It was clear from the questioning at today’s hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the questioners had their minds made up months ago.
And the tone of the queries was sharply divided: from effusive, almost sycophantic, praise for Secretary of State Clinton — who currently enjoys a record-high 69 percent approval rating — to blistering rhetoric from the opposition.
And those who expected Clinton would mealy mouth her way through today’s hearings were terrifically disappointed.
Clinton remained poised throughout the verbal lashings she received from Republicans with former and current presidential aspirations: senators McCain and Rand Paul respectively. Later, she choked back tears when describing the day she met with the families of the victims who were killed in the attack in Libya.
The histrionic pyrotechnics from the secretary’s adversaries, however, paled as Clinton fiercely and eloquently defended herself and the Obama administration.
When needled with sophistic posturings over whether United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice had “intentionally mislead” the American people and if the attacks had been planned or were protests gone awry, Clinton responded sharply and punctuated her words by banging her hand on the table.
“With all due respect, the fact is that we had four dead Americans, Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?”
Senator Rand Paul, in a patronizing tone said he was glad to see Clinton in good health and able to attend the hearing. Then seemingly without missing a beat, he said Clinton’s response to Benghazi was “inexcusable” and that had he been president, he would have fired her.
The Obama administration, having investigated the situation, found Clinton not at fault for the Benghazi incident; however, four lower-level officials were placed on administrative leave.
And in a patent moment of disingenuousness, and feigned fury, Senator Paul equated the attacks of September 11, 2001, which left over 3,000 Americans dead in their own homeland, with the attack on the eleventh anniversary of September 11th of four Americans in a consulate in northern Africa.
This is the list of incidents at United States embassies and consulates during the Bush administration:
- 2002: U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan attacked — 51 people injured, 10 killed.
- 2004: U.S. Embassy bombed in Uzbekistan.
- 2004: Gunmen stormed U.S. Consulate in Saudi Arabia.
- 2006: Gunmen U.S. Embassy in Syria.
- 2007: Grenade launched into U.S. Embassy in Athens.
- 2008: Rioters set fire to U.S. Embassy in Serbia.
- 2008: Bombing of U.S. Embassy in Yemen — 10 people killed
Rand, who called it the “worst tragedy since 9/ll,” adding “and I mean that,” seems to also have forgotten the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the shootings in Aurora, Sandy Hook and Tucson, as well as the devastation left by hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.
Throughout the day’s testimony Republicans repeatedly attempted to thwart Clinton’s future political ambitions with a Benghazi bring-down. They failed. To say that the G.O.P. actually cares how the Americans died in Benghazi on the eleventh anniversary of September 11th is folly: they care about attacking the Democratic Party.
Earlier today the secretary of state reminded a congressman that the actual purpose of the review board was not to involve itself with “politics” and “emotion.” However, if you were to remove those two factors, the only sounds from hearing today would have been the creaking of chairs and words “and” and “the.”