In The News
GOP falls apart letting Hillary be Hillary
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Labor Press
Posted January 24, 2013
When Hillary Clinton served as First Lady, Congress quickly learned that she could be smarter and more combative in her beliefs than the most tested among them. She could adroitly shake off personal attacks and overwhelm them with policy knowledge even as that long-ago health bill failed – and in failure emerge stronger, with greater conviction in her purpose. Controversial? Sure, but note how steadily time, expertise and experience tempered the harder edges of her determination and continued to elevate her reputation.
She gained sympathy when her husband misbehaved yet she stood by him. She served a term in the Senate, where tolerance of fools and mastery of politeness in the face of harsh rhetoric are conditions of success – and by this time no one could shake her. She responded then as she does now to the most outrageous remarks with “all due respect” and picked her flashes of emotion carefully. Even in her race for the presidency against Obama, she reduced her negatives in the polls and emerged as a necessary dynamic partner in his success, without the sulkiness or rancor demonstrated by other defeated (think Romney and McCain).
For four years she has traveled endlessly as Secretary of State and had to deal on all continents (except maybe Antarctica) with the most tyrannical, evil-tempered, self-promoting despots – perfect preparation for the US Congress.
Thus the Senate and House were clearly outmatched January 23 when she testified with dispatch for hours about Benghazi at hearings designed more to embarrass her than advance the cause of safety and better budgeting to protect our diplomatic officials, security personnel and staff.
While you can rightly argue that the Democrats were far more deferential than probing in her final extended appearance, you must also concede that was almost a deliberate counter to the GOP playbook. At times the Republicans looked like steroid abusers trying to rewind the videos of bad passes dropped in 2012 while savaging the champion, the most likely presidential opponent they will face in 2016.
They again underestimated this testifier in chief, who has owned the hearing game for two decades, always better prepared than the opposition and flashing the executive command and drilled-down details that make her opponents look not only unprepared, which they are, but petty, which they also were Jan. 23.
Indeed this was the desperate last gasp of the losers, still consumed with raising sideshows they had long ago lost at the polls. If nothing else, the hearings reminded the public of how Benghazi was only the latest chapter of American public servants sent into harm’s way and even to death without armor. While procedures have improved, these have not kept up with the growing dangers or even the animosity of wars and conflicts we started for no good purpose. So these diplomats required to speak for us knowingly enter ever more perilous territory, aware of the risks and the parsimonious penny-watching bureaucrats that never fully fund them.
In Africa and the Mideast, there is no longer the security of turning to tyrannical leaders (Egypt and Libya) to send in their stormtroop security personnel. Knowing Hillary’s tongue and moral center, no one at these hearings said aloud we should go back to Mubarak and Gaddafi or oppose Obama’s daring but principled move to support the Arab Spring, the unsettling volatile dangers of freedom. But they still tried to beat her up without owning up to the realities.
Clinton’s demeanor in such circumstances is remarkable. People watching the hearings had to be squirming for her to yell or pound the table rather than so placidly endure the attacks and then so courteously debunk them.
Wisconsin’s current gift to senate hickdom, Ron Johnson, literally suggested she should have gone around pulling the IVs out of the arms of survivors of the consulate attack to grill them about what weapons the attackers carried (as if they could see through the smoke and the fear). It was an image of how a rural Oshkosh CEO must treat his employees and managers, yet it also served as a reminder of the danger of giving prime time to buffoons temporarily inflicted on the big boys in D.C.
But he was a piker in preening compared to Rand Paul, that son of a bloviator who must have made Clinton long for a room in the Capitol to park the misbehaving children. Paul, or Rand, started off with the puffed-up impossibility (unless the GOP goes even madder than the current fringe) that if he were president (first chuckle) he would relieve from duty America’s most popular woman (second chuckle) for not digging out from millions of cable the one suggesting extended security (more chuckles -- it was not even at the attacked consulate).
Hillary Clinton is leaving public life for a while, to recharge her battery if nothing else. The hearing was delayed because she fell and hit her head, hospitalized with a debilitating blood clot. You may recall how FOX News and conservative talking mouths suggested this was an illness of convenience to avoid testifying. Now that she’s cleaned the floor with the opposition, you will hear less of that.
Rather than being buried or thwarted by the pomp (pompousness?) and procedural niceties (nastiness?) of Washington, she rose again through the reality that she works harder, prepares better and knows when to let the humanity shine through. Rather than weakening her in her departure as the GOP intended, her performance under fire has enhanced her image in the eyes of the public.