No doubt the Republican postmortem of yesterday’s Benghazi hearings will show they should be kicking themselves for ever forcing Secretary Hillary Clinton to appear before the House Committee. She endured an 11-hour debacle as she handled GOP questions professionally and – yes, presidentially – and she showed none of the partisanship in her answers that define this Republican-led committee.
Secretary Clinton was not the only Democratic hero of the day. As Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the Committee’s Chair, and the rest of the doles on his committee became more and more frustrated over their inability to dishonestly connect Clinton’s emails to Benghazi, they became downright abusive. In coming to Mrs. Clinton’s defense, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the Committee’s ranking Democrat, offered what the NY Times called a “full-throated” defense of Hillary’s honor – “apologizing to her for his colleagues who suggested that she did not care for the people who died on her watch.” What became a shouting match with Gowdy, Cummings went on to accuse “the Republicans of using taxpayer dollars to try to destroy Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign. Do we want to badger you over and over again until you do get so tired so we get the gotcha moment?”
Cummings, you will recall, was the person who asked the CIA to declassify partially redacted documents that had been released a couple of weeks ago by Gowdy, which he, Gowdy, claimed showed Clinton emailed classified information from her infamous personal server. It turned out that Gowdy accidentally released the name of the person who was purported to be classified in the email. But, to make matters worse, in response to Cummings’ request, the CIA said the document was never classified in the first place, forcing Gowdy to make a ‘full-throated’ admission to another political attempt to discredit Mrs. Clinton – that he purposefully altered the document. In fact, he went crying to Politico last week about this and the Republican mea-culpas about the political motives of his committee: “I would say in some ways these have been among the worst weeks of my life” – complaining that Democrats were “attempting to ‘delegitimize’ his panel and discredit his personal reputation ahead of Clinton’s high stakes testimony on Thursday.”
The only ones responsible for delegitimizing his panel and, at the same time, wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on a discredited political witch-hunt are Republicans themselves. Republicans, during the hearing, kept trying to suggest Mrs. Clinton was taking advice from a discredited friend Sidney Blumenthal by referring to his closed-door testimony before them on his role in Libyan strategy. Republicans suggested Mrs. Clinton gave more credibility to Blumenthal’s ideas than Ambassador Stevens, the American Ambassador to Libya who was murdered along with three other Americans in the assault on the Benghazi Consulate in 2012. Gowdy has refused to release the transcripts of this purported testimony from Blumenthal before the committee. Cummings, several days ago, sent a letter asking that the transcripts be released, which culminated in a shouting match yesterday between Gowdy and Cummings, with Cummings demanding the transcripts be released as part of his impassioned defense of Mrs. Clinton.
Any way you look at it, Republicans did not serve their cause well yesterday – and both the establishment and the fringe extremists took to the media to disparage Gowdy and the committee in general. One conservative commentator tweeted during the hearing: “Unless something happens, it’s starting to look like Hillary Clinton won’t merely survive this hearing — she will have come out on top.” While another said of committee member Rep. Mike Pompeo’s (R-KS) belligerence: “Why doesn’t Pompeo just go over and swear her in for president now–if he goes on like this he’ll practically get her elected.” What once looked like his ticket to Republican superstardom has now become a curse – he will shoulder the blame for allowing Hillary to emerge unscathed, having utterly failed in his mission to discredit her and having achieved nothing but making them all look like fools.
In the end, Rep. Cummings has become a Democratic hero and household name for his impassioned defense of Hillary Clinton, and as Jonathon Allen, Vox.com said: “Clinton showed that she does believe in American exceptionalism – she can be non-partisan, serious, and policy-minded – her mental acuity superior to pretty much anyone you know – Yes, she is human, and yes she has the energy to be president” Hopefully no one will ever give Trey Gowdy another microphone.
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