So much of American politics is a Rorschach test. Different people can look at the same event – a speech, a debate, even a policy outcome – and come away with entirely different perspectives, shaped almost entirely by ideological leanings. Politics, like art, is often in the eye of the beholder.
And with this in mind, as yesterday’s 11-hour Benghazi Committee hearing with Hillary Clinton unfolded, it was hard not to wonder: were conservatives pleased with this ridiculous spectacle? Center-left observers were practically unanimous in their condemnations of the cringe-worthy witch hunt, but was the right impressed? Were there Republicans watching this nonsense unfold, delighted by their side’s “victory” over the Democratic witness they love to hate?
Actually, no. In this case, there was no Rorschach test. Nearly everyone who saw this ignominious display – left, right, and center – agreed that congressional Republicans had an opportunity to advance their cause, but they blew it. Bloomberg Politics reported:
To hear Republicans tell it, a series of unfortunate events culminated in a rough day Thursday for the House Benghazi committee, leaving conservatives to wonder if they’ve lost their most potent political weapon against Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton. […]Among House Republicans, there were no high-fives: A half-dozen lawmakers surveyed offered a muted response when asked about the hearing on Thursday afternoon. Many conservative commentators were unimpressed, if not angry with the proceedings.
At one point, during Rep. Mike Pompeo’s (R-Kan.) attempt to badger Clinton, John Podhoretz, a prominent conservative writer and former Republican speechwriter, said on Twitter, “Why doesn’t Pompeo just go over and swear her in for president now – if he goes on like this he’ll practically get her elected.”
It was that kind of day for Republicans.
Podhoretz’s concerns were surprisingly common among conservatives. Erick Erickson lamented the fact that the hearing proved to be a “waste of time.” The Washington Examiner’s Byron York characterized the hearing as “very, very good news for Hillary Clinton.”
The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis wrote midday, “Unless something happens, it’s starting to look like Hillary Clinton won’t merely survive this hearing – she will have come out on top.” Hot Air’s Jazz Shaw said, “This hearing is turning into a disaster on wheels,” adding, “Jesus, I spend half my day criticizing Hillary Clinton and even I find this set of questions embarrassing.”
Even Fox News abandoned coverage of the hearing in the afternoon – about three-and-a-half hours before it was actually finished – and started covering unrelated topics, despite the network’s near-obsession with the deadly 2012 attack for years.
In case it’s not obvious, none of these observers on the right are sympathetic towards Clinton. On the contrary, they very likely tuned in hoping for a hearing that would do real political damage to her campaign.
But that’s how awful yesterday’s hearing was for Republicans: even conservatives who desperately wanted it to go well for the right had to concede that the gambit was a failure.
And really, GOP lawmakers have no excuse. They literally had months to prepare; they have capable staff; they had ample opportunities to coordinate lines of questioning; and according to the right, they had lingering controversies to take full advantage of.
But as it turns out, Republicans on the House Benghazi Committee were simply too incompetent to achieve their own goals.