How the Benghazi Hearings could still hurt Hillary Clinton

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The conventional media wisdom about Hillary Clinton’s testimony before the Benghazi Select Committee last week was pretty much typified by Byron York of the Washington Examiner. The hearings, so goes the narrative, were a bust insofar as highlighting Clinton’s incompetence and malfeasance surrounding the attack of the diplomatic compound that took the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. That is because any information along those lines was buried by the media in favor of sound bites of Democratic members of the committee yelling at the Republican members, creating an impression of partisan bickering.

How the Benghazi Hearings could still hurt Hillary Clinton

However, no matter what the optics, Ron Fournier at the National Journal notes that Clinton was evasive and even outright dishonest in many of her answers.

“One after another, GOP committee members questioned Clinton about why her department rejected Stevens’ repeated requests for additional security. She deflected the questions by claiming the requests were handled by State Department security experts. The pleas never got to her.

“One after another, GOP committee members questioned Clinton about her advocacy for the ill-fated intervention in Libya. She deflected the questions by saying President Obama made the final decision. Not her.

“One after another, committee members questioned her about the stream of emails she received from political troublemaker Sidney Blumenthal, who passed along intelligence on Libya and his negative views about the Obama White House.

“They kept asking: Why could a former reporter lobby the secretary of State directly while there was no evidence that Stevens had her private email address?

“The ambassador and his urgent security concerns went through other channels, Clinton replied.”

The hearings also revealed that Clinton knew that the attack was not the result of a spontaneous uprising as the result of a video. The reason we now know this is because she emailed her daughter Chelsea that the attack was carried out by an Al-Qaeda affiliate the night the attack occurred. Clinton and the rest of the Obama administration pushed the video story for weeks afterwards, even lying about it to the grieving families of the fallen.

By Sunday, Byron York, who had declared Clinton the winner on Friday, was also enumerating her various lies and evasions. Even Maureen Dowd, after taking rote shots at the Benghazi Committee, also took Hillary Clinton to task for her disastrous record in the Middle East.

Why would Hillary Clinton spin the lie about the video? The video story best suited the election-year narrative that President Obama was using that Al Qaeda was on the ropes. One could hardly stick to that story if Al Qaeda was busily murdering American ambassadors.

All of this leads us to the central question, did Clinton’s testimony hurt or help her. Initially, it was likely a wash. If you hated Hillary before the hearings, you likely hated her afterwards. If you loved her before the hearings, nothing that occurred would likely change your mind. That result was only to be expected. Absent a Perry Mason-style meltdown in which Clinton admitted everything, the hearings were not likely to move public opinion either way.

But the eleven-hour-long video of the hearings contains ample material that Hillary Clinton’s enemies can use to strike at her. A lot of people don’t get their news from traditional outlets such as TV and the newspapers. They get it from social media. In the coming months, plenty of Facebook and Twitter postings using video from the hearings will spread through cyberspace to further undermine Hillary Clinton and her presidential aspirations,

With all due respect to the members of the media who have declared Clinton the winner and still champion, the narrative of October 2015 matters little compared to that of October 2016. The drip of information and commentary will solidify Hillary Clinton’s image in the minds of many as mendacity personified. Such a person cannot be elected president.

That is the case if she is not indicted first.

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Mark R. Whittington writes about world politics for Capitalist Review. He is the author of Why Is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon? a study of the politics of lunar exploration.

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