Yesterday’s Congressional hearings on Benghazi had very little, if anything to do with fact-finding.
From beginning to end it was political theatre. Republicans finally got their chance to confront presumptive presidential candidate and current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Their goal: to ruffle her feathers, to make her look bad, to take her down a notch and to show the nation that she is not as competent as the mythmakers would like.
And they had to do it without looking like they were bullying a woman. Any male Republican who had been too harsh on poor Hillary would have been called out for being abusive.
Clinton is a master of self-control and self-abnegation. Yet, she lost it while being questioned by Senator Ron Johnson:
Clinton: With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans.
Johnson: I understand.
Clinton: 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?
It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator. Now, honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this. But the fact is that people were trying in real time to get the best information….But, you know, to be clear, it is, from my perspective, less important today looking backwards as to why these militants decided they did it than to find them and bring them to justice, and then maybe we’ll figure out what was going on in the meantime.
Of course, it’s all about the context.
At first, Clinton seemed to be articulating a new Clinton doctrine. On its face her line was positively idiotic:
She said: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”
According to this Clinton doctrine, since we had “four dead Americans” it made no difference whether it was a “protest” or “guys out for a walk one night.”
Cleverly, Clinton offered two false alternatives. She did not at this point consider that it was a planned terrorist attack and that her State Department should have foreseen it and protected the ambassador.
Grant that she never saw Ambassador Stevens’ cable. She is still responsible, as she liked to say, but that means that she should have resigned her office.
Immediately after the event, Clinton sidled up to the father of one of the Navy Seals who had been murdered in Benghazi and promised to bring the “filmmaker” to justice.
If you take her doctrine more liberally, consider what it would look like in practice. Imagine the police being called to a crime scene, preparing to investigate how and why there are four dead bodies in the parlor.
And then, the prosecutor comes by and tells the police: nothing is going to bring them back from the dead, so it makes no difference whether it was a random act of violence or a planned attack?
One appreciates that Clinton, who had paid lip service to her own responsibility, got testy when a senator had the nerve to believe that her words actually meant something.
Immediately after she uttered the new Clinton Doctrine, she walked it back.
It makes a difference, she said, that we know what happened because we want to ensure that it never happens again. Finally she called the perpetrators “militants.” She did not name them “Islamist” militants, because they would have offended the commander in chief.
If “What difference… does it make?” does not mean that we should not conduct an investigation, what was Hilary Clinton talking about?
She was saying: why pick on me? She was seriously discommoded for being held accountable. Didn't they realize that she wasn't really in charge?
James Taranto captured the essence of the encounter:
As we watched this exchange, it occurred to us that Mrs. Clinton was back in a familiar role, and an ironic one for someone who is supposed to be a feminist icon. Once again, she was helping the most powerful man in the world dodge accountability for scandalous behavior.
Of course, if she had been sent up to take the hit for a powerful man, then clearly, she was saying that she herself did not have a real say in the non-response to the attack on the Benghazi consulate.
The men were in charge, and now they are sending out the one woman to take the hit.
It is not quite as ironic as Taranto suggests. Hillary is articulating a basic feminist principle: men like to posture as strong and competent, but it’s all a sham to cover up their weakness. That’s why, when they get in trouble they have to call on a woman to defend and protect them.
Clinton feels like a mother who is again being called on to protect an errant schoolboy.
She was making a call for women’s empowerment. If she has to take the fall then at least she should have the responsibility for making the real decisions. She is seriously tired of having to take blows that should be directed at men.