A special House committee investigating the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012 that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans may have helped Hillary Clinton become president of the United States.
The former secretary of state refused an invitation to testify in private, as other witnesses had done, probably because she thought her appearance would benefit her presidential prospects in at least three ways: She could make the Republican committee members look inept; the major media would protect her, and average people would not pay attention; if they did, they would believe what the media told them. She was right on all three counts.
Hillary Clinton refused to be lured into a fight with Republican committee members. Unlike a previous appearance during which she shouted, "What difference does it make?" when asked if the Benghazi attack stemmed, as the administration asserted, from a spontaneous protest gone too far, this latest appearance was designed to feature Clinton as strong, cool and in control, all qualities necessary in a president.
Republican members were unable to rattle her or get her to admit she lied when she initially blamed the attack on terrorists in emails to her daughter and in a call to Egypt's prime minister but said in public that the attacks were inspired by a crude Internet video satirizing the Prophet Mohammed. Various pundits have asserted that it is because the Obama administration had claimed that the death of bin Laden marked "...the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat al-Qaida," and the narrative was a critical component in the president's re-election strategy. The administration couldn't afford to acknowledge that neither al-Qaida, nor terrorism, had been dealt a mortal blow.
If the public were paying attention -- and in the age of the Kardashians that is doubtful -- they probably wouldn't care if Hillary Clinton lied about Benghazi or her emails. The bar for honesty among politicians is so low that it is no longer news when politicians lie, only when they tell the truth. Still, many opinion polls, including a July 2015 Quinnipiac University national poll, find that a majority of the American people believe her to be untrustworthy.
The major media are openly and shamelessly boosting Clinton and her presidential campaign and will continue to clear a path for her all the way to the Democratic presidential nomination and to Election Day. Every major newspaper declared Hillary the winner in the 11-hour marathon hearing. So, too, the TV networks.
A USA Today Weekend headline said: "Plenty of Fireworks, No Smoking Gun."
The conservative Media Research Center listed more: Thursday's "NBC Nightly News" concluded that she "stood her ground" as the committee "dissolved into bickering" while she "stayed above the fray" and removed "Benghazi from being an issue in the 2016 campaign."
ABC's "World News Tonight," which usually doesn't worry about government spending, featured anchor David Muir complaining three times about the cost of the Benghazi investigation. Chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl observed that Republicans "really didn't succeed" in "draw(ing) blood" from Hillary Clinton.
Appearing on the "CBS Evening News," political director John Dickerson said that Clinton "avoid(ed)" falling into any "pitfalls" as those questioning her fought "like cats and dogs."
On CNN, Anderson Cooper interviewed political commentator Carl Bernstein, who gushed over Clinton's performance while comparing Republicans to Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee for conducting an "abusive" hearing. In the next hour, on "CNN Tonight," Bernstein resurfaced, trotting out the same comparison against "a group of demagogues," adding that Hillary "did great" in using "the facts at her command."
There were several references to the stupid comment by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who said, "Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi Special Committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable."
The big question for Republicans is who is strong and credible enough to take Hillary Clinton on in a debate after first securing the party's nomination? Ask me that question in March.
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Cal Thomas, America's most-syndicated columnist, is the author of 10 books.