I suppose I owe it to my faithful readers to weigh in on Hillary Clinton’s appearance before the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
After all, I have written six or seven columns on the tragic attack on our consular mission in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, bemoaning the lack of accountability for the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service officer Sean Smith, and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
Yes, multiple “hearings” have been held previously, but mostly for the purpose of collecting data, rather than finding out who or what was to blame for the policy and logistical blunders that made our team such easy targets on the anniversary of the World Trade Center attack. It was therefore reasonable to hope for a comprehensive investigation by Congress to get to the bottom of the blunders that left four men dead.
It was always obvious to me, and to anyone who cared to look, that the Obama administration was spinning the story from the very first day. Susan Rice’s fabled fib about how a YouTube video inspired the attack was so indigestible that only the most willfully blind could have swallowed it without gagging. Everything we learned that wasn’t spoon-fed to us by the White House or Clinton’s State Department plainly showed that the attack was not a random spontaneous move against Americans but rather a military-style assault led by Ansar-al-Sharia, the local version of al-Qaida.
What the nation wanted, and common decency demanded, was a straight answer to who botched the security procedures for the consular mission, who countermanded military intervention to try to protect the mission and its CIA annex, who made up the story about the YouTube video and what exactly were they trying to cover up. The answers to a lot of those questions have been pieced together over the intervening three years, but the official story remains the same: The Benghazi attack was an unfortunate and regrettable incident that could not have been foreseen, could not have been prevented, could not have been repelled, could not have been explained and could not possibly reflect badly on either Secretary Clinton or President Obama.
Sadly, the public questioning of Clinton on Wednesday did not change anything. Give Clinton credit. The Democratic presidential frontrunner, aided capably by the Democratic members of the select committee, was able to deter and deflect all efforts by her Republican questioners to try to find out who was to blame for the many mistakes and outright lies of Benghazi.
Did we learn anything? Yes, but not as a result of Clinton’s measured and predictably unresponsive responses. After three years, she is well-rehearsed and unshakeable in her contention that she did nothing wrong.
The new information that came to light had nothing to do with Clinton’s testimony, but with a few revelations from Clinton’s infamous emails, such as her privately telling daughter Chelsea on the night of the attack that it was carried out by an “al Qaeda-like group” while publicly starting to spin the wacky “YouTube did it” scenario.
Rep. Trey Gowdy and his committee would have been better served just to release those damning documents directly to the public rather than question Clinton about them for something like 11 hours. The only thing they accomplished was to turn her into a sympathetic figure, if not a partisan martyr.
It would have only made sense to question her if the committee had developed evidence and witnesses independently that might have impeached Clinton’s testimony. In other words, they needed someone to turn on her the way John Dean ratted out Nixon in the Watergate hearings. But what they got instead was what Bob Dylan called, in another context, too much of nothing.
“And when there’s too much of nothing/Nobody should look.”