Three hours into the Select Committee on Benghazi hearing Thursday, Chairman Trey Gowdy, rocking a subdued fauxhawk, grew red with anger and slick with sweat. His GOP colleague Representative Susan Brooks, who’d printed out hundreds of pages of Clinton’s e-mail, and kept the stacks handy, stroking them occasionally, really should have offered some of that paper to Gowdy, so he could wipe himself down. The sports fan in me recognized the need for a time-out, and maybe some Gatorade, but no one else did.
The temperature rose as ranking committee Democrat Elijah Cummings objected to Gowdy’s trolling about the non-issue of Clinton-friend Sidney Blumenthal’s e-mail. Before the lunch break, Cummings and other Democrats moved to make Blumenthal’s committee testimony public, to show just how far afield of its charge to investigate the causes of the Benghazi compound attack Gowdy’s work had strayed.
But Gowdy objected, strenuously, and a little ominously. With a Draco Malfoy flourish, he closed the first half of the hearing: “I’ll tell you what, if you think you’ve heard about Sidney Blumenthal so far, wait until the next round!”
And with that, Gowdy’s credibility, if any still existed, was gone for good. It was Gowdy Doody time, and it stunk.
Fast forward to the end of Clinton’s 11-hour ordeal, and Gowdy’s own verdict on the charade didn’t much help his cause. He didn’t have an answer when reporters asked what he’d learned from Clinton’s calm, detailed, occasionally passionate testimony. “In terms of her testimony, I don’t know that she testified that much differently today than she has the previous times she’s testified,” Gowdy told a brief press conference. “So I’d have to go back and look at the transcript.”
When he does, he’ll find a few real accomplishments.
Gowdy and friends indicted Clinton for receiving gossipy e-mails from an old friend, Blumenthal, some of which were rude about her boss, President Obama, and others in his administration.
They indicted her for being polite to that same friend, sometimes, recklessly, encouraging him to keep in touch.
They indicted Clinton for having a press secretary who cared about the press she received.
Otherwise, they didn’t leave a mark. It was a festival of mansplaining, with Representative Jim Jordan the angriest and Representative Bill Pompeo the most condescending. But it must be said: Female committee members Susan Brooks and Martha Roby got their licks in. Brooks made much of Clinton’s not being sure when she’d last talked to Stevens, though she supervised something like 275 ambassadors. She didn’t like the fact that the secretary went home to work on the night of September 11, though CIA director David Petraeus did too. Brooks asked for the name of every staffer who stayed behind when Clinton went home, as though she’d left little children alone and vulnerable.
Roby picked up the gendered questioning when she asked whether and when Clinton had met personally with all of the Benghazi victims. I expected her to ask whether she’d hugged them, or whether she’d cried, or made them a home-cooked meal. It sounded like Clinton was supposed to be the mom-in-chief, not the secretary of state.