Long Twilight Struggle

October 23, 2015 2:42 p.m.
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The reviews appear to be unanimous. For Republican committee members, yesterday’s aggressively-billed, epic, hinge-of-history interrogation of Hillary Clinton was something ranging from a catastrophe to, as The Washington Examiner’s Byron York put it, “a bust.” Erick Erickson called it a “waste of time.” It went downhill from there.

Obsessing about Clinton’s friend who didn’t seem to have anything to do with anything was either bemoaned or ridiculed across the board. I saw it as more than anything the GOP committee members’ long, desperate twilight struggle to find out what they were even trying to talk about. The mission was not successful. Though they left it all on the field … of battle.

I think it wasn’t just a no news event and thus by definition good news for Hillary, as Byron put it. I think it was a good deal more.

I don’t know how Clinton would be as a public President, with all the mix of engagement, charisma and circumspection that involves. But showing how she might be as a private president, a Situation Room president, I think it was perhaps a transformative performance. When I watched my thought was, Wow, she’d be rock solid. Granular and detailed is seldom spell-binding. But over the course of the endless testimony, anyone who had the slightest sense that Clinton had been some sort of figurehead Secretary of State who left the key work to subordinates would have been thoroughly disabused of that notion.

Clinton’s time under questioning sent a number of messages. One was simply the scope of her knowledge and experience that made her questioners look increasingly insipid and small. But there was also a simple toughness and resilience under pressure. She knows her stuff and she’s a pro. You could not watch that testimony and not come away with that conclusion. This engagement gave her a live telecast opportunity to demonstrate that fact, which is almost invaluable. It is very difficult to imagine any of the Republican presidential candidates – even the ones serving in the Senate – able to roll with that kind of questioning or show the range of knowledge and clarity that was required to do so. It is difficult to express the difficulty of being questioned for almost half a day and not slipping even once, not even the kind of negligible slip that only has any impact or resonance when repeated and distorted in endless repetition on Fox News.

Seriously, can you imagine Marco Rubio in the same chair under the same sort of questioning? Not to mention Donald Trump or – God forbid – the increasingly Chauncey Gardner-esque Ben Carson?

This isn’t always the Hillary Clinton you see on the campaign trail. She can have great moments. But she can also appear contrived and rehearsed. What’s more, the management of her 2008 campaign raised real questions about organizational and management competence. But this was a very different view – someone who is unflappable and masters the issues at hand. For supporters and potential supporters, that instills confidence not only in how she might do as President but, no less significantly at present, how she’ll hold up under the rigors of a brutal campaign. It might as well have been an informercial for the Clinton campaign.

Courtesy of the Benghazi Committee.

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