I had one of those "JFK/Nixon Debate" moments yesterday, as I happened to be driving as the Benghazi hearing got off to a start. I listened to Chairman Gowdy's remarks, then Ranking Member Cummings', and then finally Secretary Clinton. As I sat there, I was very impressed by her calm, her measure, and her command of the (albeit skewed) facts. During the course of the day, I had other opportunities to nip and and listen, and while the entire proceeding did not redound to the benefit of representative government, there were moments that seemed to redeem its conduct.
First--Mrs. Clinton did what she had to do, and more. She was presidential. She didn't lose her temper. If one is a Hillary supporter, one has much to be joyous about today.
But to be a Hillary supporter requires what she Herself referred to once as a "willing suspension of disbelief", or at least a very low regard for truth and honesty. Let me sum up some rather general thoughts I have about all this.
1. There was insufficient security provided to the diplomats and others we had on the ground in Benghazi. The requests to beef it up were not acted upon in a timely manner, due partially to bureaucratic inaction and partly to a matter of available resources. This conclusion has been repeated reached by every group that has looked into this matter.
2. On the 2012 anniversary of the September 11 attacks, our diplomatic mission in Benghazi came under attack. This, on a day where there were other uprisings in the Islamic world. On this very night at the highest levels of the Obama Administration, there was knowledge and near certainty that this attack was 1) planned and 2) carried out by an Al Qaeda affiliated organization. Secretary Clinton confirmed this in an email that she sent that night to a non-State Department person (her daughter) on her non-State Department email account housed on a non-State Department Server located in the bathroom of her non-State Department residence in New York. None of the previous "investigative" panels had access to this communication.
3. On September 12, Hillary Clinton told the Egyptian Prime Minister in a phone call "“We know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack -- not a protest.”. We know this now because it was contained in an email readout of the text of the call having been recorded for posterity on the non-State Department email account housed on a non-State Department server located in the bathroom of her non-State Department residence in New York. None of the previous "investigative" panels had access to this communication. Oh--did I mention that Mrs. Clinton attempted to "wipe" the server on which all of this "private" communication was located?
4. In Washington at this time (11-12 September), there was likely a very understandable level of chaos and a huge amount of information coming in that needed to be sifted through. The one explanation for the attack that the Obama team could not countenance was that it was a planned terror attack carried out by Al Qaeda. This is because they were in the endgame of a political campaign in which "Osama Bin Laden was dead and GM was alive". A central narrative was their contention that Mr. Obama's leadership had moved us beyond the war on terror by removing the Al Qaeda threat. And while the evidence pointed to this explanation, and while the Secretary of State was privately telling the Egyptian Prime Minister that it was Al Qaeda and while the Secretary of State was privately telling her daughter that it was "an Al Qaed-like" organization--they chose to publicly state that a video tape had inflamed a crowd and incited it to this attack. They maintained this public story for many days, including a Sunday trip by Susan Rice to five separate new programs in which she made this public claim--a claim which was in real -time disputed by members of the State Department's Near East Bureau. This clear evidence of a cover-up came to light as a result of "private" email correspondence that the Secretary of State tried to destroy from her non-State Department email housed on a non-State Department server located in the bathroom of her non-State Department residence in New York. None of the previous investigative panels had access to this communication.
Now for some thoughts on the people on the other side of this issue.
1. I have a brilliant and articulate friend who thinks the Republicans are just plain crazy for the degree to which they have investigated this. He thinks it is a sign of the degree to which we have become politically deranged. What I cannot convince him of is the importance of the degree to which the Obama team turned a stunning tragedy into a political situation--that because of their fear of a "September Surprise", they perpetrated a public cover-up that blatantly lied to the American people. This is worth investigating and worth raising.
2. I have another friend, a partisan Democrat, who is father to a number of beautiful young children. He is a huge Hillary booster and isn't quiet about it. I realize that I am being a very small-minded man, but I find myself wishing upon a star that one of his children grows though adolescence with Hillary's talents for lying and truth shading, and that he suffers the Karmic retribution due his acceptance of such a low bar of honesty.