Almost from the moment it happened, Republicans have tried to score political points from the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last Sept. 11. Critics of the Obama Administration wanted to take obvious operating lapses and turn them into a general indictment of U.S. foreign policy.
American voters didn’t buy that argument last November. But the GOP uproar knocked U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice out of consideration as secretary of State, because she initially said that protests rather than terrorism caused the raid. Never mind that she relayed what the intelligence community told her, and that the fog of war still lay heavy enough to obscure what really happened.
This week, Republicans had their chance to discredit the ultimate prize — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a once and perhaps future Democratic presidential candidate. Secretary Clinton appeared as a witness before the Senate and House foreign relations committees, and her testimony was eagerly awaited because her recent illness had delayed it. Unfortunately for the political opportunists, she came back fit and feisty.
This was Secretary Clinton’s last appearance on Capitol Hill, and those who thought they could discredit her career over Benghazi were dreaming. They tried, but Mrs. Clinton’s heavyweight knowledge of the world outmatched the featherweight understanding of Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.), the most scathing of her inquisitors.
Her complaint that Congress had cut spending for State Department security provided a devastating retort to lawmakers who are quick to complain but slow to put money where their mouths are.
It is the nature of war, conventional or otherwise, for mistakes to be made. It is rare that single tragic events are subject to such close congressional scrutiny.
A full appraisal of Mrs. Clinton’s term as secretary of State is still to be written. But this week’s politically charged hearings are unlikely to harm her reputation, now or in the future if she runs for president.