77, said in a telephone interview from his home in Loomis, California, as he prepares for a memorial service for his son next week.

Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, has criticized President Barack Obama for not providing adequate security in Libya, saying the administration has left the country exposed to a deadly terrorist attack.

The ambassador’s father, a lawyer, said politicians should await the findings of a formal investigation before making accusations or judgments.

“The security matters are being adequately investigated,” Stevens said. “We don’t pretend to be experts in security. It has to be objectively examined. That’s where it belongs. It does not belong in the campaign arena.” Stevens said he has been getting briefings from the State Department on the progress of the investigation.

The question of whether the embassy attack and the ambassador’s death are being politicized came up on several Sunday morning television talk shows.

Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod said on “Fox News Sunday” that Romney is “working hard to exploit this issue.”

Citing the interview with Stevens’ father, Axelrod said, “we ought to follow ambassador’s family and allow this investigation to run and get to the bottom of it.”

Robert Gibbs, senior adviser to the Obama campaign, also cited the comments by Stevens’ father and said Romney is “playing politics with this issue.”

“We don’t need wing-tip cowboys,” Gibbs said on CNN’s“State of the Union” program. “We don’t need shoot-from- the-hip diplomacy, and when Mitt Romney first responded to what was going on in Libya, his own party called him out for insensitivity.”

Romney campaign adviser Ed Gillespie said on the Fox program that the country needs “honest and accurate answers.” “What we have seen is a constantly shifting story from this administration,” Gillespie said.

“Why wasn’t security there?” Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a Romney supporter, said on ABC’s “This Week” program. “I believe folks deserve an explanation.”

Stevens said that, while he was close to his son, “we weren’t that familiar with the day-to-day activities” he undertook in Libya. On the occasions when his son called home, Stevens said, he didn’t share many details about his work other than to say that “he was very optimistic about the results of the election and the new government.” They last spoke by phone in August and by e-mail days before his son’s death.

Stevens, a registered Democrat, said he isn’t politically active. He declined to say how he’ll vote in the presidential election.

He said his son, who was a career diplomat and had worked for Republican and Democratic presidents, hadn’t expressed concerns to him about security or support from the administration. “He felt very strongly about Secretary Clinton,” Stevens said, referring to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “He felt she was an extremely able person.”

As for whether he had the tools and protection he needed for his job, Stevens said of his son: “We didn’t get into that” sort of discussion. “I never heard him say a critical word about the State Department or the administration, or any administration for that matter. He came up through the foreign service, not politics.”

Stevens said neither of the two presidential campaigns reached out to him, and that he is grateful for that. He said Obama telephoned him after his son’s death to express his regrets and talk about identifying the perpetrators who should be brought to justice, and that the conversation was in the context of his presidential duties and not political.

While polls indicate that voters say Obama would do a better job on foreign policy issues, Republicans see an opportunity to cut into that advantage, pointing to surveys showing that voters have grown less satisfied since the Sept. 11 assault in Libya.

Stevens stopped short of directly criticizing either candidate.

“I’m not sure exactly what he’s been saying and not saying, but our position is it would be a real shame if this were politicized,” Stevens said, referring to Romney. “Our concern now is memorializing Chris and remembering his contribution to the country.”

Romney’s current foreign policy position marks a shift in tone from a campaign that has focused almost exclusively on economic issues and jobs.

The Romney team is attempting to link two campaign messages by charging Obama with weakening American interests abroad at the same time as he’s failed to boost the economy back home.

Speaking to voters on Oct. 12 in Richmond, Virginia, Romney chastised Vice President Joe Biden for his defense of the administration’s actions in the Libya attack.

“He’s doubling down on denial, and we need to understand exactly what happened as opposed to just having people brush this aside,” Romney said.

During last week’s vice presidential debate, Biden said the White House wasn’t told of a request for additional security at the mission in Benghazi the month before the incident.

State Department official Eric Nordstrom, who served as a regional security officer in Tripoli until July, told a congressional committee that he was turned down when he requested an extension of a 16-member security support team that was scheduled to leave Libya in August.

Romney hasn’t specified what he would do differently than the administration in Libya. In a speech at the Virginia Military Institute earlier last week, he called for support of Libya’s “efforts to forge a lasting government” and to pursue the “terrorists who attacked our consulate.”

That view is at odds with the position Romney took more than a year ago, when he opposed expanding the intervention in Libya to capture Muammar Qaddafi, calling it “mission creep and mission muddle” in April 2011.

Neither the administration’s initial public report that the attack began with a spontaneous demonstration against an anti- Islamic video clip nor Republican suggestions that it was a planned attack tied to al-Qaeda are supported by U.S. intelligence reports or by accounts of the night provided to a Bloomberg reporter by Benghazi residents.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that “the president wants to get to the bottom of what happened.”

Carney also sought to minimize questions about why the president and other administration officials were slow to publicly acknowledge the role of terrorism in the attack.

“As time went on, additional information became available,” Carney said. “Clearly, we know more today than we did on the Sunday after the attack. But as the process moves forward and more information becomes available, we will be sure to continue consulting with you.”

 

By: Margaret Taley, Bloomberg, October 14, 2012

October 14, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: