Dan Rather, the once-prominent journalist of ‘fake but accurate’ fame, would like to share a few thoughts about last week’s Benghazi hearings. Suffice it to say that this longtime Democratic partisan is manifestly Ready for Hillary:
Dan Rather’s leg thrill over Hillary’s Benghazi performance. A laboratory pure example of The Narrative: pic.twitter.com/0CfNnt2SrK
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) October 26, 2015
Such unflappable poise, maturity and stoicism in the face of nasty, sustained grunting from those horrid Republican neanderthals. While it’s tempting to chuckle at this relic of a bygone era shedding all pretense of impartiality, Rather’s substance-free ode to Hillary’s performance is demoralizingly representative of the broader media’s reaction. And ‘performance’ really is the key word. As Commentary’s Noah Rothman and others have noted, the press’ obsessive focus on Mrs. Clinton’s demeanor — her calculated calmness, her ostentatiously-telegraphed boredom, her scrupulous avoidance of soundbyte-worthy flare-ups — subordinates the substance the hearing to its superficial optics. She “won” the day, the story goes, because she kept her cool and parried Republican attacks with verve and aplomb. Thus, with the elite media’s conventional wisdom firmly in place (it began congealing on Twitter within the opening minutes of her testimony), the discussion instantly shifted to analysis of how her big victory will impact the 2016 horse race. Almost universally ignored or glossed over in this coverage is the significant revelation that Sec. Clinton knew, with immediate clarity and certainty, that the Benghazi raid was a coordinated terrorist attack, not a “spontaneous protest” sparked by a “non-event” YouTube video. The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel lays out the flashing neon news that many of her journalistic colleagues couldn’t be bothered to notice. First, the relevant context and backdrop:
In early September 2012, at the Democratic National Convention, Vice President Joe Biden summarized to thunderous applause the administration’s re-election pitch: “Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive.” Translation: The president had revived the economy, even as he had put “al Qaeda on the run,” as Mr. Obama put it. Five days later, four Americans in Benghazi were dead. It appeared the White House had slept through a terror attack on the anniversary of 9/11. The administration instead immediately presented the attack as a spontaneous mob backlash to an anti-Muslim YouTube video. At 10:30 on the night of the attack, Mrs. Clinton issued a statement about the violence, blaming the video. She repeated the charge in a speech the next day. President Obama gave his own speech that day, referring to the video and refusing to use the word “terrorism.” The next day, Mrs. Clinton mentioned the video twice more. The day after that, Press Secretary Jay Carney said: “We have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack.” Mrs. Clinton promised the father of one of the victims that the administration would “make sure that the person who made that film is arrested and prosecuted.” In his weekly address, Mr. Obama talked about the video. When the Libyan president said there was evidence the attack was planned months in advance, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice contradicted him. She instead told five Sunday talk shows—five days after the attack—that “based on the best information we have to date,” the attack “began spontaneously” in response to “this hateful video.” Mr. Obama for two full weeks continued to talk about YouTube.
…followed by newly-public information:
Here’s what the Benghazi committee found in Thursday’s hearing. Two hours into Mrs. Clinton’s testimony, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan referred to an email Mrs. Clinton sent to her daughter, Chelsea, at 11:12 the night of the attack, or 45 minutes after the secretary of state had issued a statement blaming YouTube-inflamed mobs. Her email reads: “Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Queda-like group.” Mrs. Clinton doesn’t hedge in the email; no “it seems” or “it appears.” She tells her daughter that on the anniversary of 9/11 an al Qaeda group assassinated four Americans. That same evening, Mrs. Clinton spoke on the phone with Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf, around 8 p.m. The notes from that conversation, in a State Department email, describe her as saying: “We have asked for the Libyan government to provide additional security to the compound immediately as there is a gun battle ongoing, which I understand Ansar as Sharia [sic] is claiming responsibility for.” Ansar al Sharia is al Qaeda’s affiliate on the Arabian Peninsula. So several hours into the attack, Mrs. Clinton already believed that al Qaeda was attacking U.S. facilities. The next afternoon, Mrs. Clinton had a call with the Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil. The notes from it are absolutely damning. The secretary of state tells him: “We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack—not a protest.” And yet Mrs. Clinton, and Ms. Rice and Mr. Obama for days and days continued to spin the video lie.
Nothing to do with the film. A planned attack, not a protest. Strassel’s conclusion: “[Hillary Clinton’s] own conversations prove she was in no doubt about what happened—while it was still happening. Democrats on the committee spent most of the hearing complaining that it was a waste of time and money. Quite the opposite. It was invaluable, for the clarity provided by those three emails alone.” But never mind this never-before-seen, smoking gun evidence that the Secretary of State and the White House actively and knowingly misled the American people about the nature of a terrorist attack in which four Americans, including a sitting ambassador, were murdered — on the anniversary of 9/11, in a jihadi-laden, unstable country in which the administration had just intervened militarily. Let’s fixate on her facial expressions and above-the-fray “poise.” Incidentally, Rep. Jim Jordan’s (unnecessarily shouty) confrontation of Mrs. Clinton with this evidence wasn’t the only eyebrow-raising moment of the marathon hearings. Her answer on why nobody has been fired over the lethal failures in Benghazi was weak and unacceptable; she claimed that internal protocols had tied her hands. And we all know what a stickler she is about internal protocols.
Another telling development involved Clinton’s frequent exchanges with dodgy political henchman Sidney Blumenthal, a Clinton Foundation employee whom the Obama White House had specifically barred from State Department service. Those many interactions were juxtaposed with the acknowledgement that Clinton’s “dear friend” Amb. Chris Stevens did not have her personal email address, and that zero of his dozens of security requests were ever brought to Clinton’s attention. In other words, an infamously unscrupulous political operative had unfettered access to the Secretary to State, through which he routinely passed along unvetted intelligence and promoted his business interests in Libya, yet critical pleadings from the US ambassador in that volatile and dangerous country never made it to her desk. One might think some in the press may find this arrangement at least slightly problematic. Other lines of inquiry regarding Mr. Blumenthal revealed that Clinton forwarded his shoddy intel to administration colleagues without knowing its original sourcing, while deleting Blumenthal’s name from the messages, likely due to his reputation. And Mrs. Clinton’s insistence that Blumenthal’s emails and insights were “unsolicited” was systematically destroyed by her own emails in which she explicitly solicited more information from him. Finally, Clinton’s shifting definition of what constitutes “personal” correspondence appeared to set the groundwork for a new round of justifications if and when (even more) work-related missives that she withheld from the State Department and attempted to delete eventually come to light. Surely some of these developments could at least be seen as newsworthy blemishes on Hillary’s epic trouncing of the Benghazi conspiracist knuckle-draggers, no? I’ll leave you with a screen shot of Hillary’s own words to an Egyptian official, conveyed the day after the attack — and days before she met with grieving family members and blamed their loved ones’ deaths on a protest over an online video:
Stood in front of 4 flag draped coffins and blamed YouTube pic.twitter.com/NoUZhytQTN
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) October 22, 2015
But were her lies to those heartbroken mourners delivered with unflappable grace and self-possessed composure? If so, big win for her.
Editor’s Note: A version of this item is cross-posted at Townhall.com