Media outlets condemned the House Select Committee on Benghazi's October 22 hearing that featured testimony by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, calling it “counterproductive,” “unfortunate,” and saying the panel fell “flat on its face.”
Hillary Clinton Testifies Before House Benghazi Committee
CNN: “Marathon Benghazi Hearing Leaves Hillary Clinton Largely Unscathed.” On October 22, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the House Select Committee on Benghazi for nearly 11 hours. The hearing “did not appear to include any major new revelations on what happened in Benghazi” and included “heated exchanges” which highlighted “the extent to which partisanship has shaped the investigation,” as CNN reported:
Hillary Clinton avoided major damage to her presidential campaign during a nearly 11-hour congressional hearing Thursday dominated by Republican criticism of her response to the Benghazi attacks.
Bitter political undercurrents festered all day during a contentious showdown that turned into a political endurance test. After a day-long grilling on the details of the attack and how Clinton handled it, the former secretary of state was forced to defend her use of a private email account while in office from a flurry of late evening attacks by GOP lawmakers.
While the hearing did not appear to include any major new revelations on what happened In Benghazi or Washington on the night of the attack, it did offer an opportunity for Republicans to probe what they say are still unanswered questions about the tragedy. [CNN, 10/23/15]
Media Lampoon Benghazi Committee Hearing As “Counterproductive,” A “Sham,” And “An Embarrassment”
New York Times: The Benghazi Committee Has Been “A Wasteful And Counterproductive Exercise That Accomplished Nothing.” The New York Times editorial board called out the “pointless” and “wasteful” committee hearing as having “yielded no new information” and for “quickly and predictably devolv[ing] into a partisan battle.” The board encouraged the panel's Democratic members to “walk away” from the “counterproductive exercise that accomplished nothing”:
Unsurprisingly, the hearing yielded no new information about the attacks. It quickly and predictably devolved into a partisan battle between Republicans intent on hurting Mrs. Clinton's bid for the White House and Democrats who sought to make her look presidential.
The pointless grilling of Mrs. Clinton, who fielded a barrage of questions that have long been answered and settled, served only to embarrass the Republican lawmakers who have spent millions of dollars on a political crusade. In recent days, some prominent Republicans have even admitted as much.
If there was any notion that the Select Committee on Benghazi might be on to something, it was quickly dispelled. In a flailing performance, the committee's chairman, Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, made it evident that he and his colleagues have squandered more than $4.6 million and countless hours poring over State Department records and Mrs. Clinton's email. They produced no damning evidence, elicited no confessions and didn't succeed in getting an angry reaction from Mrs. Clinton.
Now that the hearing, which was intended to be the climactic point of the Benghazi committee inquiry, is over, the Democrats who reluctantly agreed to join the panel when it was established in May 2014 should walk away. The Republicans are expected to issue a report. May it be the final chapter of a wasteful and counterproductive exercise that accomplished nothing. [The New York Times, 10/22/15]
Washington Post: The Benghazi Committee “Further Discredited Itself” During Their “Unfortunate” Hearing. In an editorial, The Washington Post criticized the Republican-led Benghazi committee's October 22 hearing, saying members had, “further discredited” themselves with their “attempt[s] to fuel largely insubstantial suspicions about Hillary Clinton's role” in the attacks:
THE HOUSE Select Committee on Benghazi further discredited itself on Thursday as its Republican members attempted to fuel largely insubstantial suspicions about Hillary Clinton's role in the 2012 Benghazi attacks. Grilling Ms. Clinton all day, they elicited little new information and offered little hope that their inquiry would find anything significant that seven previous investigations didn't. [The Washington Post, 10/22/15]
MSNBC's Morning Joe: The Hearing Was “A TKO For Hillary Clinton,” The Panel Fell "Flat On Its Face." On the October 23 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough declared the hearing a “TKO for Hillary Clinton,” saying the questioners “looked like fools,” and the panel fell “flat on its face.” Contributor Mike Barnicle agreed with Scarborough and added that “the questioning was largely hostile, angry, [and] disrespectful toward” Clinton. He concluded that if the same committee had investigated Watergate, “Richard Nixon would have finished his term”:
JOE SCARBOROUGH (HOST): Welcome to Morning Joe. Of course, Hillary Clinton and congressional Republicans and Democrats sparred all day yesterday. And Benghazi hearings that could only be seen, at least in terms of theatrics, as a TKO for Hillary Clinton. It wasn't even a close call. Also a new Bloomberg poll out this morning that really solidifies what we learned yesterday. But I want to talk about the hearings first. Mike Barnacle, any time you have a major national figure that goes before Congress, it seems whether through the years it's Republicans or Democrats, it's always the person behind the microphone that knows what they're doing that seems to make their questioners look like fools. And whether it was in the mid-80s with Rehnquist and Scalia when they were trying to be nominated before the Court or even Oliver North, I guess I should say especially Oliver North. This isn't just a Republican phenomenon or Democratic phenomenon. It's just a Congressional phenomenon. These sort of panels always seem to fall flat on their face, and yesterday, no exception, a very bad day for Trey Gowdy and the Republicans, theatrically, at least. Maybe some new evidence came out, but sure didn't look like it yesterday.
MIKE BARNICLE: Joe, I happen to watch or listen to almost all of the hearings.
BARNICLE: But 11 hours -- 11 hours the former secretary of state sat there. It was an amazing performance. The questioning was largely hostile, angry, disrespectful toward her, toward her office, toward the casualties of Benghazi that day. It was a total collapse of the committee system and the Congress of the United States. I mean, I hearken back to committee hearings -- you just eluded to them -- that I remember, and I ended up thinking about halfway through the 11 hours that had this committee been employed to investigate the Watergate break-in instead of Sam Ervin -- a Democrat -- and Howard Banker -- a Republican -- instead of Sam Dash -- the Democratic counsel -- and Fred Thompson -- the Republican counsel -- who completed that hearing skillfully, legitimately. If this committee had been in charge of the Watergate hearing, Richard Nixon would have finished his term. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 10/23/15]
Vox: The Hearing Was “An Embarrassment For Republicans” Who Should “Shut Down This Sham.” An October 22 article from Vox declared that “Republicans will kick themselves for dragging Clinton before the House Benghazi committee.” The article pointed out that even conservative commentators “were disgusted with the failure” of the committee, which “was an embarrassment for Republicans,” who “should shut down this sham”:
Republicans will kick themselves for dragging Hillary Clinton before the House Benghazi committee Thursday.
Don't take my word for it. Conservative commentators were disgusted with the failure of the committee's GOP lawmakers to land a single punch on Clinton. The worst thing she acknowledged was that Ambassador Chris Stevens didn't go outside the chain of command to email her directly about what was happening in Libya. Strategically, the big error for the GOP is having entangled the email investigation with the Benghazi probe. Because the latter is tainted with partisanship, so, too, is the former.
All in all, it was an embarrassment for Republicans and one that, improbably, made Clinton look more presidential.
Clinton's team couldn't have dreamed for a better exposition of her strengths and the weakness of her Republican provocateurs. They should ask for another few rounds of questioning -- perhaps in the days leading up to the election. And Republicans, as I've written before, should shut down this sham before it hurts them any more than it already has. Right now, it's making Clinton look pretty good. [Vox, 10/22/15]
Reuters: The Hearing “Uncovered No New Revelations.” An October 22 Reuters article noted the committee's failure to produce new material: “The long hearing uncovered no new revelations in a deadly incident that has been the subject of a half-dozen other congressional investigations and an independent inquiry.” The article also pointed out that “even some Republicans said Republican lawmakers had swung at Clinton and missed with their aggressive questioning”:
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton passed a tough political test on Thursday, calmly deflecting harsh Republican criticism of her handling of the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, during a testy 11-hour hearing in Congress.
In testimony that stretched deep into the night, the former secretary of state rejected Republican accusations that she ignored requests for security upgrades in Libya and misinformed the public about the cause of the attack by suspected Islamist militants that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi.
Clinton, 67, stayed out of the political fray during several heated arguments between Republicans and her Democratic allies and remained composed under aggressive questioning from Republican lawmakers.
The long hearing uncovered no new revelations in a deadly incident that has been the subject of a half-dozen other congressional investigations and an independent inquiry.
Even some Republicans said Republican lawmakers had swung at Clinton and missed with their aggressive questioning.
“They forget Secretary Clinton has been dealing with hostile committees longer than most of them have been in politics at any level,” Texas-based Republican strategist Joe Brettell said. [Reuters, 10/23/15]
Slate: Benghazi Hearing “Was A Self-Destructive Partisan Embarrassment For The GOP.” An October 23 article from Slate called out the Benghazi hearings for being a “sham,” noting that, in the end, “It clarified the truth about Benghazi: Hillary Clinton did nothing wrong”:
For three years, Republicans have struggled to find a political scandal in the 2012 attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya. First came an investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Then an investigation by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Then more probes by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the House Judiciary Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. When those inquiries failed to implicate Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state during the attack and is now the Republicans' main target in the 2016 presidential race, the GOP created one more investigative unit: the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
In the end, having failed to elicit anything damning, the Republicans switched from asking questions to reading indictments. Jordan accused Clinton of blaming the attack on the video, not terrorism, because it was “56 days before an election.” Rep. Martha Roby of Alabama chastised Clinton for going home on the night of the attack, ignoring Clinton's testimony that she had stayed up all night monitoring the situation. Without the slightest evidence or compunction, Roby told Clinton: “You used the FBI's inquiry as an excuse not to check in with your agents ... who survived that horrible night.” Roskam, completing the farce, drafted a confession on Clinton's behalf: “I and my colleagues were distracted by other matters and opportunities and ambitions, and we breached our fundamental duty to mitigate [the ambassador's] danger and secure his safety.”
Eleven hours after the hearing began, Gowdy gave up. Clinton was exhausted but still in good humor. Her inquisitors, however, were furious. After all the subpoenas, emails, and testimony, the evidence had once again failed to match their beliefs. But the committee did its job. It clarified the truth about Benghazi: Hillary Clinton did nothing wrong. And Republicans can't stand it. [Slate, 10/23/15]