At long last, Hillary Clinton is being forced to face scrutiny over how she handled one of the key blunders of the Obama Administration. On Thursday, she was confronted by a barrage of questions from the the congressional committee (the fourth of its kind) tasked with investigating the tragic attacks costing the lives of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, that occurred in Benghazi, Libya in 2012.
The committee, which is split between Republicans and Democrats, certainly let the fireworks fly as members clashed over what some see as partisan political motivations behind the committee's probe. The hearing on Thursday is at least two years in the making after a long battle between Clinton's lawyers and Congress.
Clinton On the Hot Seat
While the key facts of the case are shrouded in ambiguity over how the attack started and why, that didn't mean that the Benghazi Committee had nothing germane to grill Clinton on. The former First Lady was questioned about the repeated requests for greater security for diplomats in Libya leading up to the attacks; whether or not the State Department provided a timely and forthright response to the incident; and how her use of personal emails while serving in the cabinet might have allowed classified information that could endanger the country to be leaked.
Though Clinton mostly deflected the questions about her email controversy, the main current in the news that's been weighing upon her presidential campaign, it became clear that the connection between the emails and Benghazi were not trivial. At minimum, they bring Clinton's attention to pressing details and her judgment regarding risk and ethics into question.
Whatever either side claims in the course of the hearings or concludes afterward, it appears that the Benghazi scandal isn't going away any time soon.
Committee Under Fire
Oddly enough, Mrs. Clinton was not the only one who was seemingly on trial. Democrats have continuously levied charges that the Benghazi Committee is nothing more than a partisan attack on Hillary in order to discredit her run for president, accusing the committee's leading proponents of being politically motivated. Such arguments actually bled over into the hearing itself: During a brief intermission several hours into the line of questioning, Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), the leading Democrat on the panel, openly carried on a loud argument with his Republican counterparts about the politically polarizing nature of the hearings.
These accusations have not only come from the Democrats, however. In an attempt to distance itself from the Tea Party and, specifically, the House Freedom Caucus, the GOP establishment has actually seconded the Democrats' cynicism over the motives for the hearing. Richard Hanna, a U.S. Representative from New York, joined House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in characterizing the Benghazi hearing as a partisan attack directed at Hillary. This has subject the committee itself to almost as much scrutiny and second-guessing as Clinton.
In some ways, though, the charge goes both ways. Clinton has likewise been turning the issue into its own political tool, using the hearing as a chance to flaunt her chops as a high-level foreign affairs expert.