Former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, who is also the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for President, withstood an eleven hour marathon appearance before the House Benghazi Committee Hearings. Even the GOP House Majority Leader had recently admitted that the committee was formed to attack Mrs. Clinton, more so than to learn any pertinent facts about the attacks on the Benghazi, Libya State compound, three years ago. The Ambassador and three other Americans were killed.
Foreign State Department offices–Embassies, Consulates, etc.–are normally places where people can go for Passports (if American) and Visas, and they are also staffed by representatives of Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, CIA, etc. as they work in support of U.S. interests. The office in Benghazi was somewhat different: allegedly, it was primarily a CIA Outpost. Some sources even suggest that its whole purpose was to coordinate the purchase of sophisticated weapons from a Libyan rebel group, which is supposedly linked to al-Qaeda, in order to arm Syrian rebel groups. Allegedly now!
The Republicans on the committee kept summarizing that nothing was beyond receiving justice for the four Americans killed in the terrorist attacks. But that, however, was not the focus of their questioning. The session was the eighth Congressional Hearing–two in the Senate and six in the House–over an event that took place on September 11, 2012. Are they trying to drag it out until election in 2016?
The GOP questioning seemed to focus more on various irrelevant details, such as: did Secretary Clinton speak with the Pentagon that night, and what was the time; what and when did she report the attacks to the President; and did she return to her office or work from home after she was notified. They also asked why she did not respond personally to Ambassador Stevens telephone calls, requesting more security.
Several of those vying for the Republican Nomination for President have responded (to her appearance yesterday) that, since she was the Secretary of State, she is responsible for what had happened. They failed to check; because, she said as much on the day following the attacks. And, they failed to realize the inference.
With that rationale, however, shouldn’t they also have blamed President Ronald Reagan for the 241 U.S. military and 58 French Marines, killed in the Beirut Marine barracks, or the 63 killed at the Beirut, Lebanon Embassy, in separate attacks in 1983? In fact, there have been attacks on U.S. overseas facilities during virtually every Administration–Democrat or Republican–over the past 50 years.
I watched a great deal of Secretary Clinton’s testimony, and it became clear to me that the committee members do not sufficiently understand the size and function of the State Department. Of course, that is IF they were actually trying to determine what happened that day, why, and what can be done to insure that similar events don’t happen again. Instead, it has become just one everlasting political charade!
Besides offices in many cities within the U.S, there are 270 overseas State Department locations, in 170 different countries–large and small, friendly and hostile. All tolled, the Secretary of State has 70,000 people reporting to him/her, including employees of the Agency for International Development. Due to the shear size of the operation, it must rely on local security services, except for a small detachment of U.S. Marines at some major Embassies, more so for tradition than for any other reason.
Rather than dragging-down Mrs. Clinton’s Presidential hopes with the Benghazi (and Email) Hearings, I believe that the Republican Party–those in Congress, Presidential Candidates, and otherwise–have merely enhanced her chances. Toward the end of yesterday’s marathon session, Chairman Trey Gowdy, of the majority Republican Party, seemed to have somewhat of a sweaty glow. Secretary Clinton, on the other hand, looked as fresh as when she walked in that morning. Besides demonstrating her Foreign Affairs strength, she also showed how tough she can be–and always with a smile that revealed she knew who was winning the battle.