The commanding showdown: For 11 hours, Hillary Clinton braved the Congressional Select Committee on Benghazi in order to get one of the last threats to her presidential candidacy out of the way.
Room 1100 of the Longworth House Office Building is one of the most pompous hearing rooms in the U.S. Capitol. Marble pillars, refined wood, chandeliers, gold curtains; everything reflects the power of the legislature.
Hillary Clinton refused to be intimidated. She sat alone in front of the representatives who looked down on her at the table to conduct a cross-examination. She mastered the inquisition with dignity, knowledge, humor and a charming southern accent. Or, as a reporter said, “She came, she saw, she conquered.”
It was Sept. 28, 1993, Clinton’s first appearance as first lady before the U.S. House of Representatives. The then 46-year-old Clinton was summoned to defend controversial health care reform, the planning of which her husband, President Bill Clinton, had entrusted to her.
Today, 22 years later, Hillary Clinton sat in the same room, with the same columns and chandeliers; at the same table, she was once again reduced to being a witness in an interrogation. And again she shone with dignity, knowledge and humor – only her southern accent had disappeared.
This time the committee conducting the inquiry bullied her about the terrorist attack in the Libyan city of Benghazi, in which four Americans perished in 2012, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Clinton was secretary of state at the time, and the Republicans wanted to attribute primary responsibility for the deaths to her and thus sabotage her presidential candidacy.
However, as in 1993, Clinton survived the two-hour cross-examination with ease, albeit at the end with a hoarse and cracking voice. The Republicans, however, were like schoolboys, who only stomped their feet out of sheer anger.
The Three Biggest Threats Are Eliminated
Clinton, the unsinkable. Within eight days, she has swept the three biggest threats in her race to the White House out of the way:
• The party’s declared rivals: In the first televised debate, Clinton scored points against the other candidates, including the popular Bernie Sanders. She also revealed that she cannot be stopped by any affair;
• Joe Biden: Behind the scenes, Clinton had already brought the most influential Democrats into line, 15 weeks before the primaries. The result: Even Vice President Biden gave up his candidacy.
• The Republicans: The Benghazi Committee was always conceived as a show trial, says Insider. But Clinton’s imperturbability unmasked the witch hunt.
The Benghazi Investigation
On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Islamic extremists stormed the U.S. consulate and a CIA station in Benghazi. In addition to Ambassador Stevens, a diplomat and two CIA officials were killed. The attack took place while protests against the Mohammed video, “Innocence of Muslims,” shook the Middle East.
Seven congressional committees, the FBI, and the State Department itself had investigated the assassination. The Benghazi Select Committee has determinedly continued for the past 17 months – longer than the Watergate Committee. The former cost the taxpayer $4.8 million.
The Republican committee chairman and ex-prosecutor Trey Gowdy played the chief prosecutor. He accused Clinton of deliberately letting her friend Stevens die.
Responsibility, Not Guilt
Clinton, unmoved, rebuffed the insult. She took “responsibility” but “no guilt.” She called on all of the 70,000 U.S. diplomats worldwide and appealed to the committee to “to find common ground.”* It was a campaign speech.
U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks heaved two stacks of papers onto her desk: the Clinton Benghazi emails in 2011 (a total of 765) and 2012 (a total of 67). “Why the discrepancy, Madame Secretary?” Brooks asked. Clinton replied chillingly, “I do not conduct most of my transactions through e-mail.”
The Republicans were obsessed with Clinton’s email correspondence on her private server – they had hoped to build on another scandal. They also revived the long and weary debate over whether the U.S. government had initially trivialized Benghazi as a mere demonstration against the Mohammed video.
Rep. Jim Jordan barked at Clinton, firing questions at her without letting her finish. Clinton offered him familiar answers available in her autobiography, “Hard Choices.” “I’d be glad to send it to you, congressman,” she said.
Nothing sticks to Teflon Clinton. Finally, committee members were loudly fighting among themselves, while the witness, her chin resting in her hand, watched the spectacle with only amusement.
Only towards the end did Clinton become emotional, like she had reserved tears for this brief moment, as she recalled how she visited the wounded CIA agents in Benghazi. “Secretary, please do everything you can to make sure I get to go back in the field,” he had begged her.
She fulfilled his wish – as one of her last acts as secretary of state.
Summary: The Congressional Select Committee on Benghazi put questions to Hillary Clinton about the terrorist attack in the Libyan city of Benghazi. In 2012, four Americans were killed while Clinton was the U.S. secretary of state. The Republicans wanted to use the 11-hour hearing to discredit the Democratic Clinton, who is a candidate for the presidency. But she remained in command; her key message was that although she bears responsibility, she does not bear any guilt.
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