Friday, October 23, 2015

The Behghazi hearing farce

Hillary Clinton had a good day on Thursday at the Benghazi! Benghazi!! BENGHAZI!! hearings. "It might as well have been an informercial for the Clinton campaign," writes Josh Marshall. "Courtesy of the Benghazi Committee." (Long Twilight Struggle TPM 10/23/2015)

And Josh gives this description of her performance:

Clinton's time under questioning sent a number of messages. One was simply the scope of her knowledge and experience that made her questioners look increasingly insipid and small. But there was also a simple toughness and resilience under pressure. She knows her stuff and she's a pro. You could not watch that testimony and not come away with that conclusion. This engagement gave her a live telecast opportunity to demonstrate that fact, which is almost invaluable. It is very difficult to imagine any of the Republican presidential candidates - even the ones serving in the Senate - able to roll with that kind of questioning or show the range of knowledge and clarity that was required to do so. It is difficult to express the difficulty of being questioned for almost half a day and not slipping even once, not even the kind of negligible slip that only has any impact or resonance when repeated and distorted in endless repetition on Fox News.
Charlie Pierce makes an important point about "political" hearings in Why the Benghazi Hearing Was an Embarrassment to Representative Democracy Esquire Politics Blog 10/23/2015:

I would like to take a minute to defuse one line of historical analysis that even kindly Doc Maddow fell partly victim to as the hearing finally wrapped up, and as Trey Gowdy returned to his office to fill in his Uncle Beldar on the events of the day. It was said by many people that one of the reasons that the hearing was such an embarrassment to representative democracy was that the overt partisanship set it apart from similar hearings into similar events, like the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, or the bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, or the bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Partly because HRC and her partisans on the committee had been relentless in pointing out these events as precedents for how dangerous overseas work can be, an argument developed that these previous congressional investigations had been productive exercises in bipartisanship. There was an element of what the most excellent Digby calls "Tipnronnie" nostalgia to this argument that serves to obscure the fact that these investigations are always political.

As has been relentlessly argued ever since the issue of Benghazi, Benghazi!, BENGHAZI! was first raised, in the wake of the Marine barracks bombing in 1983, a Democratic congress launched an investigation that had no public hearings and that produced a bipartisan report that parceled out the blame. Nobody, it is said, tried to "politicize" the event. History does not necessarily indicate that this was a good thing. President Ronald Reagan, who was only mildly called to account for his administration's negligence in protecting Marines in a city where the United States embassy already was bombed, went on to deflect the nation's attention by invading Grenada, and he and his national-security team were emboldened to launch in full the various covert enterprises that came to be known as the Iran-Contra scandal. Perhaps a little "politicization" of the investigation might have been a good thing.

In fact, it is the congressional investigation into Iran-Contra that gives the lie to the nostalgia for the good old days of bipartisan investigation. The special committee chaired by then-Senator Daniel Inouye was intensely political, both on the surface and behind the scenes. Part of the reason that it became so politicized was that Inouye went out of his way to be fair and bipartisan. Among his other decisions, he refused to let the committee subpoena either President Reagan or vice-president George H. W. Bush, the latter of whom was able to duck responsibility for having been hip-deep in the scheme all the way into the White House himself. [my emphasis]
Joan Walsh (The Day the GOP Turned the Benghazi Tragedy Into a Farce The Nation 10/23/2015) pronounced this verdict on the outcome:

Right-wing commentators began throwing in the towel, and throwing tomatoes at Gowdy and Co., mid-afternoon. “Unless something happens, it’s starting to look like Hillary Clinton won’t merely survive this hearing—she will have come out on top,” The Week’s Matt Lewis tweeted. The New York Post’s John Podhoretz followed: “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.” Byron York’s Washington Examiner post was headlined “Benghazi bust.”

And so Clinton’s excellent October continued: After she aced last week’s debate (on style and substance if not ideology), she’s seen Vice President Joe Biden finally announce he won’t run, after Jim Webb gave up his cranky, long-shot bid. On Friday morning, Lincoln Chaffee, too, dropped out of the race. Let me channel the Beltway media, which never see anything as a positive for Clinton, and suggest it’s not to her advantage if the race gets dull and her nomination becomes inevitable. We’ll have to count on Senator Bernie Sanders to make sure that doesn’t happen.

But one thing is certain: She’s put the Benghazi Select Committee behind her.
Adele Stan offers her view of Why Hillary Makes Right-Wingers So Crazy The American Prospect 10/23/2015:

To be sure, there were real problems in the State Department’s operation of the Benghazi consulate. Why, indeed, was it left so unprotected? But these were not the questions Republican committee members sought to answer; the truth of mere human failings would do little to advance the massive conspiracy theory that right-wing Republicans have been selling about the Clintons since before the current candidate’s husband took office in 1992.

That conspiracy theory is a jumble of dark, murderous inferences against the Democratic power couple, all ginned up to suggest that the Clintons’ ultimate aim is to destroy America. In the latest iteration of the grand conspiracy theory, right-wingers hope to convince the public that Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration deliberately left the consulate unprotected for the express purpose of letting Americans die at the hands of Islamic extremist terrorists.
She suggests that the prominent role Hillary has played in American public life for the last quarter century has made her a particular target of rightwing phobias about women:

In the right-wing mind, there is nothing so ruinous to America as the liberation of women. The right’s entire ideological structure is built on worship of the Great White Father and veneration of the stern, Caucasian, disciplinarian dad. It’s a worldview centered on a jealous, blue-eyed Father God, a military dispatched to teach the world a lesson, and a president who serves as the national patriarch.

A President Hillary Rodham Clinton poses the gravest threat to that worldview yet—perhaps even graver than the threat to it posed by the nation’s first black president, given that more than half of Americans are women.
Without wading into it here, I'll just note that whether American rightwingers are more terrified of women than of black people is an open question.

I'll indulge one of my favorite pet peeves here. Adele Stan starts off her piece with, "When sizing up a politician’s potential for filling the role of commander-in-chief ..."

This has become standard political speak to call the President the Commander-in-Chief. Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution says, "The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States." The President is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces when they are on active duty.

The President isn't anyone else's "Commander-in-Chief," at least not according to the Constitution's definition of the role. The immediately following text says, "he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices." It doesn't even make him the "commander in chief" of the Executive Branch.

Routinely calling the President "Commander-in-Chief" strikes me as a bit of militarized language that we could better do without.

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